Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

John E. Leonard

Second Advisor

Jack Levy

Third Advisor

Lisa D'Souza


Over the past thirty years, accountability measures by the state and federal governments designed to evaluate school performance have led to a growing number of schools being identified as underperforming. This dissertation examines one particular group of underperforming schools identified asturnaround schools>italic> and suggests that the core of school improvement lies within a school's ability to become a successful learning organization. This can be measured through a careful examination of school culture.

This dissertation seeks to understand the ways in which teacher leadership builds organizational learning in turnaround schools. An embedded case study approach compared two turnaround schools within one urban district through interviews with eleven teacher leaders.

Utilizing both distributed leadership and organizational learning theories, this dissertation is designed to understand teacher leaders' experiences and how they contribute to the development of turnaround schools as learning organizations and how schools support the work of teacher leaders in an effort to promote organizational capacity.

An organizational learning rubric comprised of six indicators from the work of Garvin (1993) and Crossen, Lane and White (1999), was used to investigate the cultures that existed within both schools. While both schools showed signs of approaching what would be considered a learning organization, neither school could be considered a true learning organization at the time that this research was conducted. Overall teacher leaders struggled even under the best circumstances to promote organizational learning in both schools. This rubric is a more effective tool for monitoring school turnaround as it allows schools to evaluate and assess the processes involved in turnaround, not merely the final outcomes including test scores and attendance rates that districts frequently rely upon to measure improvement.

Turnaround models that repeatedly replace teachers and/or leaders often undermine organizational learning and delay turnaround. The implications of this study for districts and school leaders is to recognize that turnaround is not a technical process that can be solved by imposing external mandates, but a cultural challenge that requires all of those within the organization to participate in the work required for sustained improvement.


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