Education Leadership & Policy

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane Martin
    Turnaround Strategies at an Underperforming Urban Elementary School: An Examination of Stakeholder Perspectives

    In August of 2007, Los Angeles Unified School District embarked on a new journey under the leadership of Superintendent David Brewer toward improving the achievement of some of Los Angeles' lowest performing schools. By establishing a partnership with the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, the goal of the improvements was to form a team of talented and experienced educators who would identify schools whose majority of teachers would be willing to be led and supported by these experienced educators under an umbrella organization called the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools in agreement with United Teachers of Los Angeles. The Deputy Mayor, Ramon Cortines, recruited me, the researcher of this study, to serve as Superintendent of Instruction of the Partnership in February of 2008.

    For two and a half years, I, along with 28 team members worked tenaciously to develop and implement a model that would accelerate achievement. While there were numerous initiatives and programs attempting to improve student performance in the lowest performing schools, no initiative in the district alleviated teachers from the day-to-day constraints of district policies and procedures. The reform model developed by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was the focus of this research. An analysis of the implementation of the Partnership Model at one particular site, Excellence Elementary School, yielded results that examined if the Partnership Model was able to successfully transform outcomes in an underperforming school.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Education Policy on Extra Classes: Implications for Secondary Education in Northern Ghana

    In 1995, Ghana's education policymakers imposed a ban on all extra classes initiated and organized on school premises and public buildings, by individual teachers or groups of teachers, for which students were charged extra fees. The ban is referred to as the "policy on extra classes." This study examined the genesis and justification of the said policy, including the current phenomenon of extra classes in Ghana. The study analyzed the policy's impact on secondary education in the country, particularly Northern Ghana, using the lens of education stratification in a qualitative interpretive policy analysis approach. Interviews of leading Ghana education officials conducted in 2010 were the predominant source of data in this research, with corroboration from analysis of policy texts and review of the media.

    The conclusions and recommendations that emerged from this study included: accountability, the responsible use of school time and instructional time, and education equity and adequacy. Other issues concerned social justice, teacher remuneration and motivation, and the need for equitable national education policies that reckon with the disparities in the country. In particular, this study took issue with the culture of non-implementation of education policies in Ghana, with particular reference to the policy on extra classes. The study contended that the partial or non-implementation of education policies deepens education stratification in the country.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Collaborative Strategic Planning: A Mixed Methods Study of Models and Superintendents' Perspectives

    School district leaders use strategic planning as a tool for leading their complex education systems. They may be mandated to prepare a strategic plan or they may elect to use the strategic planning process to adapt, focus, and align their education system to improve student achievement. The challenge comes in the confusion around what constitutes an effective strategic planning model. Using models from other sectors such as business are often unsuccessful when they are modified to deal with the diversity of stakeholders, multi-discipline systems, and complexity unique to school district systems. The purpose of this study was to research the practice of using strategic planning in 269 U. S. school districts. A survey using a nine-step strategic planning model as a conceptual framework was designed to determine the use, nonuse, and prevalence of the steps. A content analysis of 78 school district strategic plan documents and the semi-structured interviews of six district superintendents provided qualitative data and narrative to the analysis. The analysis of the data from this mixed methods approach provided insights into strategic planning models in use in school districts and a perspective of their effectiveness from the point-of-view of the superintendent.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
    The Miseducation of the Underclass: A Historical Political Analysis of No Child Left Behind

    No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (2002) is the most significant piece of federal education legislation since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965. The policy changes made through NCLB, though, did not emerge from a vacuum: NCLB is a product of our times, an evolved cousin of previous policy texts that have influenced its creation and implementation. This study seeks to understand the historical antecedents to NCLB, the political intent behind NCLB, and the effect of this legislation on students of low socioeconomic status. Using a historical political analysis of policy texts, secondary artifacts, and narrative analysis of policy activity, this study discusses the historical foundations for NCLB, the intersection of NCLB and A Nation at Risk, and their effects upon students of low socioeconomic status. Finally, this study posits recommendations for enacting socially just, policy-based education reform in the United States.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane Martin
    Determining Leverage Points: A Program Design for a University/K12 Partnership

    After a review of K12-University partnership models, research into the current local and national education reform context, and an in-depth analysis of contextual factors in the launching of an initiative, the author proposed a program design for K12-University partnerships that included five essential components necessary for successful implementation. These components, also termed leverage points, were: clarity of the problem, outcome planning, a theory of change, clear stakeholder enrollment and commitment, and flexibility.

    Actively acknowledging and factoring in the fluid nature of public education initiatives, the author framed this program design within that of the emergence principle of complexity theory, which drove the rationale for flexibility in the model. The study then turned to a deep review of the successes and lessons learned from a K12/University partnership that was launched without the benefit of this program design. Finally, the study analyzed this specific K12/University partnership through the lens of the five essential components and made recommendations about the efficacy of this specific model.

    In the current national climate of declining resources and the need for more effective and innovative partnerships in the K12 and University settings, this program design offered a roadmap for local partnerships throughout the country to positively impact student success.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Edmundo Litton
    Educational Technology: Leadership and Implementation

    The purpose of this study was to evaluate two important aspects of educational technology: leadership and implementation. The research conducted in this study aimed to assess three aspects of leadership as it relates to educational technology: leadership that supports the technology implementation process, leadership that supports the change associated implementing technology, and leadership that supports a culture that embraces technology. An additional purpose of this study was to evaluate the process, procedures, and actions of implementing educational technology at three Catholic elementary schools in ways that foster a culture that promotes a supportive disposition towards educational technology.

    The data from the interviews, document reviews, and site observations revealed that leadership styles and practices that support the adaptation to change and a culture that can embrace technology are vital to the educational technology implementation process. This study confirmed literature that contends that partnership, collaboration, and ownership from all stakeholders are essential conditions in being able to cultivate change and sustain a culture that embraces technology. In addition, this study identified and discusses the significance of effective educational technology leaders, professional development, the establishment of a vision, mission, and plan, proper technology maintenance, and the idea that technology is a resource that is meant to enhance rather than replace teaching and instruction.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Edmundo Litton
    Unmasking Title 1 Spending Practices in Public Elementary Schools in California

    Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was originally created to ensure academic equity and opportunity for all students. As the largest federal program supporting elementary and secondary education, nearly $11.6 billion annually, Title I targets resources to local education agencies (i.e., school districts) to support additional programs and services for improving student achievement.

    Despite expensive reform efforts, and political cries for accountability and standardized testing, urban school-wide elementary schools are still--in large numbers--experiencing failure and defeat. The process of determining how Title I funds can be used effectively to address the needs of disadvantaged students is quite often multi-layered and complex. Due to the limited availability of research to support Title I coordinators in determining how to purposefully utilize Title I funds to supplement the disadvantages of urban elementary school students, the extent to which Title I funds are supporting and/or contributing to the transformation of low performing Title I schools is relatively unknown.

    The focus of this mixed methods study was to provide important insight into the appropriateness of federal funding of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001), in particular Title I funds, that support and/or contribute to the academic achievement of high-poverty Title I elementary schools. Four data collection tools were employed in this study: document review of the Single Plan for Student Achievement, survey questionnaire sent to Title I coordinators serving at school-wide Title I elementary schools, a follow-up questionnaire interview to gather further insight into the survey questionnaire responses, and open-ended response interview conducted with Title I coordinators to understand the challenges and obstacles that impede their ability to address the needs of Title I students. Results of this study provide local education agencies, schools, and Title I coordinators with research-based data regarding the impact of Title I funds to support high poverty, historically low performing students.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane Martin
    Linking Resource Allocation to Student Achievement: A Study of Title 1 and Title 1 Stimulus Utilization

    With the emphasis on high standards and fiscal accountability, there is a heightened need to inform the research linking student achievement to the allocation of resources. This mixed methods inquiry sought to study how schools utilized Title 1 and Title 1 stimulus funding from 2009-2011 to determine if correlations existed between areas of resource utilization and student achievement by studying both the use of funding and the processes that fifteen elementary and middle Title 1 schools in southern California utilized. The focus was to document resource use of Title 1 and Title 1 stimulus allocations and determine if a correlation existed between expenditures and improved student achievement (quantitative) and to discover themes that existed in student achievement improvement, especially including factors that affect the decision making process at the school (qualitative). Findings suggested that expenditures for professional development and programs for at-risk students played a key role in student achievement growth. The leadership of the school principal was also an indicator of student achievement growth.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Victoria Graf
    Designing and Implementing an Inclusive Small School: A Case Study of Transformational Leadership

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Brown v. Board of Education (1954) An Analysis of Policy Implementation, Outcomes, and Unintended Consequences

    Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was a significant court case fought to provide equal educational opportunities for African-American students. Though the case was fought with good intentions, there may have been unintended consequences that occurred due to the policy implementation. The purpose of this research was to explore the policy, its implementation, and assess the extent to which the goals of the original policy were met. This study used a mixed-methods approach and was set within one large urban school district. The qualitative portion of the study included interviews with a small group of educators who were directly impacted by Brown and its implementation. The data from both the interviews and the selected focus schools indicated that the initial goals of Brown, equal educational opportunities and integrated schooling, were not met. This research provided information from key areas that may serve as a guide to help make future policy implementation successful.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane Martin
    Rethinking the Schoolhouse Boundaries: A Program Design for Urban District Transformation

    After a century of reform efforts, urban school districts have not demonstrated to date the political, managerial, or technical skills for systemic and sustainable organizational transformation. This study proposes that this cycle of reform failures are generated from a misunderstanding of education organizations as a mechanical device, where failure points can be identified and replaced with corrective action in a controlled environment. An understanding of school districts as complex adaptive systems with broad and deep internal and external connections that may or may not be readily visible requires a reform approach that anticipates and takes advantage of the flexibility and agile responsiveness seen in sustainable complex systems across many diverse disciplines (neuroscience, biology, ecology, technology, social sciences). This study examines historical and current reform efforts within the current context of legal, legislative and policy environment of a typical urban district (Los Angeles Unified School District.), and proposes an alternative program design for district transformation based on complexity theory.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    Small School Reform in a Large Urban High School: Does it Make a Difference in Student Outcomes?

    Since A Nation at Risk (1983), high schools across the United States have searched for answers to address increasing drop out rates and low student achievement. In urban areas, the large comprehensive high school is no longer addressing the diverse needs of the students it serves. The high school reform movement, beginning in 1984, set out to find solutions to solve the problems that these large urban high schools face each day. One reform is the creation of small learning communities within a large secondary school. Small learning communities are groups of teachers sharing and serving small numbers of students centered on a common theme, curriculum, and vision. These small learning communities create personalized learning environments among teachers, students, and parents to mitigate the effects of the large school on student outcomes.

    The purpose of this research was to investigate one of these small learning communities in a large urban high school in Los Angeles. The study explored how this small learning community set out to implement five identified factors of small schools including: personalization, leadership, authentic curriculum, innovative pedagogy, and accountability. The results show the impact of the small learning community model on student outcomes. Through the examination of quantitative data, the study correlated improved student outcomes with the level of implementation of these five identified factors. Additionally, the study used qualitative data to reinforce the quantitative findings. This research presents a model of an alternative for large urban secondary schools' dilemma in addressing low student academic performance and success.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
    A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Obama Administration's Education Speeches

    This qualitative study examined 45 education speeches presented by President Obama and leaders of the U.S. Department of Education from January 2009 through December 2010. These speeches were interpreted with the use of critical discourse analysis and reviewed through the lens of interest convergence theory. The first aim of the researcher was to uncover the underlying ideologies represented in the Obama Administration's education speeches. The second objective was to understand how those ideologies impacted the Administration's proposed reform ideas. Specifically, the researcher was interested in how the underpinning ideologies and proposed solutions affected the education of poor students of color. The researcher found four primary ideologies in the education speeches. First, every speech was coupled with an economic agenda. Second, the speakers displayed great concern over America's ability to remain a global economic leader. Third, there was an emphasis on the role of education in promoting equal opportunity and a belief in the American Dream. Finally, the speakers showed a deficit-oriented perception of students of color. The researcher discovered that economic ideologies inspired the Obama Administration's proposed solutions. As such, the author argues that the Obama Administration utilized interest convergence by focusing on the economic self-interests of white policymakers. This study concludes with the author's recommendations for change in the education of poor students of color. The author calls for strategic alliances throughout group identities in order to achieve educational equity.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Franca Dell'Olio
    Transformational Leadership: A Qualitative Study in Two Rural Elementary Schools in Fresno County

    Principal leadership is crucial to improving school effectiveness and positively affecting organizational culture in the midst of expectations from education reform mandates. Principals who provide direction and exercise influence can inspire commitment from organizational members to attain shared goals. Rural school principals face unique obstacles and situations as documented in the research and literature. This qualitative research study aimed to provide insight as to the perceived impact of transformational leadership behaviors and characteristics on organizational culture. This study also provided insight as to the transformational leadership behaviors and characteristics perceived to positively affect organizational culture. The protocols, which included interviews, were administered by the researcher to principals and certificated teachers at four rural elementary schools (two elementary schools not in Program Improvement [PI] and two elementary schools in PI) in Fresno County that met specific student demographic criteria. The data from the interviews provided insight regarding increased individual and collective stress in rural elementary schools due to the unprecedented expectations of NCLB. The organizational response to this increased stress was found to be contingent on the behaviors and characteristics by the rural elementary principal. The findings indicated a difference in perceptions between certificated teachers at the rural elementary schools not in PI and in PI. The rural principals in non-PI schools utilized communication to define clear expectation, and a collaborative decision making process to develop a shared vision which cultivated trust among certificated teachers to improve organizational culture and student academic achievement. The rural principals in PI schools were found to have utilized bureaucratic leadership approaches. The bureaucratic leadership approaches led to increased stress and frustration among certificated teachers. Frustration was found to have negatively affected organizational culture and no improvement in student academic achievement. This study validated the need for rural school principals to be aware of effective leadership approaches to positively affect organizational culture.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Marta Baltodano
    The Significance of NAEYC Accreditation in Elevating Quality of Early Childhood Education: A Qualitative Study of Administrators', Teachers', and Parents' Beliefs About NAEYC Accreditation and Its Process

    The following is a doctoral dissertation that studied administrators', teachers', and parents' perceptions and attitudes related to an early childhood center/preschool accreditation experience. A qualitative case study of one preschool center focused on the influence that the decision to pursue accreditation and implement the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) self-study process had on administrators, teachers, and parents. Interviews with administrators, teachers, and parents explored (a) issues that motivated the pursuit of NAEYC accreditation; (b) the NAEYC guidelines and their experience of the self-study and quality-improvement process; and (c) their perception of outcomes following accreditation. Current NAEYC guidelines are based on key child development theories and research, and require programs to integrate Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) in school curricula and staff training. It was necessary to explore how these NAEYC recommendations regarding DAP were interpreted during the quality-improvement and accreditation process. Key themes and issues around the accreditation experience were revealed through analyses of qualitative data. This case study of NAEYC accreditation illuminated factors in the decision to pursue accreditation and implement quality improvements leading to NAEYC accreditation. This case may serve as a model of a successful accreditation process to encourage early childhood centers to undertake quality improvements and pursue national NAEYC accreditation.