Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Theresa L. Pulos


Strong leadership in any organization is critical to success. Research suggests school superintendent leadership can have positive outcomes on student learning. Until recently, the impact of school superintendents have been thought to be too indirect or complex to study. This study explores school superintendent leaders who create school-wide systems that promote student growth. This research examines the characteristics, behaviors, and actions of superintendents that lead to student growth. Using a grounded theory methodology, the author examined new and emerging ideas to promote student growth. This study utilized four steps in data collection and analysis: (a) initial coding, (b) category development, (c) axial coding, and (d) theoretical coding. The final step created a new emerging theory entitled leadership for student growth. The results of this study can be used to inform superintendent leaders about their professional practice. The scope of the research included 15 school superintendent leaders in the OCM BOCES, as well as the OHM BOCES. The superintendent sample included suburban and rural school district superintendents. The data collection process included one-on-one interviews with 15 school superintendents. The results of the research resulted in three categories and 10 themes that emerged from the data. The first category, trust, incorporated the two themes of: (a) critical conversations, and (b) distributive leadership. The second category, balanced data system, incorporated the theme of the use of multiple data points. The final category, systems thinking, incorporated three themes of: (a) strategic planning, (b) explicit professional development, and (c) stimulating a learning culture. This research resulted in the emerging theory of leadership for student growth. The recommendations include school superintendents who develop trust, a balanced data system, and think systematically will likely create conditions for each student to reach his or her full potential.

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