School District Contributions to Students' Math and Language Achievement


  • Victoria Handford Thompson Rivers Universtiy
  • Kenneth Leithwood



School districts effects, School Leadership, District Improvement Processes


Conducted in British Columbia, this mixed-methods study tested the effects of nine district characteristics on student achievement, explored conditions that mediate the effects of such characteristics, and contributed to understandings about the role school-level leaders play in district efforts to improve achievement. Semistructured interview data from 37 school administrators provided qualitative data. Quantitative data were provided by the responses of 998 school and district leaders’ in 21 districts to two surveys. Student achievement data were district-level results of elementary and secondary student provincial math and language test scores. All nine district characteristics contributed significantly to student achievement. Three conditions served as especially powerful mediators of such district effects. The same conditions, as well as others, acted as significant mediators of school-level leader effects on achievement. This is among the few large-scale mixed-methods studies identifying characteristics of districts explaining variation in student achievement.

Author Biographies

Victoria Handford, Thompson Rivers Universtiy

Associate Professor, Education

Coordinator, Graduate Studies in Education and Director, Executive Program for Leadership in Education

Kenneth Leithwood

Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto




How to Cite

Handford, V., & Leithwood, K. (2019). School District Contributions to Students’ Math and Language Achievement. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 14(9).

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