Little research is recorded regarding the effects of grassroots groups on educational change. The purpose of this study was to examine how grassroots groups coalesce and attempt to influence decision-making in an urban School District in California. The research design utilized an exploratory qualitative case study of the development of two high schools. This case study focused on the efforts of four grassroots groups, four power brokers and nine members from the School District--2 parent groups, 1 teacher group, and 1 property owners' group. The data included demographic questionnaires from all 32 participants; three focus group sessions; 25 individual interviews; public legal documents; collection of archival documents from April 2011-June 2012; and extensive field notes from the same timeframe. The researcher attended 12 community meetings logging 29 hours, and spent 6 months recruiting interview participants for this study. Seven doctoral candidates coded the transcribed interviews, field notes, and focus group records. Six themes were derived from this analysis: relationship building within groups and across groups; communication/miscommunication between groups and the district personnel; seeking change by the groups; support given to groups; empowerment within the groups; and shared leadership within the groups. Findings suggest that grassroots groups had different stated objectives and indicated that they had success despite facing challenges and frustration by the School District. One group resorted to legal action. Major conclusions revealed that the power of any grassroots group appeared to be dependent on the shared leadership within the grassroots group, building relationships within the district and elected politicians, as well as the number of active group members. For example, when 2 groups joined and approximately 100 appeared for a school meeting, the district responded and rescinded a decision. Focused meetings on the shared concerns were more important than the frequency of meetings. Grassroots groups appeared weak-linked to one another, as little information was shared among groups. Although the mid-level district personnel acknowledged the concerns of the groups, their actions focused on the timeline of school development. Communication patterns within the district hindered a direct link between the concerns of the grassroots groups and top-level decision-making personnel.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Education, Secondary -- California; Educational change -- California; Educational leadership

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B.;