Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

John Leonard

Second Advisor

Joseph Check

Third Advisor

Ray Shurtleff


Since 2005, the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) has contributed to school leadership training in Massachusetts and has trained over 945 superintendents, principals and school administrators with a very unique mission and leadership style (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2010) and yet very little is known about the program origins or philosophy. The current study seeks to understand NISL's origins, objectives and financial and philosophical foundations while determining the extent it is understood by educators who have been through the training. This research utilized critical theory to conduct a qualitative study through content analysis of the curriculum and interviews of NISL leadership, facilitators, participants and DESE leaders involved in its implementation. Neoliberal and privatization indicators were also developed and used to determine trends and relationship within the program. NISL is a program that was created by a small group of public school reformers from The National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE), a Washington think tank. Unlike the academies of the past, NISL is a non-collegiate, for-profit, private institution. It was developed as a means to influence public education through the benchmarked training of school leaders and was initially resourced by a combination of private and non-profit organizations. NISL's philosophical foundation derives primarily from Marc Tucker, a noted leader of the standards driven education reform movement, and NCEE. They, in turn, benchmarked the structures and strategies of military, private business and international leadership training and education systems. Participant awareness of the NISL program (history, context and agenda) is minimal. The findings reveal that there are strong elements of both privatization efforts and neoliberalism within the NISL program.

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