I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that teachers are the determining factor in a student’s academic success. Aside from that not being true, that frame of thought dismisses the importance of school, district, state, and federal leadership. A teacher can only do what the leadership has planned, designed, and allowed him or her to do. If the leadership’s primary focus is on raising test scores, then you are going to see that school not do well, no matter who or what type of teachers are at the school.
Leadership sets the overall tone of the school. They create the culture, choose the learning programs, and make the personnel decisions. Leadership is responsible for the mission and vision of the school and is charged with making sure that every action taken falls in alignment with said mission and vision. Leadership spearheads innovation and encourages the teachers as well as the students to bring their best selves to school. Plain and simple, leadership is the spoon that stirs the drink.
If urban and rural schools continue to make testing and graduation rates their be all, end all, then we are going to see more schools in urban and rural areas fall short. Fixing America's urban and rural schools begins with fixing public education's leadership problem.