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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

Alex. J. Bowers (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Susan Printy

This study addresses the question: To what extent are teacher assigned subject‐specific grades useful for data driven decision making in schools? Recently, schools have been urged to bring teachers and school leaders together around student‐level data in an effort to increase dialogue, collaboration and professional communities to improve educational practice through data driven decision making. However, schools are inundated with data. While much attention has been paid to the use and reporting of standardized test scores in policy, school and districtlevel data driven decision making, much of the industry of schools is devoted to the generation and reporting of grades. Historically, little attention has been paid to student grades and grade patterns and their use in predicting student performance, standardized assessment scores and on‐time graduation. This study analyzed the entire K‐12 subject‐specific grading and assessment histories of two cohorts in two separate school districts through correlations and a novel application of cluster analysis. Results suggest that longitudinal K‐12 grading histories are useful. Grades and standardized assessments appear to be converging over time for one of the two school districts studied, suggesting that for one of the districts but not the other, current accountability policies and state curriculum frameworks may be pushing into classrooms and modifying teacher's daily practice, as measured through an increasing correlation of grades and standardized assessments. Moreover, using cluster analysis, K‐12 subject specific grading patterns appear to show that early elementary school grade patterns predict future student grade patterns as well as qualitative student outcomes, such as on‐time graduation. The findings of this study also suggest that K‐12 subject specific grade patterning using cluster analysis is an advance over past methods of predicting students at‐risk of dropping out of school. Additionally, the evidence supports a finding that grades may be an assessment of both academic knowledge and a student's ability to negotiate the social processes of school.

John B. Deiter (2007)
Advisor: Dr. David Arsen

The purpose of this study was threefold as it attempted to: (1) determine to what extent local school districts in Michigan vary in their provision of early childhood education (ECE) services and what factors account for these differences; (2) determine local school district superintendents' perceptions of ECE and explore whether or not these perceptions are related to their knowledge, familiarity with programs and research, and to what extent they view ECE as being important to their students obtaining their achievement goals; and (3) determine the efficacy of the current delivery system for ECE services between the state, ISDs, and local districts by ascertaining the vision that the leaders at these levels have for the provision and coordination of ECE services. The results of the study were obtained from a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. They show that there is large variance in the ECE services that local districts provide that is related to the needs of the children in a given district and with the knowledge of the superintendents. Though most Michigan superintendents are not familiar with specific studies on ECE, most believe that an investment in ECE can have a positive impact on student achievement. Programs and training offered by ISDs can be very influential to the attitudes of local superintendents. The experience that superintendents bring to the position, such as experience exclusively at the 9‐12 level versus pre‐K or K‐5 experience also impacts the knowledge and perception of superintendents. The study also indicates that leaders at the state, ISD, and local level have a similar vision for the provision of ECE that varies slightly from the current alignment and dissemination of services. Leaders at the three levels would like to see an increased role for local districts in the provision of ECE services. These leaders feel that ISDs are in a central position and seem the best equipped to coordinate and enhance ECE services.

Sakeena Ayoub R. T. Elayan (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

Deep rooted in history and civilization, Palestine has witnessed the emergence of heavenly religions. Such feature has enriched the peculiarity, the holiness, and the sanctity of that place. The essence of those religions is love, tolerance, faith, peace, and hope. Yet, that part of the world had experienced wars, conflicts and atrocities in almost every phase of history, particularly in the last seven decades. This study has taken place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza/in Palestine. Driven by an overwhelming curiosity, and "a passion for learning" (Cusick, 2005), I studied the education superintendents' perceptions of their roles and leadership practices they employed to maintain the education system adverse of the volatile environment. My focus was on discovering the nature of a superintendent's role in that unstable context, how different it is from traditional leadership roles in western education systems, what kind of leadership strategies do superintendents demonstrate, and what assumptions, beliefs and world views underlie their approach. This study fills part of a huge gap by telling the story of how the education system was maintained in the turbulent context of Palestine. Therefore, this study has implications for both policy and practice in the field of educational leadership, particularly in countries suffering from conflict.

Sean M. Enright (2007)
Advisor: Dr. David Arsen

In 1994 a ballot referendum, known as Proposal A, changed the funding mechanism for Michigan schools. Proposal A changed the funding mechanism from a property tax‐based system to a sales tax‐based system. Districts are now given a set per pupil funding allowance each year. This allowance, called the foundation grant, is set and changed by the state. Many Michigan districts have struggled financially under the new system. A great deal of research has been done around the growth and sustainability of the new funding mechanism.

The purpose of this dissertation is to document the current financial situation and attempt to ascertain whether rising employee costs have contributed to the constraint. Unlike previous research focused largely on the change in revenue, this study focuses on the change in employee benefit costs, specifically health insurance and retirement, since 1994. Utilizing Michigan Department of Education Form B data, employee benefit costs, including health care and retirement expenditures, were documented from 1994 to 2004 for 551 Michigan districts. Calculations were then performed to determine how these costs have changed over the nine year period as compared to the change in revenue and total operating expenditures for the districts. Once the change in employee benefit costs had been identified, a survey was conducted to determine what steps districts have taken to restrain the growth in these expenditures. A survey was sent to all Michigan School Business Officials. The survey asked them to identify their district's health insurance programs and the steps they have taken to slow the growth in, specifically, health care costs. This data was then compared to the Michigan Department of Education employee cost data in order to determine if those who had pursued cost reduction strategies in health care were successful in restraining growth in overall employee benefit costs. The objective was to identify additional sources of the current financial constraint faced by Michigan schools and determine if employee benefit cost reduction strategies can successfully improve the financial situation.

Angela M. Kirby (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Phillip Cusick

The research shows that poor tend to be educationally disadvantaged and rural poor more educationally disadvantaged. Yet, educational policy reform typically uses urban‐based models when addressing issues of rural education. This study expands a limited body of research in the area of rural education of poor students and their communities. The unique contribution of the study lies in its focus on articulating a set of understandings about the combined issues of place, poverty and education. In the two categories focusing on one community values regarding family and education, eight themes emerged. They highlight themes of isolation; social exclusion and limited access to resources accentuate the need to examine social networks and communal assets. The rural emergent community stories provide a powerful counterpoint to the supposition that poverty is primarily an economic issue. Findings illuminate the need to shift the educational policy focus from eradicating poverty based on quantified numbers of poor people, to addressing a comprehensive causal explanation of why rural people are poor, its effects on educational aspirations and behaviors.

Stephen Heywood Marsden (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Gary Sykes

The purpose of the research was to investigate the factors influencing the sustainability of an alternative educational program as a high school reform. The general objective of the study was to collect information from three levels of analysis: institutional, organizational, and individual. The research involved a review of the historical development of an alternative high school, the organizational role of school personnel in identifying and placing at‐risk students in the alternative high school, and the individual educational outcomes of a group of twelve students selected for placement in the alternative high school. The findings indicate that educational reform, which departs from the grammar or regularities of schooling, is less likely to sustain itself as a unique and distinctive feature. Factors found in the three explanatory ideas help explain the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of the current alternative high school as an educational reform. A limitation of the study is that it is qualitative in nature: only one school district was studied, and the number of participants was limited to twenty; hence no broad generalizations can be made. The use of interviews in this study also has some potential limitations in as much as there is a possibility of missed responses and/or a lack of disclosure.

Audra Aileen Melton (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Maenette Benham

This study explores the relationship between beginning teachers and their administrators and the influence of this relationship on the beginning teachers' persistence in the profession. A phenomenological study was conducted to discover the nuances of the interactions between the participants and the influence of these interactions on the relationship. Data was collected through a variety of methods including interviews, a focus group, artifacts, and documents. Analysis of the data produce three important themes: (1) A new teacher's disposition and professional preparation affects the nature of the administratorteacher relationship, (2) a new teacher's perception of (a) her own value alignment with the administrator, (b) the character of leadership exhibited by the principal, and (c) the clarity of her own teaching responsibilities and her administrator's role and responsibilities, impede or enhance the teacher/administrator relationship, and (3) organizational structures and politics/policies often complicate the character of the teacher/administrator relationship.

Yongmei Ni (2007)
Advisor: Dr. David Arsen

As one of the most prominent developments in elementary and secondary education reform in the U.S. since the 1990s, school choice has been widely advocated to utilize market incentives to promote educational equity and efficiency. This dissertation tests these two hypotheses by examining the effects of school choice policies in Michigan on racial segregation and social stratification, as well as the competitive impact of charter schools on the efficiency of traditional public schools. Drawing on two years of student‐level data, I examine patterns of student sorting associated with school choice policies. How do choice policies influence the degree of racial segregation and social stratification in public schools? How are students' propensities to select a choice school influenced by their own characteristics, and the characteristics of their assigned public schools? Examining the dynamic student movements between their assigned public schools and charter schools through a series of multinomial Generalized Hierarchical Linear Models (GHLM), my analysis suggests that while choice policies are providing new options for many students who were not served well in their assigned public schools, it is also contributing to the creation of a stratum of schools at the bottom in which truly disadvantaged students become ever more concentrated. In testing whether the competition from charter schools improves school efficiency of traditional public schools, I assembled a statewide school‐level panel dataset of Michigan schools from 1994 to 2004. This analysis relied on fixed effect estimations that implicitly controlled for unobservable time invariant school characteristics, and explicitly controlled for changing student composition and other factors induced by charter school policy. My analysis shows that charter competition has a negative impact on student achievement in Michigan's traditional public schools. The effect is small or negligible at first, but becomes more substantial in the long run. While contradicting the positive competitive effect typically predicted by school choice advocates, my results are consistent with the conception of choice triggering a downward spiral in the most heavily impacted public schools.

Kennedy O. Ongaga (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Christopher Dunbar

HIV/AIDS has eaten into every fiber and fabric of social life. In the education sector, it threatens to overwhelm the very fabric and structure of educational organizations, management, and provision of services as has traditionally been known. Like in the rest of the world, HIV/AIDS in Kenya is conceptualized as having the potential to negatively affect the education sector in terms of: (i) the demand for and supply of education, (ii) the quality and management of education, (iii) adjustments in response to the special needs of a rapidly increasing number of orphans as well as adaptation to new interactions both within and between schools and their communities. In the absence of a vaccine, HIV/AIDS education programs are critical in educating individuals about actions they can take to protect themselves from becoming infected or infecting others. However, educating young people about becoming infected through sexual contact can be controversial (Kelly, 2002, Gachuhi, 1999). Utilizing an ethnographic lens, this study focused on understanding experiences of head teachers in implementing HIV/AIDS education programs and the meaning of these programs to students in rural secondary schools in Kish District, Kenya. The following questions guided this study. (1) What is the role of head teachers in implementing HIV/AIDS programs? (2) How do they respond to HIV/AIDS cases in school? (3) How do they communicate matters related to HIV/AIDS in school? (4) What are students' perceptions of HIV/AIDS education programs? Data for this study were collected in Kisii district for a period of 4 months through participant observation, open‐ended face‐to‐face interviews with five high school head teachers and 14 high school students in two focus group discussions. I also interviewed a self‐selected student, who happened to be HIV infected. The findings indicated that meaningful HIV/AIDS intervention initiatives in schools in rural Kisii remain contested along patterns of socio‐cultural beliefs, religious morals, economic, and a wider crisis in education. These forces coalesce to create a culture of silence, which impede, shape, and guide implementation of school‐based HIV/AIDS education programs. In such environment, school administrators experience dissonance in implementing HIV/AIDS education programs as envisioned just as students are caught in dangerous conflict between what they learn in school and observe in their communities. Further, the study showed that HIV/AIDS education programs should shift from being informational to being empowering. Particularly, life‐skills such as problem‐solving skills, decision‐making, communication, refusal and negotiation skills as well as skills that may help students to avoid alcohol and drugs should be encouraged. Further, VCT services, treatment, and nutritious food are intertwined. The study suggested that when a clear, binding, evidencebased and culturally appropriate policy on school‐based AIDS education is developed and communicated to all stakeholders, head teachers and their schools are likely to receive enormous support in the implementation phase.

Michael J. Prelesnik (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Susan Printy

The purpose of this study was to examine and describe how middle school athletic coaches balanced the challenges of coaching as they strived to follow the established standards for coaches, adhered to middle school principles, and tried to field a competitive team. Qualitative research techniques were used as the activities of middle school girls' basketball coaches were observed. The source of data for this study was observations of practices as well as games and a post‐observation interview with the coaches. Case studies were then written which revealed elements of coaching techniques, the coaches' own philosophies as they related to middle school principles, and strategies that the coaches utilized when they experienced a conflict in enacting their own standards and principles. Additionally, many of the established coaching standards of middle school coaching were revealed as the actions of these middle school coaches were documented. Next, coaching descriptions and information about a variety of actions were written in detail to support and provide examples during discussion of five major themes related to elements of coaching where challenges may occur. In addition, a crosscase analysis was used to compare the coaches' activities with relationship to the five major coaching themes as well as the established coaching standards. Research findings were further examined with reference to the competing values framework as the findings from the study were analyzed within the parameters of this framework. It was discovered that coaches with cognitive complexity were more successful coaches as they could move more easily through the various quadrants of the competing values framework. A rubric that middle school administrators can use to evaluate middle school coaches was also written. Final conclusions, implications, and further recommendations for additional research related to middle school coaching philosophy are proposed.

Krista Sherman (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Maenette Benham

The purpose of this study was to explore practices of three elementary principals in order to better understand how effective caring environments are shaped, tensions that principals face when leading an inclusive school, how they navigate such tensions, and how advocacy translate into practice. The conceptual theories that guided this study included the ethic of care, the ethic of justice and sensemaking. The theories of care and justice were not considered alternatives of one another, rather they were viewed as an integrated theory, each maintain their own ontology while supporting the other in understanding advocacy for special education. The qualitative methods were descriptive in nature and drew from multiple forms of data collection. They included individual interviews, focus groups and Photovoice, a process that collects images as the participants view them as a reflective tool to probe deeper into the lived experiences of the principals. A comprehensive portrait was written for each principal and the school they serve. Their experiences were connected through pictures and shared tensions. Forms of advocacy, tensions and how principals navigated the tensions arose from the data analysis. A central tenet emerged from the data. Policy and policy enactment favors a 'just' system—the common good—for all children. Yet, principals approach it with a caring ethic. This creates a struggle between the ethics of care and justice, but when both ethics are utilized as an integrated ethic, principals act in a just caring manner for all students. There is a need for rigorous preparation for principals, and general education teachers, in regards to students with disabilities so to better facilitate the integration of the ethics of care and justice.

Kellie Terry (2007)
Advisor: Dr. Phillip Cusick

The purpose of this study was to describe and explain the response by K‐12 districts to policy mandates introduced through federal and state legislation. To inform the study, I reviewed the literature regarding educational purposes in the United States; relationships between the economic, political and educational systems and their influence on the educational system; society's attempts to resolve perceived social and economic problems in its schools; and theoretical concepts that predict how K‐12 districts might respond to legislative mandates. This literature provided the foundation for a conceptual framework, exploratory questions, and the methodology guiding this study. In addition, information on the two legislative mandates included in this study, the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, and Michigan's Compiled Laws 165‐166 on Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Diseases and sex education, was outlined. Interview data and documents from each category of the conceptual framework, including External Partners from the Michigan Department of Education and two Intermediate School Districts; and two K‐12 districts were analyzed. Research in the K‐12 districts was conducted through pilot and case studies. Following within‐case and cross‐case analyses of the data, I developed conclusions to describe and explain how K‐12 districts respond to legislative mandates. Study evidence and arguments were presented to support the conclusions, based on the underlying thesis, which is that legislative policy mandates pose K‐12 districts with an interesting paradox: while the educational bureaucracy appears to be well‐equipped to satisfy concrete compliance requirements, bureaucratic action does not appear sufficient to produce the deeper changes in practice needed to fulfill the spirit of the law. Thus, districts appear to be struggling to apply bureaucratic solutions to change that may require a response outside the realm of bureaucratic control. Further explication of K‐12 districts' responses to legislative policy mandates resulted in an abstract model entitled, "Stages of K‐12 Districts' Compliance with Legislative Mandate" Thus, this study contributes to the discourse regarding the connections between policy, practice, and organizational change. Additional research was suggested to elaborate greater understanding of the conditions and actions in districts that are successful in realizing deep changes in educational practice.