Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Mary M. Williams, EdD, Director; Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Fred McFarlane, PhD


Alberta (Canada), competition, governance, Leadership studies, market values, parents & parenting, principal, school administration, school choice


Political bodies, facing, increased pressures to improve the quality of education offered to students, are shifting to a philosophy that imposes large scale market forces such as parental choice and school competition onto educational systems in order to coerce school improvement. This shift may be prompting school-based administrators to shift school governance practices to reflect these market values. This shift, occurring in Alberta (Canada), is founded in government policy that articulates the option of educational choice for parents. Presently the government policy promotes these market values in education by providing full funding to public, separate, and charter schools, and partial funding to accredited private schools thus creating an atmosphere of competition and parental choice between schools. Public choice theory, emanating from neoclassical economics, is the economics model that this model operates within the educational system. A total of seventeen Alberta public, separate, charter, and private school principals were interviewed in this multi-site case study investigating the shift toward market values in education. The purpose of this study was to determine if principals perceived a change toward a market model, and to gain insight into what might be the implications for principals' school governance as a result of the application of market forces. Specifically, the study examined what these principals believe are the effects of the application of market forces on the governance of their schools. Findings of this study support the contention that a political movement is at the root of this reform. As part of this reform, the findings suggest that an educational system of choice is developing in Alberta, and one of the results of this is increased competition between schools and school systems. Also emanating from this evolving market based educational system is a devolved school governance structure that includes changes to the structures of finance, school organization, and decision making. Consequently, successful school principals are requiring new knowledge and skills in order to lead their schools. Specifically, the findings imply that the principal of a school operating in a market based educational milieu will require enhanced human resources, marketing, leadership, and management skills.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access