Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




To be successful in the age of accountability, principals and all school leaders need to continue to build their capacity to lead meaningful, systemic and sustainable student improvement efforts that incorporate the required areas of reading and mathematics. A review of the educational literature revealed several studies that identified the limitations of America's current school accountability movement and described the narrowing of curriculum as a negative side effect of No Child Left Behind.

Educational research on leadership included a multitude of studies and leadership models for implementing change; this study focused on ideas contained within Zmuda, Kuklis and Kline's (2004) Transforming Schools. Zmuda, Kuklis and Kline defined this "buy in" as collective autonomy, in which all members of the leadership team "are active participants in the continuous improvement journey because they believe that what is being asked of them is collectively challenging, possible, and worthy of the attempt" (p. 20).

This study examined actions taken by three Chicagoland leadership teams during their improvement journey from as early as 2001 through 2011. Each school's context adjusted value-added scores were calculated. In addition, the average number of core and elective courses taken by students was analyzed. Each school's value-added scores and curricular narrowing were then compared to each leadership team's collective autonomy.

Principals took actions that increased their leadership team's collective autonomy over the decade studied. They created their vision and improvement goals in a relatively unilateral manner and then expanded participation as action steps were defined and implemented. Although it was impossible to directly attribute school actions as the causes for growth, many increases in value-added scores followed predictable patterns with respect to the school's collective autonomy changes. In addition, no relationship between collective autonomy and curricular narrowing was found. In fact, the elective classes taken by students at all three schools did not show a significant drop and schools in this study were able to improve student performance in accordance with NCLB goals without narrowing their curriculum.

Creative Commons License

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