Thursday, June 26, 2014

Some of the most promising reforms are happening where school leaders are thinking differently about how to get the strongest student outcomes from the limited resources available. But even principals who use their autonomy to aggressively reallocate resources say that persistent district, state, and federal barriers prohibit them from doing more.

What are these barriers? What are they blocking principals from doing? And is there a way around them?

Researchers from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell, with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, probed these questions with principals in three states (NH, CT, MD). The authors investigated the barriers principals cited, sometimes with the assistance of district and state education agencies, to determine whether there were workarounds that these principals didn’t realize. What the authors found is simultaneously troubling and encouraging: Principals have far more authority than they think. Only 31 percent of the barriers principals cited were “real”—immovable statutes, policies, or managerial directives that bring the threat of real consequences if broken.

In this webinar, the authors shared their findings and policy recommendations, and answered questions about their research.

• Charlie Toulmin, Director of Policy, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

• Larry Miller, Senior Research Fellow, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington
• Jane Lee, Research Assistant, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington

• Betheny Gross, Senior Research Analyst and Research Director, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington

Special thanks to Educational Resource Strategies for allowing us to rebroadcast their video on school autonomy. For more information please see The Boston Foundation, "The Path Forward: School Autonomy and Its Implications for the Future of Boston's Public Schools.”