Closing the achievement gap : a case study examining the role of the superintendent executive team in improving African American and Hispanic student performance in a Texas school district



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The challenge of district-wide reform to accelerate the reduction of achievement gaps is a point of emphasis in the American public school system. Today’s superintendents are expected to focus on enhancing district-wide instruction at both national and state levels, in order to close achievement gaps, particularly for African American and Hispanic students. Superintendent success in creating and sustaining effective instructional frameworks has been the subject of few studies since high stakes testing was introduced in the 1990s. Similarly, research has also focused on district efforts to close achievement gaps (O’Doherty, 2007) and others have examined the role of the superintendent in reducing achievement gaps (Harris, 2014) illustrate the challenges of district-wide reform and introduction of systems, strategies, and tactics these teams use to further narrow achievement disparities with African American and Hispanic students. However, those studies primarily focused on the role and responsibilities of the superintendent’s instructional team and the superintendent’s successful efforts in reducing achievement gaps with diverse youth. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the specific role of the superintendent and this leader’s instructional leadership systems, strategies, and tactics, which might have contributed to the reducing of achievement gaps with African American and Hispanic students. Findings of the study suggest that the superintendent plays a critical role as instructional leader, along with the district leadership team. Findings indicate that the superintendent creates a program evaluation and a student centered belief system, in addition to strategically build relationships and plan and set goals. Finally, the study suggests that the superintendent employs specific tactics such as being visible and accessible, building trust, sharing accountability, and sustaining a culture of high expectations with the intent of ensuring academic success for all students.