Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Superintendent's Role in School Turnaround: Perspectives of Rural, Suburban, and Urban Superintendents
by Thomas, G. Eric, Ph.D., Concordia University Chicago, 2016, 231; 10255498
Abstract (Summary)

Research on school turnaround has been centered on individual schools and principals. This research argues the principal’s role is essential to turnaround (Herman et al., 2008; Leithwood & Strauss, 2008, 2010). There has been little research on what role superintendents play to influence school turnaround. This qualitative study explored the self-perceptions and reflections of ten superintendents (representing city, rural and suburban settings) that led districts in which schools turned around. The central question investigated the role and leadership approach of these superintendents. Along with exploring the superintendents’ leadership through Bass’s (1985) transformational leadership theory, Rawls’ (1971) concept of social justice also underpinned the study. This framework was appropriate considering mostly poor and minority students attended the nearly 5,000 chronically low-performing schools in America (Stuit, 2010; USDOE, 2014). Despite decades of effort, low-performing schools continue to deprive many students of an excellent education. Former Education Secretary Arnie Duncan argued a quality education remained an unresolved civil rights issue (Duncan, 2014). Using primarily interviews and document review, results provided a deeper understanding of the challenges district leaders faced during turnaround efforts. While superintendents self-identified having various leadership styles, collaboration and stakeholder engagement emerged as important. Superintendents also spent time navigating resistance, addressing personnel challenges, promoting instruction, and attempting to create district focus. Superintendents often cited a social justice belief, but acknowledged stakeholder influence and district culture sometimes led to a compliance mindset. The study suggested that superintendents must consider their district’s context to determine their approach for inspiring stakeholders to champion educating all students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ozvat, Lucy
Commitee: Meyers, Coby V., Rajan, Rekha S.
School: Concordia University Chicago
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration
Keywords: Equity, Social justice, Superintendent, Transformational leadership, Turnaround
Publication Number: 10255498
ISBN: 978-1-369-57232-2
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