Leading Professional Learning to Improve Schools in Challenging Circumstances in Russia
This chapter explores the role that leadership played in improving schools in challenging circumstances in Russia. It draws directly upon evidence from a study that identified schools in difficult circumstances in Russia and showed that they mainly performed at a lower level than schools in more affluent contexts. The study also highlighted the main contributory factors to low performance in schools in disadvantaged areas (Pinskaya et al., 2013). Subsequently, a research and development project is now focusing on schools in challenging circumstances in three regions in Russia, with the prime purpose of supporting improvement and change (Harris et al., forthcoming). This chapter focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on how leadership capacity is being built to support schools in difficulty at the school and local levels. To begin with, this chapter argues that the introduction of greater accountability into the Russian education system has resulted most recently in the clear identification of underachieving schools located predominantly in high-poverty areas. It also argues that one byproduct of a more transparent education system is that the powerful relationship between underperformance and disadvantage can no longer be denied. It is argued from empirical data that schools in Professional Learning to Improve Schools in Challenging Circumstances 161 disadvantaged areas tend not to reach the same level of performance in external examinations as the schools in the more wealthy areas of Russia do (Pinskaya et al., 2013). This chapter concludes by discussing emerging empirical evidence from a contemporary school improvement project in three regions in Russia (Harris et al., forthcoming). It focuses particularly on the contribution of leadership to improvement and highlights how leadership at the municipal or district level is proving to be a critical component of success.