Managing Networks for School Improvement: 7 Lessons from the Field

Megan Duff, Teachers College, Columbia University
Clare Buckley Flack, Teachers College, Columbia University
Priscilla Wohlstetter, Teachers College, Columbia University
Diane Massell, Consortium for Policy Research in Education
Angela Gargaro Lyle, University of Michigan


In recent decades, new networks for school improvement (NSI) have proliferated across the country. These emerging organizational structures present education leaders with an opportunity to build dynamic infrastructures to engage schools in improvements to teaching and learning. NSI are diverse. Some NSI are part of school districts, while others are contracted by school districts to design blueprints for school improvement. What all NSI have in common is a central hub supporting a set of member schools, like the center of a wheel and its spokes.

In this guidebook, we focus on common lessons for designing improvement infrastructures from the perspective of leaders across four different types of networks, including:

  • Local district superintendents who support schools in a particular geographic area;
  • Field support centers, which partner with district superintendents in the intermediary space between the central office and schools;
  • Affinity organizations, which are independent non-profit organizations that work under contract from the central district office to support a select group of district schools; and
  • Charter school management organizations that operate outside the district, supporting their affiliated member schools.

Our aim was to better understand how NSI were responding to the increased demands of recent shifts to more rigorous college- and career-ready standards. These seven lessons emerged from interviews with central office administrators overseeing NSI and staff working in network hubs, as well as from observations of professional learning (PL) sessions provided by hubs. We hope these lessons are useful to your work improving teaching and learning in your school, network, or district.


Date Posted: 20 June 2019