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K-12 Dissertation Abstracts

The Educational Administration Department is pleased to present a compilation of Dissertation Abstracts from the HALE Ph.D. and K-12 Educational Administration Ph.D. programs.  These abstracts represent the rich and dynamic community of scholars in EAD.  The research presented reflects the wide range topics that emerge from a local as well as global perspective on postsecondary education and educational leadership.  In reviewing these abstracts we hope you will learn about the interesting research that goes on in the EAD doctoral programs.

K-12 Educational Administration

2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Tara Donahue (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

The purpose of this study is hence to explore 21 st CCLCs as academic support systems. Expanding upon previous theories that analyze coherence among educational systems, this study seeks to understand how seven 21st CCLC after‐school programs throughout Michigan align their academic program to what students learn during the regular school day and how programs complement or supplement activities to the school day curriculum. The centers offer a unique program to meet the needs of the individual school each serves such as specific student demographics or particular academic challenges students face. Using the Four C framework defined as collaboration, communication, consistency, and coherency, this study analyzes how the 21st CCLC programs throughout Michigan integrates each of these into its daily routines to connect to the school day. By collaborating and communicating with teachers, after‐school program staff learn about what students are doing in classrooms during the day and can devise program strategies to effectively complement and enrich the children's academic learning. Coherence and consistency needs to occur between the after‐school program and the school day program so students understand the expectations and receive the most benefit from both programs. Throughout a day, students must adjust to a variety of environments from their home and school to some sort of after school environment. When students find themselves in one environment, however, they draw on the experiences from the other communities in which they interact. Since students may spend an additional three hours at the after‐school program, linking the after‐school program instructional policies to the school day policies develops this dynamic and offers students a more coherent academic atmosphere to spur more cognitive development.

Resche D. Hines (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of school location (context) on the principal's leadership ability to build capacity at the school building level. This study was carried out through employment of quantitative methodology and the implementation of two theoretical models provided by Portz, Stein and Jones (1999) and Heck (1996). These models were used as the ideological foundation to empirically test the nature of the theorized relationships between school location and leadership actions for capacity building. The results indicated that school contexts may help to determine factors that will best assist principals in their decision‐making process to effectively meet the leadership demands of accountability. These results prove that the effect of principal decision‐making is a more complex matter, that is, that school location promotes a distinct but potentially complementary approach to understanding the effect of school context influence on principal decision‐making.

Young Taek Kang (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Susan Printy

The intention of this study is to explore two Korean high schools as communities within the framework of three models of community, that is, individualist, communitarian, and alternative models. Before conducting the research, I developed a framework of three models of community, informed by Western and Asian literature of community. I conducted qualitative research, adopting an ethnographic method at the two research sites. I interviewed more than forty school members, such as students, teachers, and parents, and observed classes, teacher meetings, parent meetings, and everyday lives of students and teachers. To understand the school communities, I have investigated how the school members perceived that they were part of a community, more specifically, that there was democratic community or professional community at their schools. At Blue Mountain High School (BMHS), students and parents consider their school to be democratic, although in a limited way; however, teachers do not have the same sense. At Grand Valley High School (GVHS), students and teachers strongly perceive their school to be democratic; however, parents do not report much participation. Teachers of both schools hesitate to say that they are professional communities.

Based on consistent reports, there is a lack of professional collaboration among teachers in both settings. Teaching, they believe, is an individual business. To examine school communities in terms of these three models, this study has dealt with tension among values which easily happens within communities. The case of BMHS confirms the current acknowledgement that communality and caring are often in tension with individuality and justice within a community. Although BMHS has some qualities of a communitarian model, it, over all, is closer to an individualist model. The study of GVHS shows the possibility of building an ideal community within a school. At GVHS, such qualities as individuality, solidarity, caring, justice, and diversity are in harmony. Moreover, at this school, relationships among people and between people and nature are highly valued. In this vein, GVHS directs toward an alternative model of community, which integrates Western thinking of community with Asian thoughts. I have discussed the causes of differences between the two schools. At GVHS there have been clear shared visions for justice and transformational leadership, through which vision is shaped and shared. Furthermore, spirituality has functioned as the foundation of the school visions and values and the leadership. By contrast, at BMHS the initial vision changed, leadership became unstable, and conflicts among school members appeared. Lastly, I discuss implications for practice and policy. In addition, suggestions are provided for future studies related to this research.

Brian L. Metcalf (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

While a school of choice policy proposes that parents can select the best school for their child, research has discovered that parents more often settled for mediocrity. For many parents, the pattern of choice behavior suggested that they chose a school that would be simply satisfactory, not exceptional. One way to learn more about how parents gather information related to the factors that make a school desirable for their child, and about how they approach these significant choices, is to explore the criteria and rationales currently used by the parents. Thus far, few studies have sought information directly from the parents who have made a school choice to identify the rationale and process used in making that choice. However, no research is found that specifically focused on school choice in a rural setting. Therefore, this study seeks to learn directly from the parents how the selection for school of choice works. This research was conducted in a very small town in Southwest Michigan. The cooperating district, which has been referred to as Durban, has approximately 400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of how and why parents in rural areas select schools for their children to attend. Research in urban areas suggests that parents are making these decisions based on many factors not having to do with best instructional practices (convenience, race and socio‐economic considerations appear to top the list of considerations in urban areas). Consequently, this study is important for two reasons. First, school districts throughout the state of Michigan are seeing revenues cut due to a loss of students for a variety of reasons. These districts have to cut programs, which have a detrimental effect for the students who stay. Second, if parents are making choices based on factors unrelated to instruction, or other academic reasons, such as race, then the entire premise of market‐forced improvement may create incentive for non‐academic school improvement. This is contrary to the rationale of school choice. This study describes how and why parents in this rural area selected a school. Included are connections between this study and prior urban and suburban research, as well as new revelations that have not been mentioned in prior research.

Joyce H. Piert (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

At various points within the history of America's public education, the nation has attempted to educate an increasingly diverse student population. It has been argued that almost since its inception, the nation's educational model has been utilized as a vehicle for sorting and maintaining a social structure of inequity (Carnoy, 1974; Bernstein, 1977; Giroux; 1983). Certainly not immune to this undergirding ideology, African Americans have engaged in an ongoing struggle with the paternalistic European American perceptions of what constitutes an appropriate education for African people in America. This tension fueled the desire for agency and self‐determination among African American communities and contributed to the rise of Black Nationalist and Pan Africanist ideology during the 19 th and 20th centuries. Throughout historical moments within this nation, these ideologies have shaped the African American community's response to the un‐kept promises of the American educational system. In recent times, American public schools have demonstrated a clear inability to equitably instruct African American students. This inability has manifested in poor academic performance in public schools and this inability has fueled alarm within the African American community, which has contributed to dissatisfaction and frustration with the public schools. Consequently African American parents have sought viable alternatives for successfully educating African American students as manifested in the African‐centered educational movement. But what is an African centered education? In the body of literature that has accumulated, an African centered education has been defined in various ways, as a history supplement of African centered facts, as a curriculum immersion, and as a complete cultural and curriculum immersion within schools. Also, researchers have examined the implementation of this educational model in various settings, both private and public; and researchers have examined the academic outcomes of this implementation. However, there is a paucity of data on the experiences of young people who have experienced this educational model. In this study, the researcher explored the experiences of African American young people who have attended an African centered school. The findings of the study revealed that the educational experiences of these African American young people aligned substantially with the intended outcomes of the school's philosophy and purpose.

Timothy H. Wood (2006)
Advisor: Dr. Phillip Cusick

The purpose of this study is to describe and attempt to explain the process some Michigan communities engage in when building large, multi‐million dollar high schools, and to explore the educational values the new facilities represent. Literature involving school construction was examined as well as research regarding power, values, and political decision making. The literature served as a basis for explaining the actions of those involved in the process. Specific areas of examination included identifying what was valued, what circumstances created the value, and how that value was projected to others within the community. For school districts in Michigan were included in the study. The research included fifty‐four interviews of individuals associated with the four districts, including superintendents, principals, teachers, coaches, members of the school board, citizen committee members, and members of the community at‐large. The data collected was analyzed to reach conclusions concerning the process school districts use when attempting to build a new high school. The data indicated similar conclusions in each of the four districts as it was viewed through the lens of three theories. The first theory is the work of Anthony Downs and "utility interest" (1957), where rational people will act in their best interest. Secondly, Schor's work on "competitive consumption" (1999), or attempting to keep‐up with one's neighbors was used as a theory in the study. The third theory is derived from the work of Lukes and Stone, who developed the concept of "clinical authority" (1974; 1988) where people in a specific field are viewed as experts based on their knowledge in a particular area. These theories served as the basis of explaining the behavior of those involved in the design, and construction of new high school buildings as delineated within the study.