Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study presents the stories of four urban middle school principals engaged in reform that is grounded on the core principle that every early adolescent has the capacity for high-level intellectual development. Data collected over two years through formal interviews and informal conversations with principals and teachers, school and district surveys and reports, student test data, and personal observations were analyzed from a systems thinking theoretical framework to assess each principal's ability to implement reform that produced sustainable results. A systems thinking framework articulates the importance of a leader's ability to: 1) conceptualize the whole and recognize patterns; 2) aspire a purpose for why the organization exists and describe the beliefs about how members of the organizations will interact; 3) reflect so as to surface assumptions and patterns of behavior that facilitate or block the organizations ability to achieve what they want most. The analysis makes visible that all four principals have the ability to conceptualize, aspire, and reflect. The data also suggest that the principal's clarity of purpose has a significant impact on the their ability to stay focused on moving the school in a coherent direction.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Number of Pages
Burke, Peggy H., "Sustainable Results in Urban Middle Schools: How Principals Use Systems Thinking to Lead Effective Change" (2002). Educational Studies Dissertations. 86.