Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Dr. Ronald Williamson, Chair, EdD

Committee Member

Dr. Jaclynn Tracy, PhD

Committee Member

Dr. William Price, EdD


As schools in the United States resegregate and federal antipoverty programs lapse, the achievement gap widens once again. What can educational leaders do on their own to reverse this trend in the face of increased state and federal mandates, decreasing school funding, and community resistance to change? The purpose of this study was to determine the relative effects of factors (evaluation, conflict, political climate, superintendent influence, teaching & learning style, board training, and overall Strength of Relationship) that influence the board and superintendent relationship and to use these data to suggest strategies to support substantive change. A unique survey questionnaire was developed, tested, and deployed online statewide to all superintendents and board presidents in public school districts in the State of Michigan. Total population was N = 526 school districts, N = 1052 potential respondents. A self-selected sample (n = 1047, 99.5%) responded to the survey. Complete data provided an evenly distributed and representative self-selected sample of the entire state by region and district size from which the researcher could generalize with confidence. A Strength of Relationship (SOR) Scale was developed by rating responses to questions in each factor, which were statistically tested against district level indicators (Size of District, socioeconomic status, per pupil expenditure, student achievement, political type, evaluation type). Conflict, disagreement, and student achievement were also statistically tested against district-level indicators. The significant findings of the study were (a) When pluralistic political type board interaction paired with data-driven superintendent evaluation type (as opposed to global or judgment), Strength of Relationship increased approximately two-fold in most cases, levels of conflict were lower and, more important, levels of student achievement were higher; (b) boards that work in a pluralistic manner are 87–93% less likely to report conflict than were other political types (dominated, factional, inert). Conflict centered first on role definition and fulfillment, and second on financial issues; (c) the lower the levels of disagreement between the board and the superintendent were, the higher the student achievement was. This remained the case regardless of district size, per-pupil expenditure, or socioeconomic status; (d) student achievement was shown to be as much as 3-4 times higher in the Pluralistic and Data-driven combination of political type and evaluation method.


Additional committee members: Dr. Patrick Melia, PhD, Dr. C. Robert Maxfield, EdD