This article addresses an issue that has not been well explored in empirical research, namely whether local education agencies (districts) have an impact on student learning. We assumed that local district effects on learning would be largely indirect, mediated by how teachers work together in schools (in professional communities) and the quality of instruction that is provided. Based on the literature, we also assumed that promoting data-driven decision making was an insufficient stimulus for student learning, and we therefore chose to examine another current policy strategy that is being widely adopted by local authorities: the development of networks for learning among schools. Using survey data and structural equation modeling, our results suggest that the development of networks has a positive relationship with instruction and subsequent learning, while district emphasis on learning targets and data use has a negative relationship. The discussion offers a number of interpretations of the findings, and suggests further arenas for inquiry.
- data-driven decision making
- professional community