Opportunity to Learn
As district- and school-level leaders face increasing pressure from federal, state, and local accountability mandates, there has been increased dependence on using and analyzing student data to help improve student performance. While the reporting of disaggregated data by student subgroup confirms that achievement gaps exist, it does not provide district- and school-level leaders with the descriptive data needed to identify key factors inhibiting student performance. Identifying and understanding factors hindering student performance is critical knowledge for leaders to cultivate as they work to address elements within their school or district that may need to change if student learning is to improve. This research study examined specific ways district- and school-level leaders go about challenging and helping their community to face the problem of student performance disparities, as well as specific aspects of the situation that may be contributing to the community's collective capacity, to address student performance disparities. Without proper district-level leadership, effectively addressing operational conditions that may lead to disparities in student learning is unlikely. Currently, few studies exist about district-level leaders' use of professional learning to support the development of school-level leaders. However, a review of the literature revealed that some district-level leaders have turned to professional learning to transform school-level leaders' practice in their effort to understand and address disparities, as well as their knowledge about and skills related to working with diverse students. This qualitative single case study in a diverse urban district utilized interview and document data to further understanding on the use of professional learning by district leaders with school leaders. Findings revealed that district-level leaders sought to leverage and foster professional learning for school-level leaders as an action to further learn about, understand, and address the barriers that may be inhibiting students' opportunity to learn.