Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Brett Geier

Third Advisor

Dr. Robin Buchler


instructional leadership, educational improvement, superintendent leadership, disadvantaged schools, collaborative leadership, instrumental case study


This study explores how superintendents build school principal leadership capacity by developing (a) principal capacity to function as instructional leaders and (b) a culture of shared and collaborative leadership. A particular focus for this study is the ways in which superintendents work with principals to build instructional and shared leadership capacity in order to turn low-performing schools that educate high-poverty student populations into schools that outperform their demographic peers. This study describes the activities and strategies that characterize the ways in which superintendents build a strong collaborative leadership team with their school principals, then use that collaborative team to develop individual principal’s instructional leadership capacity.

The research design for this study is an instrumental case study. The study participants include a superintendent and principals to learn how the superintendent works with principals and other district leaders to shape and implement initiatives to develop strong instructional and collaborative leadership at the school level while modeling the same behaviors at the district level. Data was collected through interviews with the superintendent, interviews with two principals, and observation notes. Inductive analysis and qualitative open coding techniques were used to analyze the data for themes and subthemes. The four major themes that emerged from all data sources are communication, trust and autonomy, collaborative teamwork and a learning community, and visibility and engagement. Through the superintendent’s leadership, principals and school staff were empowered to raise achievement scores of a low socio-economic population of students.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access