Date of Award

Winter 2014

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Todd A DeMitchell

Second Advisor

Virginia E Garland

Third Advisor

Bruce L Mallory


In the 18th century, utilitarian writers highlighted the importance of a sense of obligation, an understanding of others, and the ability to think critically (Daniels, Bizar, & Zemelman, 2001; Kant, 1785/2008). Additionally, scholars stressed the importance of leadership (Burns, 1978). Teacher instruction in the 19th century incorporated many of these values (Kliebard, 2004). However as the common school developed in the early 19th century there was a shift from these values toward a common curriculum meeting industrial needs (Tyack, 1974). As the 20th century ended, significant federal and state legislation further funneled school curriculum to focus on very specific instruction with a dominance of math, reading and writing (Au, 2007; Kossakoski, 2000). However, a review of current research and school practices highlighted the need to restore an education that includes 21st century competencies such as an understanding of others, critical thinking, leadership and a sense of obligation (Darling-Hammond, 2010; New England Association of Schools and Colleges, n.d.).

This study examines the role of the four specific competencies, "an understanding of others", "critical thinking", "leadership", and "a sense of obligation" in the public schools of New Hampshire. The scope of the research is limited to the perspective of New Hampshire education leaders (superintendents, principals, and school board members) and focuses on three primary questions concerning the four competency areas. First, is there a congruency between what is currently taught and what should be taught in regards to these four competencies? Second, what institutional factors might limit the instruction in these four areas? Third, how is this instruction incorporated into the existing curriculum? Additionally, the impact of school and educator characteristics on the three questions is considered in the study.

The findings from the analysis provide insights into the research question. As perceived by superintendents, principals and school board members, there is a significant lack of congruence between what "is" taught and what "should be" taught in our schools regarding these four competencies. School leaders believe we have a significant need to increase the instruction in the four competencies. In fact, educators are from twice to almost four times more likely to believe schools should be teaching a competency at a significant or mastery level, as compared to how schools are currently teaching the competency. Superintendents lead these three groups in the perception of the magnitude of disparity between what is taught and what should be taught. School leaders also identify an increased inequity for low-income students and students in underperforming schools for teaching these competencies. These schools face limitations that block the teaching of the four competencies. Research on New Hampshire education leaders' perceived difference between what is being taught and what the respondents believe should be taught regarding these four competencies may lead to change.