Superintendent Practices in School Districts Outperforming Demographically Similar Districts

Date of Completion

January 2011


Education, Leadership|Education, Administration




Superintendents are often not prepared, selected, or supported to encourage innovation and change so that school districts respond appropriately to environmental dynamics. This interpretive qualitative study explored selected practices of four superintendents in Connecticut whose school districts outperformed demographically similar districts. Data were obtained through (a) interviews with each of the four superintendents, (b) interviews with three direct reports to each superintendent, (c) observation of an administrative meeting in each district, and (d) review of public domain documents, articles, and reports. The analysis of these data provided external validity for Bass's (1985) framework: Each leader (a) monitored environmental trends strategically, (b) articulated and gained support for a clear vision, (c) fostered workgroup cohesiveness and commitment to a collective purpose, (d) demonstrated caring about the personal and professional growth of followers, and (e) encouraged openness to innovation. The approaches of the superintendent carrying out these practices varied to reflect the environments and contexts within which their districts operated. Implications for practice include suggestions (a) to inform the growth and effectiveness of superintendents to position Connecticut school districts for success; (b) to make teachers and parents aware of the importance of these practices, and (c) to ensure boards of education are considering these practices both in their own work and in their hiring of superintendents. ^