Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Van E. Cooley


The purpose of this research study was to identify "how" effective superintendents use the research-based leadership responsibilities/practices outlined in Marzano and Waters' (2006) meta-analysis that significantly and positively impact student achievement. A second purpose of this research was to find challenges that superintendents face in their attempts to be successful within their school districts.

The study employed a qualitative multi-site case study using elite purposeful sampling. Five superintendents in southwest Michigan were targeted and agreed to participate in this study. They were the only superintendents in this region who met the criteria, which included school districts who have a total student population from 2,500 to 3,700 students and who have demonstrated excellence in leading their respective school districts towards high achievement on the Ed Yes Report Card for at least five years.

For this study the researcher utilized multiple sources of evidence to analyze information gleaned from semi-structured interviews, a review of support documentation, and observation notes from meetings. This triangulation of data was used to do a within-case and cross-case analysis to analyze and interpret the data to find common themes that are shared among those superintendents in the study. The themes identified were found to correspond to the research-based superintendent responsibilities. While most of the best practices identified in Marzano and Waters' meta-analysis were found to be themes in this study, it is apparent that each superintendent carried out those practices in different ways.

In particular, the findings showed that of the 51 research-based practices found to aid superintendents in leading their district to high student achievement, 41 of them were found to be themes in this study, with an additional 3 themes emerging. Additional findings were found in three prominent challenges. These challenges were money, time, and buy-in from stakeholders. Superintendents voiced their concerns over these specific problems in their attempts to carry out all of specific research-based responsibilities/ practices. The study identifies specific ways the superintendents addressed these obstacles. It was found in this study that the superintendents implemented all of the research-based best practices to combat these obstacles.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access