Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Scott C. Mcleod


The purpose of this study was to understand district-level leadership's perceived influences on and barriers to improved student achievement. The following research questions were addressed: (a) How do superintendents view their influence on student achievement? (b) How do school board presidents view their influence on student achievement? (c) What do superintendents perceive are barriers to their influence on student achievement? (d) What do school board presidents perceive are barriers to their influence on student achievement?

Analysis of data this phenomenological study uncovered three themes: (1) alignment of the superintendent and board of education on student achievement goals, (2) continuous monitoring of progress toward the goals by the superintendent and board of education, and (3) significance of hindrances that prevented the district from making more rapid progress toward established goals.

The study yielded five conclusions: (a) superintendents and school board presidents agree that student achievement should be their primary focus and they must assume greater responsibility for improving student achievement; (b) the evolving roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board presidents require new skills and relevant training to develop these skills; (c) superintendents have positive views of their roles relative to student achievement which include: serving as educational leaders of the district, hiring quality personnel, reporting and interpreting student achievement data to the board, and monitoring progress toward district goals; (d) board presidents also have positive views of their roles in improving student achievement which include: setting and enforcing board policy, monitoring progress toward goals, and reducing their influence so educational leaders can do their work; and (e) there are significant barriers to improving student performance, including limited school finances, varying student demographics, and punitive legislation.

Study findings suggest that the following actions would progress district leadership's work in addressing student achievement: (a) a cohesive definition of student achievement; (b) enhanced board professional development; (c) revision of state and federal legislative standards that punish school districts unable to meet unrealistic achievement goals and mandates; and (d) an understanding that the right work of superintendents and principals is leadership of student achievement efforts, not non-instructional management responsibilities.


Copyright Owner

Dan Mart



Date Available


File Format


File Size

173 pages