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Best Practices

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Resource Title Beyond Islands of Excellence

This document describes a study of five high-poverty districts, including a small rural and large urban district, which demonstrated improved test scores across grades, subjects, and racial/ethnic groups. Seven factors were deemed as essential for success. These districts:

  • Had the courage to acknowledge poor performance, which was critical to building the will to seek solutions
  • Implemented a systemwide approach to improving instruction
  • Instilled visions that focused on student learning, guided instructional improvement, and impacted financial decisions
  • Made decisions based on data, not instinct
  • Adopted new approaches to professional development that involved a coherent and district-organized set of strategies to improve instruction
  • Redefined leadership roles
  • Were committed to long-term implementation of reform and sustaining it

More detailed information about each of the districts is available as case studies; a shorter Leadership Brief is also available.

Resource Area(s)
Culture and Professional Relationships
Type of Resource
Research Findings
Best Practices
Format Website
Related Service(s)
Building Leadership