Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Cynthia P. Smith, Ed.D.

Second Supervisor

Loretta G. Quigley, Ed.D.


Educational disparities exist in the United States, specifically related to race, socioeconomic status, special education, and English language learners (Milner, 2013). Research shows that school leaders who clearly articulate the vision, the mission, and goals that evolve from personal beliefs based upon perceptions, expectations, and practices lead high achieving urban schools to achieve equitable education for all students. This qualitative phenomenological study, utilizing interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology, was designed to gain insights as to how high achieving urban school leaders’ beliefs might be influenced by their lived experiences and how these beliefs are reflected in their leadership practices to model social justice initiatives. This study employed Mezirow’s transformative learning theory for adult learners and Shields’s transformative leadership theory in education. The semi-structured interviews of six school leaders with 129 combined years of experience in urban education were analyzed and the findings revealed two major concepts: meaning perspectives and deep equitable change. Four superordinate themes emerged, including perspectives transformation, school environment, distributive leadership and moral courage. The four subordinate themes discovered included leadership playbook, starting ground up, bottom-up leader, and know better, do better. The implications and recommendations for further studies are discussed.

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