The Crisis You Can’t Plan For: K-12 Leader Responses and Organisational Preparedness During COVID-19

Unlike many types of educational crises, the COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis leaders could not have prepared for. But research is only starting to examine how leaders’ responses and organisational context have played a role. This mixed-methods study accordingly examines how leaders have mitigated challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what local factors are most salient. Investigating two districts over two years in the United States, we conducted extensive interviews with leaders (n = 41) and teachers (n = 18), gathered responses to the Comprehensive Assessment of Leaders for Learning (CALL) survey (N = 111), and district emergency operation plans. We find those education organisations possessing a culture focused on instructional inquiry, more developed distributed leadership networks, and greater material resources were better positioned to respond to the unexpected crisis. In contrast, those lacking such capacities experienced increased stress. Together, these findings further demonstrate the importance organisational preparedness and resources play when limited expertise and technical solutions exist.

De Voto, C., & Superfine, B. M. (2023). The crisis you can’t plan for: K-12 leader responses and organisational preparedness during COVID-19 (special issue). School Leadership & Management, 43(4), 369-389.