Transforming Schools


Great principals drive student outcomes and make a transformative difference in the schools they serve. Bain & Company’s research reveals that principals, on average, are responsible for the evaluation of 37 teachers. (That compares to the average corporate manager of skilled professionals being responsible for five direct-reports). The reality is principals are stretched too thin. Teachers lack the support they need to progress as instructors – receiving only cursory classroom visits and minimal feedback.

There are a growing number of US schools and districts creating a “distributed” leadership structure that allows for Assistant Principals or teacher-leaders to take on in-depth coaching and evaluation roles. Bain outlines a handful of principles and implementation strategies to create a successful “distributed” leadership model. For example, Bain asserts that school leaders tasked with coaching teachers must take ownership of high quality instruction. Additionally, matching leaders to teams of teachers who can share knowledge and problem-solve together is critical.

Denver Public Schools is held up as a shining example of district-wide implementation of a leadership model, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Opportunity Culture in Project LIFT (now being expanded throughout the district) is called out for excellent teachers expanding their impact.

We’ve seen districts and CMOs making real investments in developing and deploying transformative leadership in their schools and we’ve seen tangible evidence of success.

—Chris Bierly, Betsy Doyle and Abigail Smith, Bain & Company

Transforming Schools: How Distributed Leadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools
January 2016
Authored by: Bain & Company

Report author Abigail Smith presents at the BEST NC September 2016 Excellence Education Innovation Lab: