Portrait of Change: A Struggling Urban High School in Transition toward Improvement

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Gayle Mindes

Second Advisor

Joan M. Lakebrink

Third Advisor

Ronald E. Chennault


Effective instructional leadership is a critical element in the equation for increasing student achievement. But it is only the first of many steps on a road to improvement. Turning around low-performing high schools requires tough choices and a focus on key strategies that will improve teaching and learning. While states and districts are responsible for allocation attention and resources to low performing schools, the hard work of improvement rests on teachers and administrators.

The achievement gap in low performing schools is manifested in low scores on state assessment tests, low graduation rates, increased dropout rates and poor attendance. Many of the problems that plague urban schools stem from poverty, unemployment, crime and human despair that pervade the neighborhood that surrounds the school.

This case study reports on an aggressive reform approach that sought to develop collaborative leadership in an urban neighborhood high school during the period of August 2000 through August 2001.

Through a mixed methods investigation the case study examines the reform solutions and the challenges to improve academic achievement for students. It will also look at how the Chicago Public Schools used the intervention model as a process to facilitate collaborative leadership in a school where there had been instability and a history of low academic failure.


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