The literature on successful schools has revealed that a school culture of high expectations is beneficial for student achievement and that leaders may exercise significant influence on their school’s success trajectory. However, less information is known about how leaders at different levels interact to build such cultures in local schools or how standards of professional work and new demands interact to support teachers’ com-mitment to quality education for a diverse student population. This study aimed to examine the interplay between district and school leadership in creating cultures of equity and high expectations for all students in a Norwegian low-performing school. Methods included interviews with the principal and the superin-tendent, focus group interviews with deputies, teachers and students, and a survey among all students in grade 10 at the selected school. The study demonstrated how leading teachers’ effort to raise academic and social standards among students was a complex endeavour and how a productive interplay between district level leadership and school-level leadership became one of the key enabling factors. A main argument is that promoting quality education for all begins with the question of purpose and requires understanding how principals’ and teachers’ work is embedded in broader social structures of power.
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