New York City's Children First Networks: turning accountability on its head

Priscilla Wohlstetter (Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)
Joanna Smith (Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Andrew Gallagher (Department of Organization and Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Publication date: 28 June 2013



The purpose of this paper is to report findings from an exploratory study of New York's Children First Networks (CFNs); to examine what is known about the CFNs thus far, drawing on new empirical research, as well as document review and analysis of secondary sources.


Organizational learning theory guided this qualitative study. As such, in‐depth interviews conducted with central office staff, network leadership teams, cluster leaders, and principals focused on the flow and management of information within the networks; the ways in which stakeholders developed shared meanings; how collective intelligence was built and transmitted; and organizational responses to the early experience of the CFNs.


Findings highlight the tools and processes the NYC Department of Education (DOE) has put into place to operationalize the CFNs. Respondents identified as critical the replacement of supervisory leadership from the district with customization of services provided by the network teams to promote principal‐led reforms. Increased efficiency was noted by interviewees, but a number of challenges in the reform’s implementation also surfaced that point to the limitations of the CFNs as a capacity‐building mechanism.

Research limitations/implications

As an exploratory study, this research is intended to inform larger‐scale, mixed‐methods investigations of school networks, especially those implementing reforms aimed at improving teaching and learning in schools. Research is needed into the resource exchanges between individuals and groups in networks, what differentiates high‐performing from lower‐performing networks, and how data are used to inform the evolution of network structures and practices.


This study is the first peer‐reviewed article on the evolution of New York City's Children First Networks.



Wohlstetter, P., Smith, J. and Gallagher, A. (2013), "New York City's Children First Networks: turning accountability on its head", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 51 No. 4, pp. 528-549.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.