Engaged leadership is critical at each level of an implementation infrastructure.  Establishing Implementation Teams requires changes in current department of education functions, roles, and structures.  This will not happen without leadership that is engaged in creating opportunities for responsible change and managing change processes once they are underway. 

In education, the State Implementation Team and Regional Implementation Teams are closely aligned with the Chief State School Officer and his or her State Management Team.  District Implementation Teams operate as part of district superintendent offices.  Building Implementation Teams report directly to school principals.

Leadership support for Implementation Teams needs to be embedded and part of standard education services in states, districts, and schools.  For example, current infrastructures for finance and information technology are embedded and enduring.  An implementation infrastructure needs to become appreciated and supported in a similar way, even as leaders come and go.

The table below helps emphasize the common functions of leadership and Implementation Teams within a state education system.  Implementation Teams always report to and are a part of a leadership team, and employ a common set of active implementation frameworks to align system resources and support teacher and staff uses of effective innovations to produce excellent student outcomes.

Table 3.1. Functions of leadership and Implementation Teams within a state education system

LOCATION State District School
TARGET OUTCOME Create and support DIT Create and support BIT Support Teachers/Fidelity


Legend: State Management Team (SMT), District Management Team (DMT), Building Management Team (BMT), Regional Implementation Team (RIT), District Implementation Team (DIT), Building Implementation Team (BIT)

Research and Rationales: Leadership and Systems Change

Initiating Implementation Teams in a state requires determined leadership devoted to assuring excellent education outcomes for all students.  Initiating the process requires thoughtful exploration and examination of goals, methods, and resources.  Marzano, Waters, and McNulty (2005) analyzed 30 years of research on education leadership and discriminated between leadership for first order and second order change.  First-order change is incremental and is done in the context of the day-to-day management of a school.  Of the 21 leadership skills identified by Marzano and colleagues, teacher supervision and evaluation, staff development, and quality control were essential leadership traits related to first order change.  These leadership skills overlap completely with the Implementation Drivers described in a separate Active Implementation module. Second-order change involves solving wicked problems (Rittel & Webber, 1973) that are riddled with paradox and dilemma.  Strong beliefs, flexibility, knowledge of curriculum and instruction, and reliance on evaluation and data characterized second-order leadership skills.  Panzano and colleagues (2004) found that second-order leadership is important in the early stages of implementation of an effective innovation, and later on first-order leadership is essential to embedding implementation functions and roles into organization and system structures.

Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin (1995) outline approaches to “top down support for bottom up reform.”  It is in this spirit that meaningful change starts at the top and quickly relies on work in schools to continually adjust state supports for meaningful change.  Implementation Teams are in contact with the day-to-day realities in an education system and report directly to State Management Teams, District Superintendents, and Principals.  In this way, teams keep leadership informed about things that matter and leaders can be appropriately engaged in the process of leading change and continual improvement in student outcomes.