Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Linda S. Hagedorn

Second Advisor

Corey Drake


The need for schools to develop and implement actions that will clearly improve the academic performance of all children is of great importance. Schools face pressure to improve K-12 mathematics instruction to reach all students, regardless of economic, linguistic, or cultural background (NCSM, 2008, 2016). Supporting academic excellence and equity in school mathematics requires strong leadership (Blankstein & Noguera, 2015). Recognizing that leadership in a school does not fall on the shoulders of just one person (Spillane & Healey, 2010, p. 256), the purpose of this case study was to explore the “how” of leadership, specifically the leadership practices that get us to the “why” (e.g., equity) and “what” (e.g., leadership for excellence) of mathematics education. The overarching question driving this research was: “What are the leadership practices that are intended to promote equity and excellence in mathematics education?” Using Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond’s Distributed Leadership Perspective (2004), the goal was to understand the respective distributed roles teachers and other individuals took in the process of achieving equity and excellence in mathematics at one elementary school. Formal (e.g., Head of School, Central Office Administrator) and Informal (e.g., teachers and parents) leaders were interviewed and observed. Data analysis focused on identifying the macro-functions (e.g., overall leadership practices) and micro-tasks (e.g., day-to-day, short-term tasks) that leaders engaged in to promote equity and excellence. Leadership practices were focused in three areas: Supporting the Teaching/Learning of all Students; Supporting the Teaching of Diverse Students; and Parent/Family Connection. Five primary categories of leadership practices were identified: Relationship, Instruction Support, School Climate, and Parent Involvement.

Despite the importance of family engagement, teachers faced challenges communicating to parents, getting them to help with homework, etc. Efforts should be made to support and involve parents in school more broadly, beyond just helping with homework. Second, there needs to be a shift in the view of a top-down approach and reliance only on formal leaders to lead the work of mathematics teaching and learning. Rather, leadership needs to be widely distributed and incorporate the input of multiple individuals who alternately lead and follow depending on the situation. Finally, leaders need to continue to take into account the situation and background of their students as they build relationships and differentiate instruction to best meet the needs of their students. These, along with other practices, will get us to the how of leadership (actions, interactions, etc.) to enhance students’ mathematics learning for equity and excellence.


Copyright Owner

Comfort Enono Akwaji-Anderson



File Format


File Size

225 pages