Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version



Habrock, B. (2015). A case study: Exploring the experiences of administrators and teacher leaders in a midwestern turnaround school. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska).


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty Committee of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Jody Isernhagen. Lincoln, Nebraska: March 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Bary Habrock.


Economic conditions too often create disadvantages for students and their achievement in schools (Reeves, 2004). Educators must better understand high poverty and high minority schools that overcome the odds to improve student achievement. Researchers have studied turnaround schools that improve student achievement in chronically low-performing schools in a relatively short time period (Herman, Dawson, Dee, Greene, Maynard, Redding, & Darwin, 2008). Still there is inadequate national research on the actual experiences of principals and teachers in these schools as told through their perspectives.

This study identified themes from participant interviews to add to the research currently available in this area. Teaching and school leadership are key factors that make a positive difference in the achievement of students from high poverty schools (Reeves, 2009). Persistent low achieving schools are widespread across our country and the solutions are deeply unique to each school given the multiple circumstantial variables. At the core, this study explored the experiences and processes that school leaders used to systematically overcome the challenges of high poverty and high minority students to perform at a high level, while allowing the voices of the principal and teachers to be heard regarding the difficult work of school turnarounds.

The study involved collecting qualitative data through in-depth, open-ended interviews with five teachers, the principal, a district administrator, a State Department of Education official and a private educational consultant at the selected school. The participants in this case study were asked to share their personal experiences and insights to help develop an understanding of the phenomenon of improving performance in a turnaround school from a tactical and experiential perspective.

The educators in this school overcame chronic low achievement, often associated with high poverty and high minority student populations, to become a high performing school. Eight themes emerged as follows: (a) Low Morale, (b) Principal Leadership, (c) Community and Family Specialist, (d) Collaboration, (e) District Support, (f) Literacy Priority, (g) Interventions and Expectations, and (h) Standards and Assessments.

Adviser: Jody Isernhagen