Investigating Leadership in Charter Schools: An Examination of the Leadership Traits of Executive Directors in Successful Charter Schools

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Bloomfield, Brian David
Parham, Carol
This study was a qualitative exploration of educational leadership within charter schools in an attempt to identify traits demonstrated by executive directors of successful charter schools. Because much research has been conducted to identify trends in educational leadership, but comparable little within the unique context of charter schools, and because the charter school movement is growing, it is imperative that Boards, CMOs, and advocates of charter schooling understand more clearly what constitutes successful leadership within this sphere. Two research questions were created for this study, and qualitative methods were used to collect and analyze data. Data were collected through personal interviews with four charter school executive directors, document review, field observations, and follow-up interviews. The conceptual framework used to interpret the collected data was based on Leithwood and Duke's six dimensions of educational leadership: instructional, transformational, moral, participative, managerial, and contingent leadership. Data were gathered and analyzed against these six leadership dimensions. A thick description of the experiences and perspectives of the four participants was created. The data provided insight into successful charter school leadership. Some of the findings supported extant research about leadership in other educational contexts, while some indicated some unique characteristics of leadership within a charter school. Participants indicated that the largest demands in their jobs were the quantity of needs as well as the necessary practice of affecting change through systems rather than directly with students. Participants further identified a sense of personal accountability, a change management process, as well as working within all six dimensions of leadership as essential to their successes. These findings and conclusions are reported in Chapters 4 and 5. This study was an exploration of traits and behaviors exhibited by executive directors of successful charter schools. The findings indicate a gap between current understandings of educational leadership in general and that within a charter school. It is expected that this research will help to create a clearer understanding of charter school leadership and provide insight for stakeholders to move forward in locating and training future charter school leaders.