Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




This research study explored the critical nature of the connection between student achievement and superintendent leadership. A great deal of scholarship has addressed either student achievement or leadership and previous evidence has suggested the impact of both parental education and racioethnicity on student achievement, but few studies have investigated the relationship between the superintendent's leadership authority and the achievement of his or her students.

The central research questions of this study are:

1) To what degree does parental education predict high school student achievement in suburban Chicagoland?

2) To what degree does racioethnicity predict high school student achievement in suburban Chicagoland?

3) When comparing districts with lower-achieving high school to districts with higher-achieving high school students, and taking into account factors of parental education and racioethnicity, how do Suburban Chicagoland superintendents differ in their use of the following five sources of authority for leadership as defined by Sergiovanni: (1) Bureaucratic Authority, (2) Psychological Authority, (3) Technical-Rational Authority, (4) Professional Authority, (5) Moral Authority?

This study utilized a sequential explanatory mixed methodology. Participants included six superintendents from the 71 districts in suburban Chicago that include high schools. Three of these superintendents led districts where student achievement is exceeding projections and three led districts where student achievement is not meeting projections. Participation in the study was voluntary and included the completion of a "Letter of Cooperation," a "Letter of Consent," and a 60-minute interview with the researcher consisting of open-ended questions. The subsequent data collected from the superintendents' interviews was triangulated with community-aligned student achievement data as well as Sergiovanni's five sources of authority.

This study concluded that community-aligned student achievement data predicted 93.6% of the variance in student achievement as measured by the ACT composite score. Additionally while superintendents used all of Sergiovanni's sources of authority with different audiences, superintendents who used moral authority in decision-making that directly impacted the classroom had a positive and measureable impact on student achievement.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.