Committee Chair

Freeman, John A.

Committee Member

Petzko, Vicki N.; Hinsdale, Bernard; Johnson, Donna G.


Dept. of Education


College of Health, Education, and Professional Studies


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


School reform is a deliberate process that requires a strong commitment at all levels. The school leader plays a crucial role in establishing a vision and nurturing an environment that facilitates reform efforts. School reform efforts have witnessed a change in the role of the elementary principal from manager to instructional leader. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the role of the elementary principal in sustaining school reform, in the form of Literacy Collaborative. The study was guided by one research question: how did elementary principals sustain a comprehensive school reform effort in the form of Literacy Collaborative? The study purposively sampled three elementary school principals in a northwest Georgia school district who served as principals from the implementation of the Literacy Collaborative initiative to the time of the study, a ten-year period. The development of individual case studies utilized multiple data sources including face-to-face interviews and archival documents such as literacy team minutes, school evaluation plans, and Literacy Collaborative Fidelity of Implementation documents. The data were analyzed using a constant comparative method both within the three cases and between the cases to determine what themes emerged. The analysis revealed that the comprehensive school reform model, Literacy Collaborative, was a top-down, mandated initiative that allowed the principal and staff at these three schools to “buy-in” to the program. The data suggested that Literacy Collaborative provided a framework that allowed each participant to utilize those aspects they deemed critical in leading a school as well as allowing them to closely align the program with his/her leadership styles. The Literacy Collaborative comprehensive whole school reform model, developed by Dr. Irene C. Fountas and Dr. Gay Su Pinnell, encompassed components identified by innovative change leaders to be critical in any reform effort, specifically school leadership. Implications of the research suggested that leaders attempting to sustain whole school reform efforts must: align their leadership styles with a school reform model, employ clear communication, ensure learning occurs at all levels, engage collaborative teams in collective decision making and problem solving, allocate resources, and adapt to change.


This dissertation was the product of years of thought and hard work, and its completion would not be possible without the support of several individuals. First, to my dissertation chair, Dr. John Freeman, I offer my deepest heartfelt gratitude. Dr. Freeman’s reputation of excellence preceded him, and because of him, I entered the doctoral program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He was instrumental in the designing and writing of this study. His honest criticisms and unwavering support were instrumental in each step of the dissertation process. I also wish to thank my committee members, Dr. Hinsdale Bernard and Dr. Vicki Petzko, for their numerous readings of my work. Their feedback and support guided me in each step of the process to ensure completion. In addition, I thank Dr. Donna Johnson, not only for serving on my committee but for mentoring me from the first day we met. She has and will always be my mentor, coach, and role model. Next, I am grateful to the three participants in this study. Without each of them, this study would not have been possible. Thank you for trusting me. I am also indebted to my colleagues and friends, Mrs. Becky Keck and Ms. Julie Stokes, for their intellectual and emotional support. Their shared interest in my passions and support of my research made the completion of this dissertation possible. Words will never be enough to express how much their kind words, encouragement, and willingness to listen meant to me. To my colleagues, Dr. Lisa Goode, Dr. Alan Martineaux, and Mrs. Alice Ensley, I am grateful for their continual support and encouragement. Finally, there are no words to describe the love and gratitude that I have for my family and their willingness to assume additional roles and responsibilities in order for me to accomplish this milestone. It is with great humility that I thank my parents for their sacrifices to ensure that I had every opportunity to excel in all my endeavors. The encouragement of my brother, Thomas Bryant Smith, was ever present when I needed it the most, along with the numerous hours of formatting this dissertation. To my beloved husband, Joseph Browning, and my precious sons, Smith James and Bowman Hartwell, for their unconditional love and support.


Ed. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Education.




School improvement programs; Literacy -- Study and teaching; Educational leadership; Academic achievement -- Evaluation


comprehensive school reform; principal leadership; Literacy Collaborative; whole school reform

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




xiii, 166 leaves