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The Complexity of Leading in the 21st Century: A Case Study of a Successful Charter School in an Urban School District Open Access

Abstract of Dissertation The Complexity of Leading in the 21st Century: A Case Study of a Successful Charter School in an Urban School DistrictThis case study explains the role of leadership and its relationship to student performance in a successful urban public charter school. Leadership is revealed as an iterative process, which contributed to and influenced the values, norms, and goals of actions of individuals and groups within the school. The selected site was an urban public charter school with 600 students, 41 staff, and grades K-7. A descriptive case study method was used with a variety of data collection techniques, including 14 semi-structured interviews, 5 extensive observations of meetings, multiple document analysis, and an electronic self-assessment instrument of staff leadership.The data were coded, analyzed, and revealed dynamic patterns of congruence. The patterns found in the qualitative data--organizational roles, structuring actions toward success, perspectives, and organizational development--can be viewed as first-person reports of what participants observed and experienced in their environment. The quantitative self-assessment descriptive data augmented the qualitative perceptions of how participants innately specified and affected their working environment. The qualitative and quantitative descriptive data revealed an overarching theme of leadership complexity emerging from dynamic relationships among the individuals and groups that had the most affect on student achievement. The study concluded that leadership emergence is generated by the complex interactions and relationships occurring between global and local organizational components and roles. These relational patterns of leadership emerged in an interactive, circular dynamic where meaning was shared, which lead to improvement in student performance trends and stability. Implications for education practice, leadership theory, and future research are provided.

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