Center on System Leadership

Transform Your District

Students are no longer competing locally for jobs. They’re competing for the jobs of the future with students around the world. Top-performing systems are outperforming U.S. districts in student learning and equity and they are yielding these results at a lower cost.

For many U.S. state and local education systems, nothing short of rethinking their entire system will produce the required levels of high achievement for all students. NCEE has researched the highest achieving education jurisdictions in the world and has determined the common elements across countries and continents that make these systems not only produce higher achieving students, but do so efficiently and equitably. This research makes clear that simply adding programs or implementing accountability measures is insufficient to catch up and surpass the best. Districts must redesign their systems so that students may compete in today’s changing global economy.

NCEE’s System Design Benchmarking provides district leadership teams a shared understanding of what makes top-performing systems successful.

NCEE’s District System Design Partnership strengthens district leadership teams as they create high-performance organizations that can scale and sustain improvements in instruction and student learning.

NCEE’s Superintendent Academy is a rigorous, research-based, cohort-delivered executive development program for district superintendents.

What Does a High-Performing District Look Like?

Top-performing education systems are designed as systems, with each element purposefully reinforcing and strengthening the next. Top jurisdictions begin support of students early—ensuring that all students arrive at school healthy and ready to learn. Equity is ensured through strategy—providing resources and prepared teachers to at-risk students so that they can reach the same high standards as their peers. Top-performing systems have highly developed, coherent instructional systems that incorporate student performance standards, curriculum, assessments and instructional methods. School and system-level leaders are carefully recruited and supported throughout their career progression. At the top is a governance system with the authority and legitimacy to develop coherent policies and implement them at scale. Clear standards are set for all within the system. Everyone in the system knows what it takes to succeed.

U.S. systems likely can’t and shouldn’t adopt all of these elements. Instead, they must adapt these elements to their own context and focus on elements they have the most authority and capacity to influence.

To face this challenge, NCEE has developed a set of district supports that provide superintendents and district leadership teams with the knowledge, skills, tools and support necessary to redesign their districts.