How School Superintendents’ Effect Change

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Contents

1.0 INTRODUCTION.. 1

1.1. Overview of the Research Problem.. 1

1.2. Theoretical Framework. 1

1.3. Change in the Context of School Superintendents. 3

1.3.1. Superintendents as Communicators. 5

1.3.2. Superintendents as Managers. 5

1.3.3. Case Studies on How Superintendents Effect Change. 7

1.4. School Superintendents are not “Blobs”. 12

1.5. Deficiencies in the Studies. 14

1.6. Study Purpose and Research Questions. 15

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW… 16

2.1. Introduction. 16

2.2. Theoretical Framework. 18

2.2.1. The Three-Step Approach. 20

2.2. 1.1. Breaking the Existing Norms (Unfreezing) 21

2.2.1.3. Refreezing. 28

3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY.. 31

3.1 Sampling and Data Collection. 31

3.2. Data Analysis. 33

3.3 Study Limitations. 33

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1. Overview of the Research Problem

School district leadership has been the focus of a vast body of empirical research for decades as educators and policymakers have struggled to determine what these leaders can do to foster changes in school districts or reform aspects of educational programming (Bredeson & Kose, 2007; Cuban & Usdan, 2003; Klatt, 1996). These research studies have resulted into a rich bank of information about the school district superintendent profession (Kowalski, 2001). As a matter of fact, there is no dispute about the role(s) of superintendents as potential change agents in their respective school districts. According to Portis & Garcia (2007), change in academic realms assumes a number of facets that revolves round sound leadership practices. By fair terms, this postulation is too broad to give a precise account of how school district superintendents’ effect change. As such, this dissertation seeks to carry out an in-depth study on the profession of a school district superintendent with the view of unearthing how they go about imparting change. Ideally, this chapter attempts to dig into prior research studies on school superintendents with view of forming a “literature map” that will be give the entire dissertation a sense of focus and meaning.

1.2. Theoretical Framework

Basing on the fact that school leadership and management is a complex process that requires significant amounts of time, capital, and human resources (Katz & Khan, 1978; Kowalski, 2000), an investigation on how school district superintendents’ effect change can be better approached through a change theory lens. The hallmark of change theory rests on the postulation that change does not happen instantaneously, it is gradual, and that it comprises of significant amount of adaptations and adjustments (Schein, 1995, 1988; Kritsonis, 2004-2005). Precisely, according to Robbins (2003) change does not just occur – it only occurs when the forces sponsoring it are stronger than those that oppose it.

The process of imparting change is a complex one. It entails the transformation of individuals or groups from conditions generally believed to be redundant to more productive ones, and hence it can only be realized when the existing structures are convincingly perceived to be ineffective (Lorenzen, 2009). Perhaps this is the main reason as to why Robbins (2003) affirms that the process of achieving change is gradual and it is directly dependent on the nature of relationships between those at the helm and their subordinates. Based on Lippit, Watson and Wesley (1958) and Robbins (2003), change is a byproduct of concerted efforts meant to address looming issues that impede maximum realization of the envisaged goals and objectives. In the context of superintendents as change agents there are a number of frameworks that help to underscore their positions and/or positive intentions in realizing change in the form of the envisaged goals and objectives.

Again, Robbins (2003) clarifies that change does not just occur – it only occurs when the forces sponsoring it are stronger than those that oppose it. The nature and context of educational leadership and management at any level of jurisdiction involves a lot of processes and personnel (Orr, 2006; Melton, 2009). As such, imparting change in such a bureaucratic environment can be a daunting task. At the school district level for instance, superintendents work with several school boards, principals, teachers, parents, students, and in extension the members of public (Hentschke, Nayfack, & Wohlstetter, 2009). Consequently, so as to impart change superintendents need to work hand in hand with all these stakeholders. To achieve this however, superintendents should step-up the driving forces so as to steer the stakeholders toward the desired ends and to prevent them from reverting their old ways (Robbins, 2003).

1.3. Change in the Context of School Superintendents

In creating a “literature map” as to how school district superintendents it is wise to appreciate the range of challenges that engulf the profession as well as some of the advocated solutions to such challenges. Based on Baumann (1996) as well as Fullan (1996) change at the school level cannot be achieved without a significant overhaul of the existing organizational structures and processes. To this end the authors argue that one core area that should be addressed is the school culture. On the same vein (Kowalski, 2000; Kowalski, 2001; Hess, 1998) argues that meaningful academic achievements cannot be achieved on a silver platter: they need to be tirelessly earned, probably through dedication on the part of the school district leaders.

Moreover, basing their arguments on the educational challenges of the 21st century theorist Murphy (1991) as well as Chance and Bjork (2004) assert that the contemporary education systems need to address the social part of the students needs. This opinion is galvanized by Schlechty (1997) when he asserts that school managers should appreciate that “the way social systems are put together has independent effects on the way people behave, what they learn, and how they learn what they learn” (p.134). As such, the human relations that school superintendents cultivate are directly responsible for bringing about new knowledge and skills. Analytically, change or lack of it is greatly determined by the nature of the social interactions among the leaders and their subjects (Kowalski, 2003b).

The responsibilities of a school superintendent are multifaceted (Firestone & Martinez, 2007). They entail directly working with the school boards, principals, teachers, students, on one side and the state and federal representatives’ one the other (Sergiovanni, et al 2009). As such, being a superintendent demands high levels of “people skills” so as to effectively deal with the conflicting opinions from these two sides while ensuring that the interests of all the stakeholders are fully served (Kowalski, 2004). In a nutshell, this process of absorbing pressure, cracking complex organizational puzzles, formulating workable policies to address challenges, and most importantly fulfilling the demands and expectations of all the educational stakeholders within the school district and beyond cannot be made a reality without first embracing and pursuing the concepts of change (Schein, 1995; Robbins, 2003).

An extensive account on how school superintendents effect change is offered by Marzano, Marzano, and Pickering (2003), when they opine that the school superintendent judicially handles all classroom related issues, gives timely and relevant responses to all concerns from stakeholders, solves conflicts among stakeholders in amicable ways, addresses political overtones related to education, and addresses school boards demands. Similar sentiments are shared by Portis and Garcia (2007), when they acknowledge that school environments are at times awash with all sorts of conflicts, with the superintendent acting as an impartial judge of the last resort.

The core responsibilities of imparting change among school superintendents is part and parcel of their job titles. This postulation is advised by the author’s hands-on experience in the education leadership realm that, school superintendents work in inherently bureaucratic and unpredictable environments. As a matter of fact, they are positioned at a very sensitive position along the overall education management ladder – between the school boards and the state and federal educational authorities. In this regard, their duties entail fulfilling the expectations of both ends which sometimes may be conflicting and unrealistic to achieve. For instance, the state and federal authorities normally issue demands that schools must meet to qualify for financial and other supports while on the other hand the school boards being the very people at the ground may have completely different expectations from the school superintendent (Firestone & Martinez, 2007).

1.3.1. Superintendents as Communicators

Perhaps to delineate in operational terms how school superintendents manage to successfully fulfill their core roles as agents of change it is wise to approach the subject in more operational terms by addressing each of these core elements of change/leadership independently. It has been echoed on several accounts that superintendents are leaders in their own right (Thomas & Moran, 1992; Carter & Cunningham, 1997; Reeves, 2002; Waters & Marzano, 2007). As leaders they are responsible for the day to day implementation of all policy matters as directed by the local, state, and federal educational requirements (Reeves, 2002).  In extension, they earn the leadership status by making timely and bidirectional communications between those at the helm of education management and their local levels counterparts. Precisely, Waters and Marzano (2006) and Kowalski (2003b) further elucidate that in order to successfully leverage at the school district level, superintendents employ good communication tactics that help to create new and sustainable relations with their subordinates.  Similar sentiments are echoed by Carter and Cunningham (1997) when they assert that superintendents overcome the highly unpredictable stakeholders’ demands by acting as “the communicator[s] to the public” (p.24). Similar opinions are shared by the findings of a survey conducted among nine Manitoba, Canada superintendents where it was revealed that superintendents acknowledged their responsibilities as communicators of new knowledge among the various school heads within their school districts (Wallin & Crippan, 2007).

1.3.2. Superintendents as Managers

Due to the inherent “crossroads” atmosphere within educational leadership realms superintendents roles have evolved over the years (Pristine, 2005; Myers, 2010). Thomas and Moran (1992), for instance assert that superintendents are managers in their own rights just like other conventional managers who “manage great business or industrial enterprise” (p. 42). Consequently, it is evident that to fulfill their changing roles superintendents should be professionals and not employees (Schein, 1985; Myers, 2010). In this regard it has been noted that they succeed in inducing change within their respective school districts by practicing sound planning and time management skills – what Thomas and Moran (1992) sums up as “planners and thinkers” of policy changes (p.42).   Moreover, Reeves (2002) argues that superintendents as managers achieve the desired goals and objectives by acting as “the bridge[s] from chaos to clarity for every stakeholder so that students, teachers, parents, leaders, and the broad community know what success really means” (p. 77).

As a matter of fact, the management role of policy implementation has been noted among superintendents particularly as they struggle to make key decisions, coordinate students’ evaluation, and deliver measurable academic results as per the requirements of various educational policy legislations that have been constantly enacted over the years such as the popular No Child Left Behind of 2001(Pristine, 2005; Haglund, 2009). Moreover, the sheer increase in leadership responsibilities occasioned by the changing educational demands reflecting the 21st century societal demands has impacted positively on superintendents into accepting their dynamic obligations that revolve around the initiation, sponsorship, and management of change (Klatt, 1996; Myers, 2010). In affirmation, Sergiovanni et al (2009) opine that the very nature of the contemporary superintendent roles underscores the need for a multifaceted manager who can comfortably handle immense pressure, address conflicting opinions, offer informed guidelines in a wide range of educational issues, and most importantly be seen to achieve the envisaged local, state, and federal educational goals and objectives.

1.3.3. Case Studies on How Superintendents Effect Change

Perhaps the best way to test the applicability highly touted postulation that that school superintendents are change agents is by using a personal case study. The case of Dale Carter who has been a school superintendent for Kenawee Public Schools since 1969 is the most suitable for this purpose given it offers a personalized account of some of the challenges the school district supervisor has to put up with (Jenkins, 2007). As a superintendent in a rural school district in Oklahoma, Carter attests that school superintendents fulfill their obligations in a virtually different manner when compared to their counterparts in urban areas. He singles out the unique sense of togetherness among the members of the community where almost everyone knows his residence, his church, and even how much he tithes. Carter singles out such instances as very difficult to impart changes which may have some inhumane ramifications. For instance, he singles out a case where he had to go out of the rule book and cover a teacher suffering from cancer who had exhausted her normal leaves. Such incidence would have attracted a lot of backlash if it were done in an urban setting. This instance leads to the conclusion that as change agents, school superintendents impart change by being realistic to the unique situations engulfing the communities within which they operate (Jenkins, 2007).

Superintendents manage change processes within their areas of operation through closely coordinating with the media people. By working with the media, superintendents get a chance to tap in on the benefits that comes with the “power of pen” (Jenkins, 2007, p.31). The media is capable of painting a good picture of the school system and its processes, in fact if coordinated well so that it does not portray the negative side of the school system it can go along way in creating a good rapport between the public and the school management systems in the school district. To achieve this nature of coordination Langlois (2004) offers that the school district superintendent maintains a close tab on the media so that quick actions can be taken to prevent any leaks of uncensored information to the media that might harm the credibility of the school district.  In the example given above, Carter ensures that he deliver a weekly press briefing about upcoming activities as part of his responsibilities in ensuring the public is informed about the any school changes about to be effected. This way the school superintendent faces very little resistance in implementing seemingly sensitive reforms.

Bredeson and Kose (2007) set out to investigate the school superintendents have been transformed by their responsibilities over a period of ten years starting from 1993 to 2003. Their study singled out accountability as one of the prime movers of reform initiatives they argued were witnessed during this period of time. The study involved all public school superintendents (426) in one of the largest Midwestern states. In examination of a set of two structured questionnaires that were sent to the superintendents the two authors found out that the change agents in their respective school districts engaged in a number change imparting methods. Precisely, the study showed that acting on the pressure from the state and federal educational authorities as well as the demands from the local public school principals and teachers, superintendents achieve the desired ends (change) through careful planning and allocation of appropriate “curriculum priorities, budget increases to support these priorities, increased attention to data analysis, and priorities in hiring assistants to support their work” (p.15). In a nutshell, these complex work environments act as the precursor for change. Superintendents have been found to prioritize and act accordingly executes such priorities.

On his part, Haglund (2009) set out to investigate how large district school superintendents go about ensuring that high academic standards are realized as part of the contemporary public school reform programs. In doing this, he narrowed down his work on a single school superintendent with significant experience serving in the capacity of superintendents at least from 2006. The selected school district, Eastern Seaboard Public School District (ESPSD) was relatively large given it was position seventeen out of a national school district ranking. It was found out that school district superintendents particularly those in large school districts the size of ESPSD had a huge task to impart change. They fulfilled this critical task by effectively employing a barrage of reform strategies that harmonized all the goals meant for improving academic achievement in the school district with close emphasis to the set mission statement. In nutshell, the ESPSD mission statement entailed,

… [To] advance the achievement of its diverse student body through community engagement, sound policy governance, accountability, and fiscal responsibility… [Through] 1) Children are our business and they come first, 2) Parents are our partners, 3) Victory is in the classroom, 4) Continuous improvement in teaching, leadership, and accountability is the key to our success, and 5) Every member of this community shares the responsibility for successful schools (Haglund, 2009, pp.75-76).

This process entailed strategic planning where the school superintendent first embarked on a bonding and a fact finding tour with in the school district, initiated training sessions through a series of  “executive retreats [that] kept team focused on the plan and clear about their roles”, drew clear plans and deliberated on the best ways to implement such plans, put in place effective evaluative measures, and employed efficient reward mechanisms to motivate efficiency among the school principals and teachers alike. Essentially, the ESPSD superintendents achieved change in a number of reforms strategies some of which were inherently radical such as the, redrafting of the “role of principal as instructional leader and minimized impact of operational issues on site administrators” the establishment of “a data-driven culture to emphasize the meaning of accountability at all levels…”, putting in place workable infrastructure to mitigate, “challenges of staffing at low performing and high-poverty schools, and low-performing students at all sites” as well as the initiation of a new “brand to focus attention on district master plan’s objective of improving achievement and closing achievement gaps” (Haglund, 2009, p.116).

Kowalski (2005) argues that change in both elementary and secondary schools’ has been realized not as a result of efforts by the educators but by external forces. In support of his assertion Kowalski contends that, “the impetus to refashion organizational structure or operations has been predominately external … [and that majority of] changes that have occurred in districts and schools have been imposed” (p.60). In essence, the school superintendents in their capacity as the link between the state/federal education authorities and the school boards, (Kowalski, 2004) it can be argued that they have been in the forefront of imparting this change. For instance, the implementation of key federal educational directives such as the No Child Left Behind Act as well as state legislations such as performance-based school programs are implemented by the superintendents. After all, it has been argued that school reforms emanating from state or federal levels needs to be locally coordinated for them to fully fit into the system (Henkin, 1993).

In fact, it is conventionally acknowledged that school district superintendents are the persons at the pivotal position for implementing any form of school reforms (Murphy, 1994). He supports these postulations by asserting that, “present-day superintendents across all types and sizes of school districts must wear several different hats if they are to be effective” (Kowalski, 2005, p.50). To achieve this, school superintendents need to be tactful and opportunistic by discerning the most appropriate moments to engage their juniors. Ideally, Kowalski (2003a; 2003b;2004) provides a barrage of strategies which range from “engaging others in open political dialogue, facilitating the creation of shared visions, building a positive school district image, gaining community support for change, providing an essential framework for information management, marketing programs, and keeping the public informed about education” (Kowalski, 2005, p.50).

Kowalski (2005) offers an extensive account of how school superintendents effect change in their respective areas of jurisdiction. In making this account he pays tribute to Callahan (1966) work that portrayed the school superintendent as applied social scientist. He acknowledges that deployment of a barrage of social sciences theories such as role theories, change theories, and social learning theories has enabled superintendents to engage in more result-driven endeavors of administration and leadership. However, so as to be in a position to juggle these social sciences theories, superintendents require intensive training and hands-on experiences. As a matter of fact, as applied social scientists, school superintendents employ empiricism, scientific inquiry methodologies, as well as the skills of drawing inferences from phenomenal happenings and using such inferences to plan for the future happenings. Most importantly, as Kowalski (2003a; 2004; 2005) and Johnson & Fusarelli (2003) asserts school superintendents fulfils their roles as change agents by incorporating the dynamics of behavioral sciences into the school system as well as deploying theory in discerning the behavioral changes exhibited by educational stakeholders in their areas of jurisdiction.

In extension on the applied social scientist methodology of imparting change, (Fusarelli & Fusarelli, 2003) contend that apart from the mere responsibility of discerning problems and formulating policy to ameliorate such problems, school superintendents also employ enculturation tactics. This entails the de-freezing process advanced by Kurt Lewin in his three-pronged theory of change (Robbins, 2003). Ideally, superintendents prepares the ground for change by highlighting on key shortcomings of existing processes and/or institutions then ensures that all the stakeholders are perfectly convinced that there is dire need for change. To achieve this they carryout institutional as well as procedural restructuring by way of inducing new and popular culture that bars subjects from reverting back to the old order. Opportunistically, they then move in with the intended reform packages which they rollout to the stakeholders in practical and operational ways. For example, by drawing out direct links between the new reforms packages and deep-seated social ills such as poverty, unemployment, insecurity, climate change, terrorism, etc.

The contemporary education demands are enormous. There is more accountability on the part of a school superintendent’s job than it has been witnessed ever before. In reference to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the superintendents are expected to deliver convincing results or else risk their districts forfeiting important funds from the federal government. In bid to avoid such financial forfeiture the superintendents explore all ways of getting those under them to carryout their duties fully. Based on the findings of a research study commissioned by the Wallace Foundation and carried out by researchers from Stanford Educational Leadership Institute, school leaders have been noted to employ a range of methods in imparting the desired change. Among these methods is the conscious efforts made to improvement students academic performance through “the support and development of effective teachers and the implementa­tion of effective organizational processes … prepara­tion and licensing requirements, which generally subscribe to a set of common expectations for the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of school leaders (Davis, Darling-Hammond, La Pointe, & Meyerson, 2005, p.5). 

1.4. School Superintendents are not “Blobs”

No doubt school superintendents are not “an amorphous blob that soaks up valuable resources without adding value to a district’s instructional program” as popularly referred to by former Secretary of Education, William Bennett (Waters, & Marzano, 2005, p.2). At least not when they engage in what Waters and Marzano (2006) found out in their meta-analysis of several studies on school superintendents. One of the outstanding findings of their meta-analysis was “collaborative goal-setting” (p.11). This entails the purposive inclusion of all the stakeholders in the schools in the process of identifying and delineating educational based on the unique school district student needs as well the set state and federal obligations. Collaboratively set goals will be easy to implement particularly when the implementers of such goals where involved in process of delineating such goals.

Again, it was found out that superintendents fulfill their obligations as change agents by employing wise and well coordinated distribution of critical resources to areas that they are needed. This is done in tandem with the set goals and it entails cutting down support in some sectors while increasing such support in other sectors. Again, this is done closely with the respective section heads so as to enhance acceptance. Though there may no clear cut restrictions as to what amount should be committed to what sectors, it has been noted that the superintendents have got the knack of identifying the most critical areas, which they go ahead to support. It is arguable that well supported school boards will more likely engage in constructive activities so as to build a strong for future support (Waters & Marzano, 2006).

Apart form the normal educational goals that can be formed under the guidance of the school superintendents during the collaborative goal-setting sessions, it has been advanced that wise school superintendents achieve change in the students performance by pushing for the establishment of “non-negotiable” goals particularly in the most critical areas of student performance and instruction (Waters, & Marzano, 2006, p.12). Such non-negotiable goals are very difficult to alter and school teachers are left with no alternative but to deliver good results or risks facing reprimands from the “federally-pressured” superintendents.

Another key finding was the “monitoring achievement & Instruction” (instruction (Waters, & Marzano, 2006, p.12). To impart change, school superintendents ensure close monitoring of the process of curriculum implementation. For instance, they ensure that the process of instructional giving is closely monitored to ensure uniformity. At the long run this ensures that teachers do not digress from the curriculum requirements. This is carried out in a series of continuous assessment tests on the part of the teachers. In practical terms this method of imparting change is more or less a need-analysis process as the superintendent is given the opportunity to identify which schools are performing poorly and which ones are not. Lastly, it was observed that school superintendents achieve change by aligning the local education board with the non-negotiable goals. This enhances efficiency by eliminating duplication of efforts and resources through the removal of detractors. By combining these two goals it becomes very easy for channel all its efforts in key activities that lead to improved academic performance instruction (Waters, & Marzano, 2006).

1.5. Deficiencies in the Studies

As evidenced by the preceding literature review a great deal has been written about superintendents as change agents. No doubt these are fairly broad statements that fall short of identifying specific behaviors employed by the school district superintendent to bring about real changes that have measurable outcomes and that can be evaluated against a specific standards or requirements. Ideally, the existing studies provide rich background information about the roles of school district superintendents but they fall short of addressing how these leaders impart change or even indulge other stakeholders in realizing change. This apparent lack of specificity is phenomenal given the changing educational trends characterized by accountability, transparency, performance-based management, and the use of empirical data to make critical educational decisions. Moreover, it is ironical to note that even after a wide range of empirical evidence advanced by various research studies across the wide spectrum of school leadership little efforts have been made to address how school district superintendents as change agents impart change in practical and/or operational terms. Furthermore, comparatively juxtaposing some of the salient findings advanced by a wide range of existing research studies against the prevailing educational trends shows glaring discrepancies between theoretical and practical happenings in educational leadership at the local levels. For instance, it is obvious that not all superintendents embrace or impart change in their respective school districts. This is partly because of the dynamic nature the socio-political and cultural environments within which school leadership operates. As such, there is an urgent need to investigate how the school district superintendents’ effect change. Using interviews as the main data collection tool, the research study will investigate this critical area of school leadership with emphasis given to leadership at the local level (school superintendents).

1.6. Study Purpose and Research Questions

The changing socio-political and cultural trends occasioned by technological advancements and globalization calls for a critical examination of the educational leadership realm. Precisely, it has been argued above that a grey area exists on how school superintendents effect change. Moreover, basing on the existing empirical evidence it is only fair to assert that the intense pressure that school district superintendents work under to bring about dramatic improvements in student test scores while simultaneously meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse and multicultural student population impacts directly on their overall performance (Childress, Elmore, & Grossman, 2006). Given that significant achievements have been realized courtesy of their relentless efforts to achieve efficiency at their respective school districts (Hentschke, Nayfack, & Wohlstetter, 2009), there is need to critically investigate how they succeed in doing this despite operating from potentially conflicting environments. This research study will lead to the realization of some of the strong and weak areas insofar as educational leadership is concerned. Such critical empirical data will advice policy formulation and implementation particularly in the areas of improving smooth coexistence between all educational stakeholders at the federal, state, and local levels and most importantly it will enhance quick and efficient service delivery. In this regard the overarching research question is simply “how do school district superintendents effect change.”  Other supporting questions are:

  1. As a long serving school district superintendent what do you do to get other people involved in the management of education at the local level change?
  2. What do you perceive of superintendents as change agents and what type of preparation at the University and/or professional development is needed?
  3. Do you feel that you have got all it takes (professional know-how and resources) to impart change at the local level?
  4. Can you briefly describe substantive change that you as superintendent have helped to make in leading and learning in this or another school district.
  5. Given your expertise as superintendent what advice would you have to a new superintendent to enhance their ability to reflect needed changes in teaching and learning.

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1. Introduction

The “nearly continuous turbulent …[bureaucratic, unpredictable and] inescapable” environment that the school superintendents function in makes the responsibilities of imparting change part and parcel of their job titles (Starratt, 2004, p.29). This turbulent environment is as a result of positioning the school superintendents at a very sensitive point along the education management ladder, between the school boards and the state/federal educational authorities making them the de facto “mediators” between these two sides. In this regard, their duties entail fulfilling the demands from members of both ends, which sometimes may be conflicting and unrealistic to achieve (Begley, 2004). For instance, the state and federal authorities normally issue demands that schools must meet to qualify for financial and other support while on the other hand the school boards representing the interests of the people at the ground may have completely different expectations from the school superintendent (Firestone & Martinez, 2007). In fact, superintendents who attempt to execute their duties “without [making] reference to the greater environmental context will quickly” meet resistance” (Begley, 2004, pp.8-9).

School district leadership has been the focus of a vast body of empirical research for decades as educators and policymakers have struggled to determine what these leaders can do to foster changes in their respective districts (Bredeson & Kose, 2007; Cuban & Usdan, 2003; Klatt, 1996). These research studies have resulted into a rich bank of information about the school district superintendent profession (Kowalski, 2001). As a matter of fact, there is no dispute about the role(s) of superintendents as potential change agents in their respective school districts. According to Portis and Garcia (2007), change in academic realms assumes a number of facets that revolves round sound leadership practices.

By fair terms, these postulations are too broad to give a precise account of how school district superintendents’ effect change. As such, this dissertation seeks to carry out an in-depth study on the profession of the school district superintendent with the view of unearthing how they go about imparting change. Ideally, this chapter attempts to dig into prior research studies on school superintendents with the view of forming a “literature map” that will give the entire dissertation a sense of focus and meaning. Essentially, the chapter is structured into a number of sections that help to address the salient knowledge claims regarding superintendents as change agents’ vis-à-vis the adopted change theory lens. These sections include:

  1. Introduction – gives a general overview of the entire chapter by delineating important issues to be discussed in the chapter.
  2. Theoretical framework – this describes the framework within which the study arguments will be channeled through.
  3. The three-step approach as applied in the school superintendent context – this section is structured into three sub-sections, each representing a single step. Basically, this section utilizes the three-step framework to describe how superintendents go about achieving the actual change.

2.2. Theoretical Framework

School leadership and management are complex processes that require time, capital, and human resources (Katz & Khan, 1978; Kowalski, 2000). As a matter of fact, existing research work that attempts to address these processes does not provide sufficient grounds as to how some of the critical facets of leadership and management take place. Attempts to demonstrate in operational terms how school superintendents’ effect change have borne little empirical currency as  the existing literary accounts have only succeeded in advancing the various roles played by school superintendents as change agents and not how they go about achieving the actual change. As such, there is need for carrying out a focused and impartial research work to investigate how these administrative officers effect change in their respective school districts. To this end, this dissertation adopts the “three-step” change theory lens of, “unfreezing, changing, and refreezing” as advanced by Kurt Lewin (Schein, 1995, p.2).

Conceivably, the wisdom behind this decision is advised by the theory’s central premise that, change does not happen instantaneously, it is gradual, it comprises of significant amount of adaptations and adjustments, and that it can only occur when the forces sponsoring it are stronger than those opposing it (Schein, 1995, 1988; Kritsonis, 2004-2005, Robbins, 2003). Most importantly, change whether from an individual or collective perspective is phenomenal, in that, it entails, “a profound psychological dynamic process that involved painful unlearning without loss of ego identity and difficult relearning as one cognitively attempted .............


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