Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

William P. Foster, EdD, Chair; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD; C. M. "Mac" Bernd, EdD


academic achievement, children & youth, curriculum, education, elementary schools, instructional practices, Leadership studies, lower Socioeconomic subgroups, organizational structures, school culture, school effectiveness


An effective school is one in which there are overall high levels of achievement sustained over time and in which students from the lower socioeconomic (SES) subgroups are performing at levels comparable to higher SES groups. Through a case study methodology, the author analyzed the degree of effectiveness in eight elementary schools and factors that contributed to attaining this level of effectiveness. Over a five year period, data were collected at each school through interviews, effective schools surveys, CAP test results, and other school records. The effectiveness of each school was determined by applying three criteria that evaluated the overall level of achievement as well as gains for the lowest SES group. The qualitative data were analyzed using an interactive model of school improvement that encompassed four essential components: (a) school culture and climate, (b) curriculum and instructional practices, (c) organizational structures and procedures, (d) leadership by district, principal, and staff. From the cross case analyses as well as four in depth case studies the following conclusions were drawn. First, the schools that achieved the highest degree of effectiveness implemented changes in all components; no single element accounted for high levels of achievement. Second, schools that continued to improve had early gains, which raised staff expectations for students success and served to encourage the staff to engage in further improvement efforts. The staff in the schools that made no gains in the five year period tended to blame parents for the lack of achievement gams. Third, organizational structures such as grade level teams, curriculum committees and ad hoc task forces that enabled the staff to work together were essential to increased achievement. Fourth, in the more effective schools the organizational structures provided more opportunities for shared leadership and resulted in a clearer articulation of a shared mission by staff members. Fifth, the schools that achieved increased effectiveness did so within existing budgets. Sixth, external events such as growth in student population, changing demographics, or changes of principal slowed improvement efforts. Seventh, district leadership in terms of goal focus, curriculum alignment, well-planned staff development, and test data analysis and achievement targets helped to support site-based efforts.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access