Date of Award

Summer July 2009

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Mary K. McCullough

Second Advisor

Martin T. Connell, S.J.

Third Advisor

William E. Lindsey


School district leaders use strategic planning as a tool for leading their complex education systems. They may be mandated to prepare a strategic plan or they may elect to use the strategic planning process to adapt, focus, and align their education system to improve student achievement. The challenge comes in the confusion around what constitutes an effective strategic planning model. Using models from other sectors such as business are often unsuccessful when they are modified to deal with the diversity of stakeholders, multi-discipline systems, and complexity unique to school district systems. The purpose of this study was to research the practice of using strategic planning in 269 U. S. school districts. A survey using a nine-step strategic planning model as a conceptual framework was designed to determine the use, nonuse, and prevalence of the steps. A content analysis of 78 school district strategic plan documents and the semi-structured interviews of six district superintendents provided qualitative data and narrative to the analysis. The analysis of the data from this mixed methods approach provided insights into strategic planning models in use in school districts and a perspective of their effectiveness from the point-of-view of the superintendent.