Allwarden, Ann, Phillip John Potenziano, Sujan Talukdar White, and Karen J. Zaleski. “Opportunity to Learn”. EdD, Boston College, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3787.
This dissertation examines how district- and school-level leaders' understanding of achievement gaps influences the work of leadership in addressing educational inequities and broadening students' opportunity to learn. While the reporting of disaggregated data by student subgroup confirms that achievement gaps exist, reports from high-stakes testing fail to provide district- and school-level leaders with the diagnostic data needed to identify key factors inhibiting student performance. Yet, identifying and understanding factors hindering student performance is critical knowledge for leaders to cultivate as they work to address elements within their school or district that may need to change if student learning is to improve. Results from this single case study in a diverse urban district illuminate how district- and school-level leaders can challenge and support their community as they work collectively to confront and address issues related to disparities in student performance. Drawing on previous research, which introduced the cognitive shift as a unit of analysis for studying the work of leadership, this study identifies shifts in thinking that district- and school-level leaders attempted to prompt in others, as well as the framing strategies district- and school-level leaders used in their attempts to prompt identified shifts in thinking. The study found that district- and school-level leaders attempted to prompt a common set of cognitive shifts using a range of framing strategies. Furthermore, the study found a correlation between leaders' use of a particular of framing strategy and their level of leadership (i.e., district or school), with common patterns of strategy use unique to each level of leadership. Additionally, distinct patterns of strategy use also emerged for the leaders of the district's top performing schools which differed from the patterns of strategy use that emerged for the leaders of the district's lower performing schools. These findings suggest that certain framing strategies may be more effective than others.