Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Daniele Lyman-Torres, EdD

Second Supervisor

Caroline Critchlow, EdD


This qualitative descriptive research study sought to explore, describe, and explain seven educational leaders’ understanding and implementation of social-emotional learning in an Upstate New York small-city K–12 school district. The educational leadership roles included school principals and district-level school administrators, such as superintendents, directors of curriculum, directors of social-emotional learning, and human resources personnel.

Data analysis was conducted using a priori and pattern coding of interview transcripts. Three major themes emerged based on the researcher’s interpretation and data analysis: establish a positive climate and culture, create community, and use systems-level thinking.

The findings from this study suggest executive leaders at the federal, state, and local level must consider a system-level approach and alignment of social-emotional learning within all facets of educational accountability. Supplemental recommendations were made for policy makers focused on accountability for ensuring successful educational outcomes for all students. Several recommendations relate to educational leadership practices in the implementation and accountability of social-emotional learning in public schools with diverse student demographics. The recommendations are for future research, educational leadership and policy, and best practice for the effective implementation of social-emotional learning and accountability for student success.

This study expanded the body of knowledge by reinforcing the need for the fidelity of implementation of evidence-based social-emotional programs, reinforcing effective leadership practices in program implementation, and creating an alignment of systems. Furthermore, this study expanded upon the need for measurement of social-emotional learning and leadership effectiveness in social-emotional learning implementation.

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