Date of this Version
Educational Administration Quarterly 56:5 (2020), pp. 819–855.
Purpose: This study examines how district governance and different school contexts in Denver’s portfolio management model affect shared leadership for learning. We define this as shared influence on instructional leadership and school-wide decision making, which research suggests have strong ties to student achievement and teacher commitment. Method: We analyze interview data from 53 administrators, teacher leaders, and teachers in eight case study schools and teacher surveys in 48 schools. In both data sets, we purposively sampled based on variance in school performance ratings and by school type (e.g., traditional public, stand-alone charter, charter management organization [CMO], and innovation schools). Findings: We find that perceptions of shared instructional leadership were generally high across the school contexts, though CMO and innovation schools had the highest perceptions in both the survey and case study data. Schools varied substantially in shared decision making, but innovation schools had higher average scores than other school models. Centralized policies and supports, alongside organizational visions spanning networks of schools, helped explain the enactment of shared leadership for learning. For example, schools within Denver’s “innovation” network shared a common vision of teacher empowerment, while CMOs that had more prescribed policies and practices across their schools had lower reported levels of shared decision making. Implications for Research and Practice: Portfolio management models that prioritize school-based autonomy and choice between different kinds of schools are proliferating in urban areas. Our study helps explain why and how shared leadership for learning differs between school models and explores important implications for this variation.