Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

William Black, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Leonard Burrello, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Judith Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Liliana Rodriguez-Campos, Ph.D.


Policy implementation, school leadership, system learning


There are gaps in the literature between implementation research and organizational learning describing how local school systems successfully implement initiatives that change practices within school sites. Until recently, there has been a pattern for federal and state policies to overlook the role of the local school district in impacting school reform efforts (Honig & Copland, 2008; Knapp, 2008). With the importance of the school district gaining attention from researchers and policy makers, research on various aspects of district based reform efforts is expanding (Knapp, 2008). However, there is limited research on the influence of district reform strategies and the transfer of organizational learning through school leaders to the school site.

The purpose of this study was to discover the ways in which principals and their instructional leadership teams identified as successful in implementing a district initiative have come to understand, interpret and mediate the purpose, resources, and knowledge of the MTSS initiative. This study investigated transfer of knowledge as it relates to organizational learning, sociocultural learning, and policy implementation. This inquiry researched a district’s MTSS initiative implementation process to better understand the topics of learning school leaders require as well as the types of supports that have been provided. This study was designed as a multiple case study that explores ways in which principals and their instructional leadership teams identified as successful by district leadership lead the implementation of a district-based initiative over the course of two years. The frameworks guiding this investigation were an integrated conception of organizational learning and sociocultural learning theories, a synthesis of effective district reform concepts, and implementation science competencies. Data from semi- structured interviews, document reviews, memoing journal, and researcher reflexive journal were utilized to analyze the findings within and across cases. There were several areas of commonalities across schools with some unique instances within schools that are discussed within the frame of the research questions. In addition, there were 4 major concepts that emerged which can be considered for a new heuristic model: ethic of care, attention to the nature of relationships in schools, purposeful development of joint work in a community of practice, and building and sustaining trust. Through the discoveries of this study, implications for further research may entail considerations for a new heuristic model that could encompass the complexity of policy implementation through an inclusive perspective that acknowledges the humanistic dimension to educational policy practice and research.