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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

Author: Zainin Bidin (2012)
Advisor: David Arsen

This research examines the financial profiles of 550 public school districts in Michigan and highlights the association between school district fund balance and the following eleven indicators: enrollment, percent enrollment change, percent of students receive free and reduced lunch (FRL), percent of special education students, percent of English Language Learners (ELL), per pupil foundation allowance, urban, property taxable value, pupil-teacher ratio, average teacher salary, and business and administrative expenses as a percentage of current operating expenditures from fiscal year 2001 to 2010. School districts financial profiles display a rising number of districts in financial deficit and near deficit, which is defined as fiscal stress in this study. Throughout the years, the mean of the district fund balance has steadily declined, and the movement of school districts in and out of deficit and fiscal stress has been unpredictable. Utilizing pooled regression analysis, an investigation was conducted to reveal the positive and negative associations with the district fund balance.

Four are found to be positively associated, these include: foundation allowance, property taxable value, pupil-teacher ratio, and number of ELL students, which is one of the high-cost student indicators. The remaining six are enrollment, enrollment change, FRL, special education, salary, and business administrative expenditures and has a negative association with the district fund balance. Compared to districts located in rural areas, urban school districts have a lower fund balance, but for both school districts a higher fund balance could be achieved with more funding. On the other hand, giving money to school districts will not increase their fund balances. A plan must be put into place to spend the money effectively, taking into account teacher's salary, class size control, and business administrative expenses. With all of these in mind school district managers will have a greater chance of maintaining their fund balance and fiscal status. Three cross-section regression analyses for fiscal years 2000, 2005, and 2010 with percent enrollment change in one and three years proved to be consistent with the pooled regression analysis. These cross-section analyses are useful in the short-term but will not estimate the fund balance accurately in five or ten years.

Author: Pamela Campbell (2012)
Advisor: Kristy Cooper


Researchers have spent a relatively small amount of time focusing on homeschooling. The few studies which have been completed regarding homeschooling have skirted the question of the decision-making process taken by parents as they choose to begin or discontinue homeschooling. The void in the academic knowledge regarding this growing trend in education has been filled with the data and analysis of this study. By using a qualitative methodology I was not only able to gain insight into the thoughts and experiences of homeschool parents, I was able to hear their passion for their children's education and see their excitement as they described their familiarity with the twists and turns and emotions of the pathway to their final decision.


This study addresses the questions: "What process do parents go through when making the decision to begin or discontinue homeschooling their children?" And "What circumstances precipitate a parent's decision to move their children to homeschool or to end homeschooling?" Fourteen families were interviewed and data was collected and analyzed to determine the answer using a decision-making model made up of six different processes. Additionally, the precipitating circumstances were collected and categorized into sub-groups to clearly view the outcome of the evaluation of the data.

The results of this study indicate that two decision-making processes, convergence and insightful, dominated the corridor to the final choice of the initial child's educational placement. All of the parents in the study had friends who homeschooled and regardless of their background, were concerned about beginning to homeschool their own children.

Author: Nancy Kay Meddaugh (2012)
Advisor: Susan Printy


One widespread solution suggested for improving underperforming schools is to assign leadership coaches to school principals to help principals learn to maximize the strength of the educational staff and lead the improvement of student performance. Yet, there is limited literature on what leadership coaches know and do when attempting to improve underperforming schools. This qualitative study uses coaches' voices to describe what it is like to be a leadership coach in underperforming schools, and describes their experiences when working with adults as learners. The study investigates the knowledge coaches bring to the job, the practices they use to guide adults through transformative learning, and the personal learning coaches experience as they seek to improve their coaching methods through evolving programming for veteran coaches. Three separate articles address components of leadership coaching, and use theory to explain each phenomenon.

Author: Nomalanga Grootboom (2012)
Advisor: Christopher Dunbar

After decades of racially segregated education under apartheid in South Africa, the process of school desegregation commenced in 1990's with the view equalize education for all, and fostering better relationships and making available equal opportunities for all learners. The process of desegregation not has been without problems as it is apparent with race related incidents of racial conflicts and tension in certain desegregated schools. Despite the intentions of policy makers, educators, parents and the success of desegregated schooling needs to be seen through the experience of learners in such schools.

This study examines cross racial interaction of learners in a formerly "whites only" high school in South Africa and seeks to explore their day to day school life over a period of six months. Data were obtained from several sources including interviews with students, teachers, and administrators, focus group discussions, and observations. Key findings from the study revealed critical factors that impact the educational experiences of learners in this school, and how these can inform the process of educational change, as well as serve as useful indicators for planning and decision making. Lessons learned from this study provide an opportunity for further comparative studies with respect to the diverse aspects of the teaching-learning for diverse and monoculture learner in different settings of the new (post-apartheid) South African school system.

Author: Sedat Gumus (2012)
Advisor: Amita Chudgar


By using a recent, large-scale, and nationally representative data set, this study aims to explore the factors associated with school participation at both the primary and secondary levels in Turkey, with specific attention to the community-level factors. The school participation of children at both levels has been a prominent problem in Turkey, similar to many other developing countries. Therefore, numerous studies have been conducted to determine the factors associated with the school participation of boys and girls so far. Existing studies in Turkey, however, have extensively focused on the association between household-level factors and school participation, ignoring the role of the broader environment in which children live. This study, therefore, makes an important contribution to the current school participation literature in Turkey by taking socio-economic context variables into account with the multilevel modeling method. The findings highlight the importance of community/context factors in explaining school participation in Turkey.


The results of the study can help policymakers develop a systematic understanding of the relationship between socio-economic context and school participation, and make more appropriate decisions for improving school participation across the country. With respect to the household level factors, the results are in line with the previous literature on the relationship between household-level factors and the school participation of children in Turkey. I find that the mother's ability to speak Turkish and the household head's education are positively associated with school participation, while being female, being older, mothers' traditional gender role attitudes, household poverty, and residing in a large household are negatively associated with school participation. The results of the multilevel analyses, which are the key contribution of this study, show that the school participation of children in Turkey significantly varies between communities, but only for children aged 14-17. Specific community-level variables such as average adult education and the average gender role attitudes in the community, which I use as a proxy for social context, are found to be significantly associated with school participation, while economic variables, such as community poverty and urbanization, are not significantly associated with school participation. These results also mostly align with the results of existing studies in other developing countries and confirm the importance of social context in which children live for their educational involvement.

Author: Steven Delp (2012)
Advisor: Susan Printy

As more and more attention is directed towards public schools and the improvement of student academic achievement, one staggering finding keeps resurfacing in educational research: roughly half of all new teachers leave their current position within their first five years of entering the teaching profession. Although it is likely dozens of different professional and personal factors can influence such a choice, the literature suggests that building leadership has the potential to play a significant role in this decision. Thus, a few studies have examined the role principals play in novice teachers' induction experiences, yet such studies have primarily examined the issues at the elementary and middle school levels. Therefore, this study was originally designed to make a contribution to the literature by examining the influence the high school head principal has on novice teacher induction experiences in order to measure if the principal is a factor or not when a novice teacher is deciding whether or not to remain in his or her current teaching position. However, what the study evolved into was not limited to only an investigation of the principal's influence on induction, but rather an examination of the larger influence a distributed leadership process has on high school novice teachers' induction experiences.

In order to examine the influence leadership has on induction, a qualitative case study was designed to explore the beliefs and perceptions principals, assistant principals, department chairs, mentor teachers, and novice teachers had regarding school leadership's influence on the induction process.


Using volunteers who held these positions within two large suburban Michigan high schools, subject data was collected through semi-structured interviews. Interview data was then transcribed and analyzed through Spillane and Diamond's (2007) distributive perspective. What emerged from the data was the idea that a variety of high school building leaders are involved in the induction process. This distribution of leadership ranged from formal leaders such as head principals, assistant principals, and department chairs to informal leaders such as department peers.

The ways leadership is distributed within schools has been written about extensively, and many different models of distributed leadership have been presented in the literature; however, little attention has been paid to the influences a distributed leadership process has on specific leadership tasks. Therefore, this study will begin to fill the gap in the research in two ways: (1) the study will examine the direct and indirect influences distributed leadership has on the specific task of novice teacher induction, and (2) the study will examine this influence at the high school level.


Author: Thomas Deluca (2012)

Advisor: David Arsen

Educational policy makers continue to promote non-instructional service consolidation as one method to reduce operating costs through economies of scale . Unfortunately, there is essentially no empirical evidence on the size or source of cost savings associated with such measures. Using panel data from 2004-2010, this mixed methods study measures and finds few spending reductions associated with the consolidation of services from the local district to the Educational Service Agency (ESA). Although this is only one of several service consolidation models, (e.g., local districts sharing services with each other, local districts sharing services with municipalities, privatization of services), this study also finds no support for the prediction that consolidating non-instructional services other than the Business Office significantly increases instructional spending.


Next, I analyzed a case study where local district administrators encountered few employee or community objections to service consolidation, unlike the political ramifications of school district consolidation initiatives. In addition, local district superintendents and ISD administrators described service quality improvements, especially in the areas of accountability, compliance with regulations, and establishing proper accounting procedures.


Author: James Goenner (2012)

Advisor: Phillip Cusick

In 1993, Michigan Governor John Engler called the bluff of a political rival, which resulted in the nearly overnight elimination of Michigan's school funding system and created an opportunity for him to advance his vision for broader educational reform. This study illustrates how Engler functioned as a public policy entrepreneur to take advantage of this window of opportunity in order to advance his vision for a competitive educational marketplace. The idea of using choice and competition to create an educational marketplace had been commonly associated with attempts to privatize public education through vouchers. This posed a seemingly impossible hurdle for Engler, as Michigan's Constitution has a strict prohibition preventing public funds from being used by non-public schools.

Engler was an avid reader and was always searching for new ideas. So when charter schools began to emerge on the educational landscape as a way to withdraw the exclusive control schools districts held over the provision of public education and establish new public schools that could provide choice and competition to the extant system, Engler was intrigued.


Applying Schneider, Teske & Mintrom's (1995) theory of public policy entrepreneurs, the study shows how Engler performed the three essential functions that all entrepreneurs undertake to accomplish their goals in order to originate Michigan's charter school policy. Through elite interviews, the study uses the words of Engler and his allies to examine what they intended to accomplish and how they went about accomplishing their intentions and overcoming obstacles. The study also examines how Engler's actions as a policy entrepreneur relate to more mainstream theories of policy change like incrementalism (Lindblom, 1968), policy streams (Kingdon, 1995), institutionalism (March & Olsen, 1989), punctuated equilibrium (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993), and advocacy coalitions (Sabatier, 1988). The study concludes by asking Engler and his allies to look back and assess if the charter school policy they helped originate over 15 years earlier is accomplishing what they intended and fulfilling their expectations, in light of Cohen (1982) and Elmore's (1980b) notion that political leaders often become frustrated and fail in their attempts to change public education.


Author: Elnora Scott (2012)

Advisor: Christopher Dunbar

Service learning is a widely accepted method for preservice teachers to gain knowledge about the communities they may someday serve. Critical multicultural service learning is commonly used to help preservice teachers explore issues of inequality, power, and manifestations of social reproduction in school systems, and is intended to foster awareness about culture, race, and diversity. Critics of service learning express concerns about the high expectations associated with the practice and argue that service learning may reinforce the attitudes and beliefs it is designed to eliminate. This study was designed to gain a better understanding of what positive or negative factors influenced preservice teachers' multicultural service learning experience, if preservice teachers were able to connect course context to their service learning experience, and what pedagogy had the greatest impact on their ability to make those connections. These dimensions were explored through quantitative analysis using survey data that was completed by 324 students who were enrolled in 18 Teacher Education 250 sections at Michigan State University. The results of this study indicate that preservice teachers benefit directly from their service learning experiences, and that multicultural service learning is a valuable tool for teacher educators. The results from this study can help teacher educators better understand the impact of multicultural service learning on preservice teachers' perception of power, race, injustice, diversity, and a desire or lack of desire to work in under resourced schools. The findings from this study support critical multiculturalism, critical pedagogy, and critical curricula in teacher education programs.


Author: Kari Selleck (2012)

Advisor: Susan Printy

This study examined the impact of standards-based mathematics curricula developed by the National Science Foundation, implemented within heterogeneously grouped, de-tracked high school classrooms. Four purposefully selected cohorts of high school students participated over a period of eight years. Outcome measures included two coursework measures (maximum difficulty level of math courses in which students enrolled and total number of math courses enrolled in during high school), and standardized state-level high school test results. Hierarchical regressions conducted on the sample as a whole showed no significant differences among the cohorts for the highest level of math course taken. The trends were that students in Cohort 2 (the first post-reform cohort) took slightly lower-level math courses than students in Cohort 1 (pre-reform), there was then a slight increase in Cohort 3, and finally, students in Cohort 4 took slightly higher-level math courses than students in Cohort 1. Regarding the number of courses taken, students in Cohorts 2 and 3 took fewer math courses than students in Cohort 1, and students in Cohort 4 took approximately the same number of math courses as students in Cohort 1.


The results for Cohorts 2 and 3 were significant. There were negative, significant differences, although slight, for standardized tests. In other words, students post-reform performed slightly but significantly worse on standardized tests than students pre-reform. Further hierarchical regressions on the highest and two lowest-achieving quartiles (based on incoming eighth-grade state test results) showed that students at the highest proficiency level within the three post-reform cohorts fared slightly worse than those in the pre-reform cohort (-1.35, -.84, -.67) for highest level math course with Cohort 2 significant (0.36). Highest achieving students performed worse on standardized tests with Cohort 3 and 4 significant (both at p=.001) Students in the lowest proficiency levels across all post-reform cohorts fared better than the pre-reform cohort in terms of level of math courses. Low-performing students in the fourth cohort (strongest treatment group) took math courses nearly two-thirds (.62) of a difficulty level higher than students in the pre-reform cohort, and this result was significant ( p = .010). New state math course-taking requirements along with changes in content and scale scores of the state assessments during this longitudinal study posed limitations to the study. Implications for national and state mathematics policy included.


Author: Sheila Sherman (2012)

Advisor: Christopher Dunbar

Homeschooling is not an aberration but a phenomenon which many scholars believe to be associated with the most idiosyncratic individuals. As unconventional as this educational method may appear, the practice of educating children at home is one alternative to charter, public, private, or parochial school that has increased in its appeal in the African American community. To date, there are no large-scale longitudinal, empirical, or qualitative studies about the thousands of African American homeschoolers. The study by Fields-Smith & Williams (2009), found race, religion and home-school interactions as reasons for electing homeschooling. According to African American parents in this study, race, religion, culture, and teacher's low expectations are the most common reasons for opting to homeschool.