District-led Instructional Improvement in a Remote Town Open Access
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This study examined how stakeholders in one school district located in a remote town perceived the instructional improvement efforts of the district, as well as the constraints and enablers of implementing instructional reforms. A qualitative approach, consisting mainly of interviews with teachers, principals, district administrators, and other school-level staff, was used to examine the perceived effects of the district's instructional reforms in five areas: (1) adopting a set of goals to guide the district's actions; (2) implementing instructional reform; (3) improving professional development; (4) supporting district and school administrators to become instructional leaders; and (5) encouraging the use of data to diagnose student learning needs and guide instruction. School-level interviews were conducted within four of the district's elementary schools selected to represent the district on a number of demographic and academic variables. The overall findings for these five areas were as follows. Respondents spoke primarily about changes to reading instruction as the district's top priority. The district's efforts to reform classroom instruction resulted in all elementary schools implementing, in varying degrees, the structures the district established for teaching reading. These levels of implementation were achieved through a gradual process and were met with initial resistance from principals and teachers. The district's shift to providing job-embedded professional development proved to be a major support in establishing a consistent teaching approach. Literacy coaches represented the main source of job-embedded professional development and played an important role in providing teacher professional development. Principals strove to achieve the district's expectation for them to become instructional leaders in their buildings, although some struggled with the content expertise required to be an instructional leader, while others expressed difficulty in managing their time between being a building manager and an instructional leader. Finally, the district's instructional improvement efforts were informed by student achievement data and teacher observation data, as teachers used formative and summative assessments to monitor students' progress and to provide appropriate levels of intervention to students.