Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

First Advisor

Charles Teddlie


The study was conducted as an exploratory investigation of naturally occurring school improvement, which refers to improvement in a school's effectiveness status that is achieved without external change forces. The research design for the study used mixed methodologies divided into three phases to identify and examine schools that improved longitudinally in a "natural" environment. Phase I utilized regression (ordinary least squares) methods to create a database containing all elementary schools in Louisiana, categorized by their level of change. As a result, some 20% of the schools in Louisiana were identified as having improved over a three-year period. This approximated an average change of 0.33 standard deviations on a composite measure of school effectiveness, which partially replicated the results of Gray et al. (1995) in the UK. Phase II involved the administration of a survey to principals in all improving schools and a sample of stable schools, designed to collect data on change processes within these schools over the past three years. These data were divided into six dependent variable groups, each statistically analyzed to determine if significant differences existed between schools across three independent variables; change status, SES status, and community type. Results from these analyses indicated that within each of the six dependent variable groups differences did exist, particularly regarding principal's ethnicity, percentage of teachers with at least a Master's degree, student attendance, suspension, and expulsion, as well as the principal's perception of change processes in the schools. Phase III consisted of a purposeful sampling of eight schools identified as improving in a natural environment assigned to four categories: low-SES, rural; low-SES, metropolitan; mid-SES, rural; and mid-SES, metropolitan. On-site visitations were conducted for the purpose of gathering qualitative data through observations, interviews, and document analysis. After analyzing these data, four of the schools were rejected from the study because they did not meet the specific criteria for naturally occurring school improvement. An analysis of the four remaining case studies indicated a differentiation in change processes by community type, across 11 dimensions.