Leadership Practices and Essential Supports: A Comparative Case Study of a School Improvement Effort Before and After the Implementation of a School Improvement Grant (SIG)

Anderson, Erin, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tucker, Pamela D., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Background: A small yet important percentage of schools are failing to provide a high quality education to a significant portion of their students, with the number of schools under scrutiny, seemingly increasing.
Purpose: To investigate the changes that occurred in the leadership practices and essential organizational structures, during two phases of an improvement effort.
Setting: A small, secondary school serving grades 6-12 in a high poverty neighborhood located in a major northeastern city that came under increased scrutiny at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
Research Design: A comparative case study analysis was employed in order to make meaning of school improvement, comparing the same site at similar points in two different school years, before and after the implementation of a major school improvement effort,
Data Collection and Analysis: Interviews were conducted with 20 participants including administrators, teachers, and partners. Surveys were administered to the entire staff, as well as parents and students. A mix of deductive and inductive analysis was used to make sense of the data, resulting in assertions and sub-assertions (Erickson, 1985).
Findings: There were three key findings: 1) The leadership team exhibited more successful practices and spent more time in setting direction and developing the organization than they did in building relationships. Managing the direction of the organization was their weakest area, largely due to struggles with organizing time, a consistent theme across both years; 2) The school did not make progress in all four of organizational supports, as driven by changes in the leadership practices, possibly limiting improvements in student learning; and 3) There were four factors outside of the school leaders’ control that indirectly and directly hindered the ability of the leaders to effectively direct the school improvement effort. These included a concentration of students with high needs, the density of social conditions in the community, the nature of district support, and the requirements of the School Improvement Grant (SIG).
Conclusions: Due to complications with implementing two grants and several major partnerships as well as the day-to-day demands of school leaders’ time, the school leaders were not able to make significant progress in all of the areas of improvement during year one.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
school improvement, leadership practices, School Improvement Grants (SIG), essential organizational supports, school change
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