Message from SIG Chair
Message from SIG Chair
SIG Chair

Dear SIG friends,

This monthly newsletter is intended to strengthen a community of researchers, practitioners, and community members committed to elevating questions surrounding district-level governance, policy, and processes as a means of explaining if and how districts can drive equity-focused change and sustainability. This newsletter includes information about our Business Meeting at AERA, SIG Sessions at AERA, job postings, publications that might interest you, and more. 

AERA 2024

Thank you to all of you who submitted applications for travel support and our publication award. We will be sending notifications of award results shortly. We had multipe submissions for the publication award, SIG members are working hard on exciting research! Thank you for sharing it with us.  

We are looking forward to AERA 2024 in Philadelphia from April 11-14. 

Our business meeting is Sun, April 14, 4:55 to 6:25pm, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, Room 117. 

We are very excited to announce that Drs. Katharine Strunk and Joy Lesnick will be joining us to speak about their work in and with districts in the US. Dr. Strunk is the Dean of the Graduate School of Education and the George and Diane Weiss Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and is well known for having a long track-record of bringing together diverse stakeholders to work on local, district, and state reform efforts in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Dr. Lesnick is currently Deputy Chief of Research, Evaluation, and Academic Partnerships in the School District of Philadelphia. Dr. Lesnick has held multiple roles throughout her career facilitating the use of data to improve student outcomes including the six years Dr. Lesnick spent at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration. 

We look forward to hearing about the work of Drs. Strunk and Lesnick at our business meeting and welcoming our SIG members to engage in group discussion about your work and the work of the SIG. 

SIG Sessions at AERA:

Fri, April 12, 9:35 to 11:05am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Room 401

Session Title: At the Nexus of Continuous Improvement and School District Research: Possibilities, Dilemmas, and Provocations

Session Type: Symposium

Abstract: Over the past fifteen years, two bodies of scholarship—related to continuous improvement and design-based methods and educational system-building—have risen to prominence in educational research and practice, offering guidance for how leaders might organize for educational excellence and equity. These areas of research have developed largely in parallel: acknowledging, but not substantively integrating, the growing insights of the other. The purpose of this symposium is to a) bring together scholars who are working at the intersection of these two areas of research, so that we might b) develop a more integrated understanding of how school systems can incorporate the insights of continuous improvement and design-based approaches as they engage in the work of developing, leading, and improving instructionally focused educational systems.

Chair: Maxwell Yurkofsky, Radford University


Fundamental systemic change for equity in school district central offices: The promise of expansive learning - Meredith I. Honig, University of Washington; Noy Sabag, University of Washington

The Art and Science of Educational Change: The Modern School District as a Site for Healing and Equity - Kate Kennedy, RAND Corporation; Lok-Sze Wong, University of North Texas

County Leadership and Continuous Improvement in Small Rural Districts - Angel Xiao Bohannon, NORC at the University of Chicago; Caitlin Farrell, University of Colorado - Boulder; Spencer Cook, Northwestern University

Symmetrical Learning and District-Level Continuous Improvement - Candice Bocala, Harvard University

Using Continuous Improvement and Design Methods for System Leadership: Commonalities, Contingencies, and Paradoxes - Jal David Mehta, Harvard University; Maxwell Yurkofsky, Radford University

Discussant: Donald J. Peurach, University of Michigan


Fri, April 12, 3:05 to 4:35pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Second Floor, Exhibit Hall B

Session title: International Properties of District Management and Reform

Session Type: Roundtable Session

Chair: Aleksandar Chonevski, United International College


A Critical, Antiracist Investigation Into Forced External Reviews of Three School Districts in Ontario, Canada - Ateeqa S. Arain, University of Toronto; Stephanie D. Tuters, University of Toronto - OISE; Vidya Shah, York University; Myrtle Sodhi, York University

Districts’ Capacities Toward Quality and Equity in Education: Case Study in Brazil - Lara Simielli, FGV EAESP; Eduardo Grin, FGV-Brasília; Mauricio Ernica, University of Campinas

The Middle-tier in Education Delivery: An Exploratory Study of District Support to Schools in Ghana - Sheena Bell, University of Toronto


Sun, April 14, 9:35 to 11:05am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, Room 402

Session Title: School Districts in Precarious Times: The Extreme Politicization of School Board Governance and the Superintendency

Session Type: Symposium

Abstract: The five papers in this session offer insight on how divisive viewpoints regarding COVID-19 protocols, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ rights have gripped our nation’s school districts. Across the first three papers, we identify increased scrutiny from select groups of parents, community members, and public figures towards social justice-oriented policies and practices. This attention has raised challenges for school board members and superintendents to advance equitable policies and practices at the district level. The final two papers signal a call to action to better prepare and support superintendents to engage with multiple constituents. The authors offer strategies on how superintendents can lead and accomplish equitable systemic change despite the challenges in the current political environment.

Chair: Dawn M. Demps, University of Arizona


Conflation and Misrepresentation in News Coverage of Politicized School Board Issues - Alfonso Ayala, San Jose State University; Ruth María López, University of Arizona

Navigating Public Narratives in the Digital Age: Impact of Social Media on School Board Governance - Jasmine Pham, University of Toronto; Jami Carmichael, Arizona State University

The Politicization of Local School Board Recalls - Gabriela López, Stanford University; Carrie Sampson, Arizona State University

Superintendents’ Strategic Leadership for Just and Equitable Systemic Change - Lok-Sze Wong, University of North Texas; Stephen Waddell, University of North Texas; Tatiana Kurochkina, University of North Texas

Political Leadership in the Superintendency - Jennifer Cheatham, Harvard University; Bonnie Lo, Harvard University

Discussants: David E. DeMatthews, University of Texas at Austin, and Judy A. Alston, Miami University (OH)


Sun, April 14, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Second Floor, Exhibit Hall B

Session Title: District Administration, Capacity, and Culture

In Event: Sunday Roundtable Session 1:15 pm

Chair: Leesa M. Riviere, Independent Researcher


Leaders of Color and Perceptions of Organizational Culture: Measuring Racial Stress - Kait Ogden, University of Texas at Austin; April L. Peters-Hawkins, University of Houston

School Business Official Burnout: A Statewide Study - Nicole V. Schilling, University of Findlay; Nathan S. Schilling, Lansing School District 158; Kristie M. Fetty, Malone University; Taylor N. Pawliski, University of Findlay

Tapping on the Principal’s Door: How Districts Informally Recruit School Leaders Into the Principal Pipeline - Angel Xiao Bohannon, NORC at the University of Chicago; Ashley Ellison, Vanderbilt University; Molly F. Gordon, NORC at the University of Chicago; Jason A. Grissom, Vanderbilt University

“We have no choice”: Contracting processes for turnaround charter partnerships in Austin Independent School District - Daniel Dawer, University of Texas at Austin; Alejandro Madrigal, University of Texas at Austin


Upcoming SIG Brown Bag Sessions:

At the end of January we were pleased to host a Brown Bag session with Dr. Nathan Schilling (Superintendent of Schools at Lansing School District 158) who was joined by Dr. Nicole Schilling (Associate Professor at The University of Findlay) and Dr. Dave Kostopoulos (Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment at Lansing School District 158) to discuss district improvement processes. The title of their talk was: "Strategic, Site-Based, and Grant-Funded District Improvement: Research and Processes" 

Please let us know if you would be interested in acting as a guest speaker for a Brown Bag session run by/through the SIG. You can propose a topic or speak to one of the topics listed above, we want to hear from you! 


Build with us!

Please email us with any updates you wish for us to share in the newsletter. 

Twitter/X: We are hoping that our Twitter handle can become a site of research dissemination and critical questions about the purpose and possibilities of school districts internationally. Please feel free to tag us at @DistrictSIGAERA on any district related events or research. We would be happy to share your work with a broader audience!


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Best wishes, 

Your SIG Exec