Term of Award

Fall 2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Barbara J. Mallory

Committee Member 1

Walter Polka

Committee Member 2

Jessie S. Strickland

Abstract

The research on smaller learning communities is extensive, and the benefits are documented, compelling, and persuasive. While the practice can become the engine for higher achievement, stakeholders must adjust to a new paradigm of school operations. In many cases, prior procedures and traditions must be abandoned to achieve academic, social, and school environmental goals. Several unknown factors exist in Georgia's high schools as administrators attempt to find programs and procedures to meet the needs of rapidly growing and diverse student populations. First, little is known about the experiences of Georgia high school principals implementing smaller learning communities, nor the forces surrounding the transitions. Second, little is known of the strategies used by administrators for dealing with the constraining forces of restructuring their organizations. The researcher conducted in-depth interviews with administrators in nine Georgia high schools. Based on Kert Levin's work with force field analysis and using Bolman and Deal's frameworks for categorizing restructuring strategies, the researcher analyzed the compelling and constraining forces as well as strategies used by administrators to overcome the constraining forces. The researcher categorized the strategies utilized by 2 administrators to overcome constraining forces into four categories of change: structural; human resources; political; and symbolic. The researcher identified seven compelling forces for Georgia high school principals implementing SLCs, including: accountability; achievement; affiliation/belonging; data-driven decision making; equity; teacher attitudes and satisfaction; and truancy and dropouts. Seven constraining forces for Georgia high school principals implementing SLCs were identified, including: cultural expectations; demands on staff; fiscal and physical constraints; implementation strategies; large numbers within smaller learning communities; laws, regulations, policies, and procedures; and rigidity, defensiveness, and low expectations. In analyzing the strategies utilized by administrators to overcome constraining forces, the researcher found that the majority of strategies fell within the human resource framework. The second largest group of responses fell within the structural framework followed by the symbolic framework and lastly the political framework. The analysis of these strategies for reframing organizations may provide a better understanding for administrators seeking to implement smaller learning communities or other forms of comprehensive high school reorganization.

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