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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Phyllis Hensley

First Committee Member

Dennis Brennan

Second Committee Member

Chet Jensen

Third Committee Member

Bea Lingenfelter


The purposes of this research study were to identify the instructional leadership practices and beliefs of superintendents of high-performing, high-poverty districts, and develop a profile of an effective superintendent in these school districts. School districts were identified from data compiled by the Education Trust West, which identified high-performing, and high-poverty schools in California. Data were gathered through interviews of eleven individuals in three different school districts. In addition to the interviews, the respondents shared documents and internal communication tools, which the researcher reviewed. Qualitative research software (ATLAS/ti) was utilized to analyze the data from the interviews. The results indicate that the superintendents: (a) focused the entire school district on student achievement; (b) expected alignment between district and school goals; (c) utilized a variety of ways to communicate their messages to various constituencies; (d) faced conflict as a major part of their jobs, ranging from conflict with the school board to conflict with the teachers' association; (e) were perceived as strong instructional leaders; (f) placed a high priority on professional development for administrators and teachers; (g) expected schools to depend primarily on categorical and grant funds to provide supplemental services to students, but made staff resources available to support high student achievement; (h) relied heavily on data to inform their decisions; and (i) held administrators accountable for high student achievement. The researcher concluded that an effective superintendent in high-performing, high-poverty school districts can be characterized as one who (a) is relentlessly focused on high student achievement; (b) communicates constantly with all groups within and outside of the school community; (c) is able to withstand conflict and remain focused on student achievement; (d) provides the resources necessary for student achievement in terms of staff support, and professional development; (e) uses data to inform the decision-making process; and (f) holds people accountable for high student achievement, while providing them with the flexibility to achieve their goals in a way they deem appropriate to their particular circumstances.



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