Resources & Research

Resource and Background Documents

Ontario’s Institute for Education Leadership, the Council of Ontario Directors of Education and the Ministry of Education commissioned the "Strong Districts and Their Leadership" research project. This research project summarizes evidence about the characteristics of school systems, boards or districts that are successful at improving the learning of their students (“strong districts”); the leadership practices needed to develop and sustain such districts on the part of those in director and superintendent positions (“senior district leaders”); the personal leadership resources especially valuable for those in director and superintendent positions; a possible vision of strong future districts; the value strong districts add, over and above school and classroom contributions, to the achievement of their students.

The following resources provided input in the Strong Districts and Their Leadership project.

Research Documents

Strong districts and their leadership 2017 cover

Strong Districts and Their Leadership 2017, Executive Summary

This 2017 project sponsored by the Council of Ontario Directors of Education and the Ontario Ministry of Education is the latest in a nine-year combined research and professional development project aimed at improving the contribution that school districts in Ontario make to student success in school.


Strong districts and their leadership 2017 results cover

Strong Districts and Their Leadership 2017, Results of the Research Strand

The Results of the Research Strand excerpt is taken from the Strong District and Their Leadership project. It provides detailed “Results” of section two, part 4 of the Final Report Research Strand. To review the full report which includes Purposes for the Study, Methods, Results, Recommendations, Possible Next Steps for Ontario’s Strong District Initiative, References and Appendices visit the CODE website.


Strong districts and their leadership 2013 cover

Strong Districts and Their Leadership 2013

This paper outlines the characteristics of strong districts and the specific leadership practices necessary to develop these characteristics. (Kenneth Leithwood, June 2013).


De-mystifying effective leadership cover

De-mystifying Effective District Leadership

This article describes the Strong Districts and Their Leadership project - De-mystifying Effective District Leadership, A seven-year Ontario Institute for Education Leadership, Council of Ontario Directors of Education and the Ministry of Education collaboration. This project identifies and describes, from the best available research, the characteristics of high performing school systems and the leadership required to develop such systems.


District Contributions to Leader Efficacy

KENNETH LEITHWOOD, TIUU STRAUSS AND STEPHEN ANDERSON, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Click here to read the full study.

Investing in Leadership: The District’s Role in Managing Principal Turnover

BLAIR MASCALL and KENNETH LEITHWOOD, Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Click here to read the full study.

Characteristics of School Districts that Are Exceptionally Effective in Closing the Achievement Gap

KENNETH LEITHWOOD, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Click here to read the full study.


Relevant Resources

1. Establishes broadly shared mission, vision and goals

  • Berson, Y., Halevy, N., Shamir, B., Erez, M. (2015). Leading from different psychological distances: A construal-level perspective on vision communication, goal setting and follower motivation, The Leadership Quarterly, 26, 143-155.
  • Bitter, C., Taylor, J., Zeiser, K., Rickles, J. (2014). Providing Opportunities for Deeper Learning: Findings From the Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes, American Institute for Research (September).
  • 21st Century Skills, Center for 21st century skills, Education Connections (355 Goshen Road, PO Box 909, Litchfield, CT 06759).
  • Ontario Ministry of Education (2014). Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario (April).
  • Yettick, H., Brounstein, K. (2014). Benefits of 'Deeper Learning' Schools Highlighted in Studies: Students did better in and out of class, Education Week (September 30).
  • Zeiser, K., Taylor, J., Rickles, J., and , M. (2014). Evidence of Deeper Learning Outcomes: Findings from the Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes. American Institute for Research (September).

2. Coherent Instructional Guidance

  • Ben Jaffer, S. (2006). “An alternative approach to measuring opportunity to learn in high school classes.” Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 52, 2.
  • Bransford, J., et al (2000). How people learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  • Bryk, A. & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in Schools: A core resource for school reform. Educational Leadership.
  • Miller, R. (2001). Greater expectations to improve student learning. Association of American Colleges and Universities. [www.greaterexpectations.org/briefing_papers/improvestudentlearnng.html]
  • Murphy, J. F., & And Others. (1982). Academic press: Translating high expectations into school policies and classroom practices. Educational Leadership, 40(3), 22-26.
  • Goddard, R. D., Sweetland, S. R., & Hoy, W. K. (2000). Academic emphasis of urban elementary schools and student achievement in reading and mathematics: A multilevel analysis. Educational Administration Quarterly, 36(5), 683-702.
  • Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to student achievement. New York: Routledge.
  • Joyce, B., Weil, M. (2008). Models of Teaching (8th edition). New York: Pearson.
  • Leithwood, K. (2011). Leading Student Achievement: Networks for Learning Supplement to Final Evaluation Report for the 2010 –11 Project Cycle: Analysis of Student Achievement Data.
  • Leithwood, K., Patten, S., Jantzi, D. (2010). Testing a conception of how leadership influences student learning, Educational Administration Quarterly, 46, 5, 671-706.
  • Scardamalia, M. (ND). The 12 Principals of Knowledge building. Toronto: OISE/University of Toronto.
  • Tschannen-Moran, M., & Barr, M. (2004). Fostering student learning: The relationship of collective teacher efficacy and student achievement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 3(3), 189-209.
  • Tschannen-Moran, M. (2001). Collaboration and the need for trust. Journal of Educational Administration 39(4).
  • Tschannen-Moran, M., Hoy, A. W., & Hoy, W. K. (1998). Teacher efficacy: Its meaning and measure. Review of Educational Research, 68(2), 202-248.
  • Willms, J. D., & Ma, X. (2004). School disciplinary climate: characteristics and effects on eighth grade achievement [Electronic version]. Alberta Journal of Educational research, 50 (2), 1-27.
  • Zeiser, K., Taylor, J., Rickles, J., Garret, M., Segeritz, M. (2014) Findings From the Study of Deeper Learning: Opportunities and Outcomes. Report from the American Institute for Research.

3. Job-embedded professional development for all members

  • Bransford, J., Brown, A., Cocking, R. (Eds.) (2000). Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington: National Research Council.
  • Mangin, M., Dunsmore, K. (2015). How the framing of instructional coaching as a lever for systematic or individual reform influences the enactment of coaching, Educational Administration Quarterly, 51, 2, 179-213.
  • Perkins, D., Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of leaning – Metacognitive strategies. In N. Postelthwaite & T. Husen (Eds.). International Encyclopedia of Education (2nd Edition).
  • Sun, M. et al (2013). Shaping professional development to promote diffusion of instructional expertise among teachers, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35, 3, 344-369.

4. Learning-oriented organizational improvement processes

  • Bransford, J., Brown, A., Cocking, R. (Eds.) (2000). Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington: National Research Council.
  • Hoppe, B., Reinelt, C. (2010). Social network analysis and the evaluation of leadership networks, The Leadership Quarterly, 21, 600-619.
  • Finnegan, K., Daly A., Che, J. (2013). System wide reform in districts under pressure: the role of social networks in defining, acquiring, using and diffusing research evidence, Journal of Educational Administration, 51, 476-497.
  • Robinson, V., Sinnema, C., & le Fever, D. (2014). From Persuasion to Learning: An Intervention to Improve Leaders’ Response to Disagreement, Leadership and Policy in Schools,13, 260–296.

5. Deliberate and consistent uses of multiple sources of evidence to inform decisions

  • Anderson, S., Leithwood, K., Strauss, T. (2010). Leading data use in schools: organizational conditions and practices at the school and district levels, Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9, 292-327.
  • Daly, A. (2012). Data, dyads, and dynamics: exploring data use and social networks in educational improvement, Teachers College Record,114.
  • Datnow, A., Park, V., Wohlstetter, P. (2007). Achieving with data: how high performing school systems use data to improve instruction for elementary students. Los Angeles, CA: Center on Educational Governance, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.
  • Earl, L., Katz, S. (2002). Leading schools in a data-rich world, In K. Leithwood & P. Hallinger Eds.). Second International Handbook of Leadership and Administration, Volume 8, pages 1003-1024. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
  • Finnegan, K., Daly, A., Che, J. (2013). System wide reform in districts under pressure: the role of social networks in defining, acquiring, using and diffusing research evidence, Journal of Educational Administration, 51, 4, 476-497.
  • Honig, M., Venkateswaran, N. (2012). School–central office relationships in evidence use: understanding evidence use as a systems problem, American Journal of Education, 118.
  • Leithwood, K. (2011). Characteristics of high performing districts in Ontario (Part 1). Toronto: Final report of research for the Institute for Educational Leadership.

6. A comprehensive approach to leadership development

  • Barber, M., Whelen, F., Clark, M. (ND). Capturing the leadership premium: How the world’s top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. McKinsey & Company.
  • Earl, L., & Katz, S. (2005). What makes a network a learning network? National College for school Leadership, UK. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org.uk/networked/networked-research.cfm.
  • Fuller, E., Hollingworth, L. (2014). A bridge too far: Challenges in evaluating principal effectiveness, Educational Administration Quarterly, 50, 3, 466-499.
  • Hargreaves, A. and Fink, D. (2006), Sustainable Leadership, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
  • Honig M. (k012). District central office leadership as teaching: How central office administrator support principals’ development as instructional leaders, Educational Administration Quarterly,48, 4, 733-774.
  • Leithwood, K., Azah, V. (2014). Elementary and Secondary Principals’ and Vice-principals’ workload: Executive Summary. Final research report: Ontario Ministry of Education.
  • Mascall, B., Leithwood, K. (2010). Investing in leadership: The district’s role in managing principal turnover, Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9, 367-383.
  • Northfield, S. (2014). Multi-dimensional trust: how beginning principals build trust with their staffs during leadership succession, International Journal of Leadership in Education, 17, 4, 410-441.
  • The Wallace Foundation(2007). Getting Principal Mentoring Right: Lessons from the field. New York: The Wallace Foundation. [see especially the Summary and Highlights, pages 3-4].
  • Zepeda, S.,Bengtson, E., Parylo, O. (2012). Examining the planning and management of principal succession, Journal of Educational Administration.

7. A policy-oriented board of trustees

  • Carver, J. (1997). Boards that make a difference: A new design for leadership in non-profit and public organizations (2nd edition).San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Johnson, P. (2013). Effective board leadership: Factors associated with student achievement, Journal of School Leadership, 23, 456-489.
  • Land, D. (2002). Local school boards under review: Their role and effectiveness in relation to students’ academic achievement. Review of Educational Research, 72: 229-278.
  • Leithwood, K. (2011). Characteristics of high performing school districts in Ontario. Toronto: Final report of research for the Institute for Education Leadership of Ontario.
  • Saatcioglu, A., Moore, S., Sargut, G., Bajaj, A. (2011). The role of school board social capital in district governance: Effects on financial and academic outcomes, Leadership and Policy in Schools, 10, 1-42.

8. Productive working relationships

Internal District Relationships
  • Argyris, C. (1976). Theories of action that inhibit individual learning. American Psychologist, 31(9), 638–654. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.31.9.638.
  • Argyris, C. (1982). Reasoning, learning and action: Individual and organizational. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Kafetsios, K., Athanasiadou, M., Dimou, N. (2014). Leaders’ and subordinates’ attachment orientations, emotion regulation capabilities and affect at work: A multilevel analysis, The Leadership Quarterly, 25, 512-527.
  • Leithwood, K., Patten, S., Jantzi, D. (2010). Testing a conception of how school leadership influences student learning, Educational Administration Quarterly, 46 (5) 671 -706.
  • Tallia, A., Lanham, H., McDaniel, R., Crabtree, B. (2006). Seven characteristics of successful working relationships, Downloaded from the Family Practice Management web site at WWW.aafp.org/fpm.
Relationships with Parents
  • Fan, X., & Chen, M. (2001). Parent involvement and students’ academic achievement: a meta-analysis, Educational Psychology Review, 13, 1-22.
  • Hill, N., & Tyson, D. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: a meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promise achievement, Developmental Psychology, 45, 740-763.
  • Jeynes, W. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relation of parent involvement to urban elementary school student academic achievement, Urban Education, 40, 3, 237-269.
  • Lee, J., & Bowen, N. (2006). Parent involvement, cultural capital and the achievement gap among elementary school children, American Educational Research Journal, 43, 2, 193-218.
  • Leithwood, K. (2015). Ontario Parent Engagement Project. Toronto: Final report of research to the Ontario Ministry of Education.