Leadership and Student Learning: Examining the Cause and Effect of Privilege- and Learning-centric Assignment Practices within Florida Schools

Working Paper No. 2015-07

Peter T. Goff and Gwendolyn S. Baxley

October 2015, 30 pp.

ABSTRACT: The strategies and norms used to assign students to teachers have garnered national attention as these assignment practices can exacerbate inequality. School leaders have substantial authority and influence over this assignment process, yet our knowledge of their role is limited. This paper examines trends in school-level assignment using statewide data over a 9-year span and cross-sectional survey data from a state-representative sample of 234 schools. Among our findings is evidence that substantial variation in assignment practices exists across schools, yet variation within schools over time is minimal. We find no evidence that leadership changes result in changes to assignment practices. This suggests that assignment practices are largely dictated by prior practices and norms in a school and the forces acting to preserve this system are formidable. Principals need to make equitable staffing practices a priority within their vision of leadership and cultivate the political capital required to enact change.

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keywords: strategic staffing, school leadership, teacher assignment, data-driven leadership