Inclusive Instructional and Organizational Leadership

Research on district-wide improvement shows that certain strategies enhance performance and increase equity (e.g., Fullan, 2010; Johnson, 1996; Seashore Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, & Anderson, 2010; Wahlstrom, Seashore, Leithwood, & Anderson, 2010).

The Ohio Improvement Process draws on this research, particularly on Fullan and Quinn’s (2016) model of district improvement and the Moving Your Numbers (MYN) studies (e.g., Maltbie, Morrison, Duan, & Dariotis, 2017; Tefs & Telfer, 2013; Telfer, 2011; Telfer & Howley, 2014). This research points to four key strategies, which can be characterized as non-negotiables for this area of practice.

Strategy 1: Promote System-Wide Learning
Districts, schools, and instructional teams engage in continuous learning through inquiry processes involving formative assessment, thoughtful reviews of data, and ongoing monitoring of agreed-upon actions and their desired outcomes. For more information about ways to promote system-wide learning, see Fullan (2016) and Senge (1990).
Strategy 2: Prioritize the Improvement of Teaching and Learning
Districts, schools, and instructional teams focus improvement efforts on strategies for improving teaching and learning. Support for focused efforts comes from the engagement of all educators in the process, the instructional leadership of principals, the use of a differentiated system for providing support, and the allocation of relevant human and material resources (e.g., Honig, 2008; Leithwood & Seashore-Louis, 2011; Robinson & Timperle, (2007).
Strategy 3: Build Capacity Through Support and Accountability
Districts expand capacity system-wide through a reciprocal system of support and accountability. Efforts to build capacity are intentional, matched to district goals, based on relevant data, and responsive to the needs of personnel (e.g., Elmore, 2002; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012).
Strategy 4: Sustain an Open and Collaborative Culture
Districts shape their organizational cultures in ways that make those cultures collaborative, caring, ethical, equitable, and amenable to positive change (e.g., Bolman & Deal, 1991; Bryk, Gomez, Grunow, & LeMahieu, 2015; Fullan, 2011; Hargreaves, 1995).

Click here for a draft copy of the Inclusive Instructional and Organizational Leadership Coach’s Guide

For additional reading related to inclusive instructional and organizational leadership, see the following resources:

  • Bolman, L. & Deal, T. E. (1991). Reframing organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  • Elmore, R. (2002). Bridging the gap between standards and achievement: The imperative for professional development in education. Washington, DC: Albert Shanker Institute.
  • Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole system reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform. East Melbourne, AU: Center for Strategic Reform. Retrieved from
  • Fullan, M. (2016). The elusive nature of whole system improvement in education. Journal of Educational Change, 17(4), 539-544.
  • Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts and systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Hargreaves, D. H. (1995). School culture, school effectiveness, and school improvement. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 6(1), 23-46.
  • Honig, M. I. (2008). District central offices as learning organizations: How sociocultural and organizational learning theories elaborate district central office administrators’ participation in teaching and learning improvement efforts. American Journal of Education, 114(4), 627-664.
  • Johnson, S. M. (1996). Leading to change: The challenge of the new superintendency. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Leithwood, K., & Seashore-Louis, K. (2011). Linking leadership to student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Maltbie, C. V., Morrison, A. B., Duan, Q., & Dariotis, J. K., (2017). Evaluating the evidence base for using the Moving Your Numbers (MYN) District Self-Assessment Guide for technical assistance: Key results from phase 1. Cincinnati, Ohio: Evaluation Services Center, University of Cincinnati.
  • Robinson, J., V. M., & Timperley, H. S. (2007). The leadership of the improvement of teaching and learning: Lessons from initiatives with positive outcomes for students. Australian Journal of Education, 51(3), 247–262.
  • Seashore Louis, K., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. L., & Anderson, S. E. (2010). Investigating the links to improved student learning. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.
  • Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday and Company.
  • Tefs, M., & Telfer, D. M. (2013). Behind the numbers: Redefining leadership to improve outcomes for all students. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 26(1), 43-52.
  • Telfer, D.M. (2011). Moving your numbers: Five districts share how they used assessment and accountability to increase performance for students with disabilities as part of district-wide improvement. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
  • Telfer, D., & Howley, A. (2014). Rural Schools positioned to promote the high achievement of students with disabilities. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 33(4), 3-13.
  • Wahlstrom, K., Seashore, K., Leithwood, K., & Anderson, S. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. Research Report Executive Summary. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. University of Minnesota.