Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves


Much research has been done on the contributions made by teachers and principals to the field of education (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Glickman, 2001; Hirsch, 1993; Marzano, 2003; Muir, 2001). The role of central office workers in these efforts have, however, been given little recognition or discussion. This study has explored the ways in which central office administrators foster underlying systems that support their districts' professional development processes and structures.

Grove (2002) compares the central office role in professional development to the skeleton of the human body, in which the skeleton is integral to the function of the body and provides the framework and structure in which all other processes take place. Central office staff may often be working behind the scenes, but without them little would be accomplished in the educational organization. "Despite the lack of attention to their role, the contributions of central office staff members are crucial to the strength of a school system" (Grove, 2002, p. 216).

In order to fully understand this role, this study explored the perceptions of constituents within the districts and then facilitated a collaborative process in which they outlined specific "next steps" for future practice within the participant districts. To do this, the researcher employed the constructivist's tradition of a comparative case study. She conducted focus group interviews with teachers and administrators in two P-12 districts in Southwest Michigan to determine the lived experiences of study participants as they relate to professional learning and development in their districts.

Throughout this process, teachers and administrators relayed the ways in which professional learning is designed, implemented, and evaluated in their districts, as well as the implications of these on student achievement and professional growth. Ultimately, it was determined that the role of central office administrators in these systems and processes were, indeed, crucial. This study outlines the specific systems that are in place in both districts, next steps that have been identified by each of the districts, as well as recommendations by the researcher for future practice and further research.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access