In order for complex systems to change sustainably, agents at various levels of those systems must interact with each other, and control must be distributed in such a way as to “promote individual autonomy and enrich communication” amongst the systems’ various levels. The practical implication of this is that each school system implementing an effort at instructional improvement must establish and maintain a common direction while also allowing individual actors – principals, teachers, and other educators – to make decisions that are appropriate for them and their local constituencies.
As schools, districts, and the overall education system are complex entities, both the approaches taken to improve them and the methods used to study them must be similarly complex. Simple solutions imposed with no regard for schools’ or districts’ unique contexts hold little promise, while seemingly insignificant differences between those contexts affect in seemingly disproportionate ways the quality and success with which they implement the same programs. Context must be taken very much into account when initiatives are planned and implemented, as well as when their impacts are investigated.