Generate Research

Generate research to uncover central office practices and systems that support equitable school improvement. Our research is:

  • Strengths-based: We study central offices where leaders are trying to do what research and experience suggest is the right work to realize educational equity. We aim not to evaluate but to understand what they are doing, what results they achieve, and what conditions help or hinder their efforts. With this strengths-based approach, we aim to shine new light on the promises and challenges of central office leadership.
  • Systems Focused: Research shows that the success of any one central office function–be it Teaching and Learning, Principal Supervision, Human Resources, or Operations–depends on aligned changes across the school system. We seek to uncover these interdependencies, and identify what specific practices and systems within and across each of these functions we can associate with improved support for equitable learning.
  • For and with practitioners. We use design-based research methods adapted to systems leadership settings to partner with practitioners to: identify research questions of scholarly importance and high relevance to educational leaders; develop strategies to improve leadership practices and systems in real time; and learn from the process.

Create Tools

Create tools to help district leaders use the research in their practice. Our tools are:

  • Research-based: All our tools have research at their core– both research district leaders have asked us to help them use and research on how to help adults learn how to use new ideas.
  • Self-directed: Research shows that districts change when central office leaders lead the work themselves. We design all our tools with a focus on helping central office leaders lead their own learning.

Lead for Major Improvements

Lead for major improvements in central offices. DL2 team members work alongside central office leaders to help them design and execute their central office transformation efforts.

Why DL2

Meredith Honig and Lydia Rainey founded DL2 in 2014 in response to requests from superintendents and other district leaders across the country who were asking:

  • What does research say our central offices can do differently and better to support our equity goals of an excellent education for each and every student?
  • Can you help us use that research to transform our central offices into school support systems?

As Honig explained, “We had just released our Wallace Foundation report on central office transformation. District leaders told us they appreciated the rigor of our work but also how practical it was– that it described specific practices and systems in central offices that they could actually use to get results. They wanted help using the ideas and do what our study districts were doing. Not the routine central office “reorg” that tinkers with central office job titles and reporting lines but fundamental transformation of their central offices into an equity-focused school support system.”

From the outset, DL2 aimed to expand and strengthen the base of actionable knowledge available to district leaders while also helping leaders use that information to ground their own approaches to the work. Honig elaborated, “School district central offices vary widely across the country from those with 2-3 staff to ten times as many departments. Some face chronic staff shortages while others don’t. We wanted to generate research that could be applied across these settings and also tools to help district leaders adapt the research to their realities.”

DL2 also aimed to support not supplant or compete with other organizations in the field. As Rainey described, “We support districts directly and we see ourselves as a partner’s partner– developing research, tools, and advice for district’s local partners to help them help districts grow their capacity. We think that’s a distinct role that a university partner like UW’s DL2 can play.”