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Strategic leadership for student achievement: An exploratory analysis of school board-superintendent governance and development practices

Maureen E Cotter, Johnson & Wales University


There has been significant research directed toward teaching and learning to determine the impact of school reform efforts on student achievement. There is however, limited research on the governance structures that foster or hinder implementation of educational reform efforts. The guiding question in this research examined to what degree and under what conditions are school boards capable of promoting and sustaining student achievement? A quantitative design explored the core characteristics of school board members, school board development activities, governance practices, and perceptions of student performance on selected achievement indicators. The research utilized an online web-based survey methodology administered through professional e-mail discussion groups that yielded an overall 8% response rate inclusive of a combined sample of school board members (10%) and superintendents (6%). A conceptual leadership framework captured the constructs of vision, advocacy, organizational structures (environment), accountability, and collaborative leadership. Mean responses were ranked ordered and pairwise correlations determined shared variance coefficients of determination between governance practices and participant perceptions on selected student achievement indicators. Statistical significance was obtained in correlations between four leadership constructs and perceptions on three student achievement indicators. In particular, vision (r = .453, p < .01), collaborative leadership (r = .424, p < .01), accountability (r = .414, p < .01), and advocacy (r = .406, p < .01) evidenced moderate correlations with student performance on non-traditional student achievement indicators: development of citizenship, arts appreciation, character development, job skill development, healthy lifestyles and, development of cultural tolerance. Multiple regression analysis revealed that the constructs of vision and accountability were statistically significant predictors. This finding concurred with previous research that examined high expectations for student achievement and emerging accountability systems. Vision exhibited small positive predictive value for respondent perceptions on level of student improvement on state performance tests (r2 = .105) with a slightly stronger predictor value for student performance on non-traditional student achievement indicators (r2 = .216); accountability demonstrated a small positive predictive value for availability of district content standards (r2 = .083). While the findings are tentative due to the small sample size, they do suggest a basis for further research to examine more broad-based indicators of student achievement in the context of district leadership, governance, and school board development practices.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Cotter, Maureen E, "Strategic leadership for student achievement: An exploratory analysis of school board-superintendent governance and development practices" (2001). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3017528.