Date of Award

Spring 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara H Krysiak


Perhaps the most dominant feature marking today's educational landscape is the presence and growth of "reform efforts" occurring in schools everywhere. Educational institutions across the U.S. struggle to reform and improve the teaching and learning that occurs within their walls. The public demands higher standards, has greater expectations, and demands academic excellence. State testing has pointed out strengths and weaknesses present in our schools and in some cases, prompted state governments to intervene in an attempt to "rescue" schools that are not demonstrating adequate progress.

Over the past fifty years, school administrators and educational researchers have been captivated by the question of what makes a great school. Describing the profile of an outstanding school is not as easy as one might think. While there are some common traits that all great schools seem to share, perhaps one of the most widely agreed upon is the role of leadership in the school. The purpose of this study was to understand the dynamic relationship between three outstanding New Hampshire elementary schools' success and how leadership was manifested and experienced by parents and staff associated with these schools.

In order to understand how leadership was manifested in these outstanding schools, the researcher conducted a qualitative study in order to answer the following research question: How is leadership given shape and substance in these schools and how is it experienced by those working within these schools? .

Three outstanding New Hampshire elementary schools were chosen using three different criteria including a school with an excellent word-of-mouth reputation, a National Blue Ribbon recipient, and a top scoring school as measured by the New Hampshire State Testing Program (NHEIAP). Participant observation conducted in these schools along with stakeholder interviews provided primary data sources. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and coded in order to discover themes and evolving concepts.

This knowledge contributes to the efforts of others as they seek to improve their own schools from within. There are lessons that can be learned from those schools who are realizing high degrees of success---schools that are flying high and achieving great things.