District-Level Support for Site-Based Renewal: A Case Study of Secondary School Reform


  • John A. Ross
  • Lynne Hannay
  • Bruce Brydges




Previous studies of secondary school reform have not given as much attention to the role of the district as is warranted by its potential influence on change processes. This study examined the role of district-level factors in enabling eight secondary schools to restructure their positions of added responsibility. After two years there was significant change on five of six indicators of organizational health. The district-level factors that contributed to the change were the actions of a central steering committee (consisting of administrators, union representatives, and support staff), an emerging image of professionalism in the teacher union, district history, individual personalities, and a shared sense that the district was unique in its region. The findings differed from the results of previous research in that leadership was more broadly distributed, a combined industrial-professional conception of teacher unionism contributed to innovation, and a strong and continuous central presence was required to support a decentralized change model.