Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is the District Capacity Project (DCP)?
    Sponsored by the MEP, the District Capacity Project (DCP) is a labor-management initiative led by the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy that supports strategic collaboration among teams of local education leaders by providing facilitation services, opportunities for professional development through semi-annual Capacity Institutes, and access to a statewide network of labor-management innovators. Along with the New Superintendents Induction Program (NSIP) and the District Governance Support Project (DGSP), the DCP is a key component in the state’s efforts to establish effective educational governance and leadership, and thus strengthen district capacity to improve schools and positively impact student achievement.


  2. Why is labor-management collaboration important?
    Numerous studies have documented the positive relationship between labor-management collaboration and the implementation of policies that improve student outcomes. Studies suggest that education leaders are more able to effectively problem-solve and implement innovative education policies when local stakeholders have established a culture of collaboration. Further reading:
  • Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy (2012). Labor-Management-Community Collaboration in Springfield Public Schools. Cambridge, MA
  • Anrig, G. (2013). Beyond Education Wars: Evidence That Collaboration Builds Effective Schools. The Century Foundation Press.


  • What is the evidence for improving education practice and outcomes through effective labor-management collaboration?
    Examples abound of educators coming together across the traditional structural and cultural divides in school systems to improve student outcomes. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Montgomery County, Maryland, large scale, long-term labor-management efforts have yielded measurable and sustained improvements in student achievement levels, and begun to close achievement gaps. In Ontario, educators have achieved substantial advances in student learning by re-organizing the core premises of school structure and management. They challenge what Michael Fullan calls the “wrong drivers” – emphasizing capacity-building over accountability, group solutions over a focus on individual quality, instruction over an overreliance on technology, and integrated, systemic strategies over fragmented and episodic approaches. A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Education compiles evidence from a dozen school districts, showcasing labor-management collaborations that have led to large-scale changes in structures, policies, contracts and practices, and have resulted, in some cases, in substantial student achievement gains. Carrie Leana offers compelling evidence that the long-term collegial interaction between stable, collaborating teachers – what she and others refer to as “social capital” – is responsible for far greater student achievement gains than is commonly understood, and is, in fact, the “missing link” in school reform efforts to date. Community organizations and partners have also played large roles in labor-management collaboration innovation in Clark County, Hamilton County, and Springfield, MA.. Further reading:


  • National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2007). Reducing the achievement gap through district/union collaboration: The tale of two school districts. Washington, DC.
  • Geoffrey Marietta. (2010). The Unions in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
  • Michael Fullan. (2010). The Big Ideas Behind Whole System Reform. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Education Canada, Vol. 50. Canadian Education Association.
  • Michael Fullan. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for education reform. East Melbourne, Australia. Centre for Strategic Education.
  • Jonathan Eckert, (Ed.). (2011). Local labor management relationships as a vehicle to advance reform: Findings from the U.S. Department of Education’s labor management conference. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.


  • What is the goal of the DCP?

    The goal of the DCP is to use labor-management collaboration to build the capacity of school districts to drive improvements in student achievement. DCP’s objectives are to help participating districts:

    • Form a team of district labor and management leaders and engage them in collaborative practices that will increase their ability to achieve district goals;
    • Expand leaders’ skills in learning and applying interest-based processes;
    • Facilitate team efforts to drive systemic changes at school and district levels;
    • Lay the foundation for sustainability through permanent changes in district and school structures, policies, practices, and contracts; and
    • Improve student academic achievement and success.


  • Who can participate in the DCP?
    Teams of labor and management leaders from any public school district can apply to the DCP. Priority is given to teams from districts with a demonstrated history of collaborative leadership prepared to take on an intensive school improvement project. In Massachusetts, for example, the DCP has prioritized working with Gateway Cities and districts that have previously committed to collaborative work, including districts involved in the Urban Superintendent Network, the New Superintendent Induction Program or the District Governance Support Project, or districts that have sent teams to USED Labor Management meetings.

    If labor and management leaders in your district are interested in participating in the DCP, please contact Emily Murphy, DCP Project Manager, at



  • What districts are currently involved in the project?
    DCP program directors and facilitators, as well as the Rennie Center, have substantial experience working with school districts to promote labor-management collaboration. Currently, eight districts are involved in the DCP: Berkshire Hills, Boylston Elementary, Brockton, Fall River, Leominster, Lowell, Malden, and Springfield.


  • Who is on a DCP team?
    Districts commit at least six team members to the project. The Superintendent, the Union President, and the School Committee Chair are required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes their commitment to the DCP and labor-management collaboration. While maintaining a balance in representation between labor and management, teams are encouraged to expand their membership to include mayors, directors of pupil services, principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, and/or community members.


  • What is involved in participation?

    Current DCP district teams work with a trained facilitator who helps the team identify shared interests, understand and address conflicts, listen to and address particular concerns or ideas, and stay focused as they frame and pursue their work. In addition to working with a facilitator, DCP teams are required to make a work plan that outlines their outcomes, action steps, and timeline for the year ahead. Future DCP district teams will be offered the chance to participate in DCP at varying levels of activity and involvement, depending on their interests.

    For more information please contact Emily Murphy, DCP Project Manager, at



  • What issues can district teams work on?
    All initiatives are locally driven, and all district teams focus on data and accountability, with the goal of increasing student outcomes. Current efforts range from the development of effective professional learning communities, to the creation of new teacher leadership roles, to planning for new innovation schools. Additional suggested focus areas include Expanded Learning Time (ELT), Common Core State Standard Implementation, Peer Assistance and Review (PAR), and Educator Evaluation.


  • What other supports are available to district teams?
    To help support teams of union and district leaders adopt and implement important education policies associated with improved student outcomes, the DCP holds semi-annual Capacity Institutes. The Capacity Institutes are designed to strengthen teams’ knowledge base, engage participants in a network of peers who are also doing labor-management collaboration work, and give individual teams time to continue to work on, and to accelerate, their projects. Through the Rennie Center, district teams are also given access to content experts able to apply specialized skills and knowledge to address local challenges and advance projects.


  • What type of commitment is involved with the DCP?
    Since involvement in the DCP is meant to be locally determined, the timeline for DCP work is variable; teams typically commit one to two years to the project. Current DCP district teams are expected to meet once a month with their facilitator, carry on project work in between monthly meetings, and participate in DCP Capacity Institutes. Future DCP district teams can work with DCP staff to craft individualized programs to meet the needs of the team.


  • Where can I find out more information about labor-management collaboration?



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