Date of Award


Access Restriction

Campus Access only Dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Shane P. Martin

Second Advisor

Franca Dell'Olio

Third Advisor

Refugio Rodriquez


After a century of reform efforts, urban school districts have not demonstrated political, managerial, or technical skills for systemic and sustainable organizational transformation. This study proposes that this cycle of reform failure generates from a theoretical misunderstanding of education organizations as mechanical systems, where failure points can be identified and replaced with corrective action in a controlled environment. This study begins with the theoretical understanding of educational organizations as complex adaptive systems with broad and deep internal and external connections that may or may not be readily visible. This requires a reform approach that anticipates and takes advantage of the flexibility and agile responsiveness seen in sustainable complex systems across many diverse disciplines (neuroscience, biology, ecology, technology, social sciences). This study examines historical and current reform efforts within the current context of legal, legislative and policy environment of a typical urban district (Los Angeles Unified School District.), and proposes an alternative program design for district transformation based on complexity theory.