In this article models and theories on effective schooling are reviewed. Modelling is based on the various disciplinary oriented approaches to educational effectiveness. As such production functions, instructional effectiveness models and integrated, multi‐level educational effectiveness models are discussed. Various conceptual and formal representations of facilitation across levels are seen as the most interesting area for further model‐driven research. In the second part of the article four organization theories are discussed, all of which are seen as specific interpretations of the rationality paradigm: rational control theory and bureaucratic structuring; contingency theory; public choice theory; and retroactive planning. A fifth theoretical perspective, chaos theory, as applied to organizational functioning, looks more like a complete anti‐thesis of rationality, but can nevertheless be related to the emergence of ordered patterns and to organizational survival. Core mechanisms or theory‐embedded principles that follow from these theories are, respectively: proactive structuring; fit; market mechanisms; the cybernetic principle; and self‐organization. Further analysis of these principles leads to the conclusion that the cybernetic principle of evaluation feedback and reinforcement is the most interesting one, both from a theoretical and practice‐oriented perspective. Throughout the article hints and suggestions are provided for future, more theory and model‐driven educational effectiveness research.