We live in a time where our educational goals are becoming complex. They embrace creativity, wellbeing and responding to increasing diversity – not just raising achievement in literacy and mathematics. Under these conditions, top-down leadership can no longer deal with the speed of change, the complexity of goals, or the diversity of local circumstances. Based on research with 10 school districts in Ontario and development work in Scotland, Wales and the US Pacific NW, this paper points to practices of leading from the middle across schools and districts that provide a more promising solution.
LfM doesn’t just connect the top and bottom and make the system more efficient and coherent. Working together, districts and schools within and across districts drive change within directions established at the top. They are at the centre and core of change, not just a level connecting the change efforts of others. They take initiative instead of only implementing initiatives. They respond to local diversity instead of adopting standardized solutions. And they take transparent, collective responsibility for each other’s success. LfM needs deliberately designed structures for collaboration, habits or cultures of collaboration, and a guiding philosophy about bringing leadership closer to students, teaching and learning everywhere.