Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Department name when degree awarded

Curriculum and Instruction


Patricia Moyer-Packenham


School leaders are expected to make decisions that improve student mathematics achievement. However, one difficulty for school leaders has been the limited amount of research concerning content-specific (e.g., mathematics) school leadership and its effects on student achievement. School leaders do not make decisions in isolation; rather, they make decisions as part of a complex adaptive system (CAS), as proposed by complexity theory. The purpose of this study was to explore the role the school leader plays in students’ mathematics achievement through the lens of complexity theory.

The researcher collected survey data from K-12 school leaders and conducted focus group interviews to answer the research questions. The researcher found a significant regression equation predicting the school-wide average SAGE mathematics proficiency scores based on several characteristics of the school leader and student demographics. Distinctive patterns emerged in the decisions and actions made by school leaders based on school-wide SAGE mathematics proficiency. Results suggest that the school leaders’ first role in promoting higher student mathematics achievement is to directly and indirectly facilitate a shared vision of mathematics education between stakeholders in the CAS. The school leader’s second role is to actively work to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers possible.