Date of Award

12-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Department

Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Louie Rodriguez

Abstract

Public education in America today is a product of more than a century of reform. Innovators of each era have attempted to transform the education system to match their ideals and beliefs. Educational reform efforts to improve learning for all students have been an issue of debate since the founding of America – seeking for equality and quality of education. The most recent educational initiative an emphasis on accountability via high-stakes tests, many schools are now branded as “failing” and requiring program improvement. As such, leaders search for reform models that will save their school from further sanctions.

Of the plethora of scientifically-based reform models available to schools, one urban elementary school in southern California chose to adopt and implement the Core Knowledge Sequence to bring new life to their school. This study explores elements of school culture necessary for a school reform effort to thrive. Research has indicated that teachers who work in a supportive culture are committed, collaborative, and are able to participate in significant decision-making maintain their motivation and satisfaction in teaching – which is at the core of successful school reform (Huberman, 1993; Helsby & McCulloch, 1996).

This case study explores the experiences of teachers at one elementary school as they initiate a reform effort using the Core Knowledge program. Core Knowledge is based on the premise that a grade-by-grade core of common learning is necessary to ensure a sound and fair elementary education. It is not a curriculum per say, but rather the specific content taught. This study examines faculty members’ perspectives on their school’s culture as they begin the implementation process of this program.

In addition to learning about how each participant defines, describes, and experiences the school culture, efforts were made to determine how and in what ways certain strategies were utilized to change, maintain, or contribute to the development of the current school culture—through the lens of how teacher commitment, collaboration, and shared leadership influenced its reform efforts. Further, the impact of external stressors on school culture was explored with a focus on the challenges to maintain a positive work and learning environment. The data in this study provides insight that can help other schools undergoing a similar reform effort.