Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Generative leadership: A case study of distributed leadership and leadership sustainability at two New York City High Schools
by Lynch, Olivia, Ed.D., Mills College, 2009, 255; 3379433
Abstract (Summary)

Generative Leadership is a case study of how two New York City High Schools sustain and develop leadership. The study explores their system of school governance, its rationale and beliefs, the leadership structures and how their collaborative leadership practice insures that no leader stands alone and that replacement leadership is available at all levels of their governance system. The study purposefully documents, analyzes and describes the organizational structures and the daily practice of the multiple leaders as reflective of the work usually ascribed to a single school principal. It also examines the relationship between the development and practice of communal leadership at these schools and the unique needs of their English Language Learner student population.

Through interviews, observations and document review I uncovered that the school’s governance practice begins with a belief about student learning that posits that the governance system of the school should be reflective of how the school professionals believe that students learn best. Their classroom practices of collaborative-group learning, project development and student presentations are paralleled throughout all the schools’ governance structures and in the practice of individual teachers and the work of the designated school principal.

Collaborative governance has multiple effects upon the development of teachers as leaders. Firstly, the faculty hires new teachers as needed. Teachers understand that they are the leaders of their classrooms. Interdisciplinary teams of teachers work as administrators of mini-schools within a school as they make curriculum, instruction, scheduling and support decisions for their 75 – 100 students. Secondly, representative-democratic leadership is the practice of overall school governance as elected chairs from the interdisciplinary teams join with the principal and assistant principal to provide for the effective running of the school and the forthright support of the decisions and needs of the interdisciplinary teams and various committees. Finally, what emerges is a replicable system of a collaborative leadership practice that serves the needs of students, advances their achievement and develops teachers and leaders. Their system ensures that replacement leadership is continually generated and that the practice and possibilities for teachers as leadership-collaborators is scholarly, autonomous, public, and expansive.

The study also discusses how the distributed leadership practice of these schools could inform the work of teacher and school leadership credentialing programs. I also present the significance of this collaborative governance system to the overall practice of educational leadership. This system of governance holds great promise for closing the gap that stop and start principal tenures produce and provides the stability that students, especially our most vulnerable ones need, to learn and achieve in our schools.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zirkel, Sabrina
Commitee: Darling-Hammond, Linda, Donahue, David, Ketelle, Diane
School: Mills College
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration, Secondary education
Keywords: Collaboration, Distributed leadership, English language learners, High schools, Leadership, New York City, School governance, Sustainable leadership, Teacher leadership
Publication Number: 3379433
ISBN: 9781109482355
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