Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Robert E. Millward, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

David M. Piper, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Joseph F. Marcoline, D.Ed.


It was the intent of this qualitative multiple-case study to pinpoint the reasons for school success in the contemporary age of school accountability measured through the advancement of student achievement test scores. After reviewing the literature related to systemic change, successful organizations, and effective leadership a conceptual framework that was developed by Senge (2012) emerged. This framework defines the following five elements necessary for successful systemic change: (1) shared vision, (2) systems thinking, (3) team learning, (4) mental models, and (5) personal mastery (Senge, 2012). This conceptual framework was used to analyze the responses and examples given by the research subjects during two individual interview sessions with the building principal and two focus group interviews with teachers.

The study supports that the systemic change that ultimately led to increased test scores at two of the three schools were was successful due to the presence of shared vision, systems thinking, team learning, mental models, and personal mastery. The participants relied on these components of successful systemic change to accomplish their ultimate goal of school improvement demonstrated by increasing test scores. Building principals and teachers who emerged as leaders at the classroom level displayed an awareness for the importance of the five core components of systemic success. The building principals from both high performing schools were credited by teachers for the creation of a shared vision, and guiding teachers from the level of systems problem solving through the personal mastery of instructional effectiveness. The participants relied on the core components of systemic change to build school community and nurture leadership throughout numerous levels of the organization.

Recommendations for future studies include examining the influence of systemic change elements on school performance indicators like graduation rates and attendance. Can the elements of systemic change reduce disciplinary incidents in a school setting? Are systemic change elements valued differently based upon the position or experience level of the administrator or teacher? Does systemic change theory influence policy and hiring practices? Are schools better at developing resiliency and versatility throughout the organization as a result of the five systemic change elements?