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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership


The purpose of this interpretive case study was to determine the ways in which the superintendent communicates expectations for principal performance in relation to three areas of instructional leadership: building commitment to a shared vision and values; working with teachers to foster instructional improvement; and ensuring student achievement and equity. The central premise of the study was that the superintendent holds an essential piece of the puzzle that is school reform, and by putting this piece into place, individual schools can work together as part of a larger system to improve learning opportunities for students. The research design incorporated a variety of qualitative methods to view the superintendent in routine, formal and informal interactions with principals and central office leaders. Burns' (Leadership, 1978, Harper and Row) theoretical model of transactional and transformational leadership was used as a lens for viewing superintendent behavior. The results of the study indicated that the superintendent demonstrated a leadership style that combined elements of transactional and transformational leadership. Specifically, she communicated expectations for principal instructional leadership through a pattern of behavior characterized by directing behavior, fostering development, and encouraging collaboration. She employed a typology of methods that included formal and informal mechanisms, as well as transactional and transformational ones. There was agreement among the superintendent and principals regarding the importance of the three areas of instructional leadership--vision and values, instructional improvement, and achievement and equity--as top district priorities for principal performance. The findings of the study led the researcher to conclude that the superintendent played a key role in conceptualizing and communicating expectations for principal performance and in developing a consistent understanding of the principal's role in instructional improvement; also, in helping to shape the cultural norms of the district and to set the agenda for school reform. Other conclusions referenced the vision articulated by the superintendent and her persistence in making explicit expectations for principal instructional leadership. Some unanticipated findings emerged from the study as well, suggesting further research to clarify how the superintendent influences principal instructional leadership and school reform. The unanticipated findings were related to the superintendent's adaptation of her leadership style to different settings; also, to differences in perceptions regarding the potency of the superintendent's transformational leadership; and, to the recognition that transformational leadership may be developmental.



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