Throughout U.S. history, numerous policies have shaped our government and the lives of individuals, both nationally and internationally. For three decades, there has been much debate over academic achievement in U.S. public primary and secondary schools as well as in colleges and universities. Demand for funding has been placed on the federal government as "cash-strapped" states continue to reduce financial apportionments to school districts, community colleges, and other institutions of higher learning. However, with more funding came more accountability. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to include accountability measures, identification of schools that fail to narrow the racial achievement gap, and testing in each state of all students in grades 3-8. Reform efforts have been underway in American public schools for over 50 years (Lunenburg, 2011). Now with No Child Left Behind at the forefront of school accountability, superintendents are being pushed to hold teachers accountable for student academic achievement. Although superintendents are important to a school's performance, there is limited research on how their leadership affects student academic achievement. Considering the magnitude of school reform, the research that is available suggests that superintendents, indirectly and directly, affect instructional quality and student outcomes. In cases of high-performing districts, Lunenburg's research noted that superintendents have been found to have a comprehensive understanding of organizational purpose, a greater willingness to keep decisions tightly controlled, and the ability to shift human and financial resources into alignment with a school district's mission, vision, and goals (Lunenburg, 2011). Research also has shown that components of superintendent leadership requires the use of non-instructional strategies such as networks of policies, procedures, programs, tasks, and traditions to affect student academic achievement. As this research will focus on superintendent leadership and its impact on student academic achievement, we will explore what determines good superintendent leadership, in terms of knowledge and understanding. Although this area of research has been expanding, it still merits further research. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences of superintendents as a means to document resource allocation methods, leadership challenges, and leadership styles that have a positive impact on student academic achievement. This study searched to understand effective superintendent leadership as it relates to exceptional school practices.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership administration and policy; School superintendents; Educational change; Public schools -- United States -- Evaluation

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Barner, Robert;