Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Political Science


A quality education is essential in determining the success of future generations. All too often K-12 school systems fail to meet the expectations of success held by students, parents, and the community. On the other hand, there are school systems that surpass expectations of success held by stake holders of the school system. Exemplifying this phenomenon is the case of Atlanta Public Schools, who were placed on probation by the accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the case of Gwinnett County Public Schools, who were awarded the 2010 Broad Award for minority student achievement (Torres 2011) (The Broad Prize 2011). These opposing cases call into question the essential problem of this analysis: Why do some school systems fail while others succeed?

This case study serves two purposes. First, the study argues that the reason some school systems fail while others succeed is due to the leadership dimensions focused on by the school board, which is the ultimate leadership of the school system. Secondly, through a literature review, leadership dimensions are identified and organized into a benchmarking tool that can be used to gauge the effectiveness of a school board.

Using the identified leadership dimensions as a guide, the analysis concludes with a look into both the Gwinnett County Board of Education and the Atlanta Board of Education. The aim is to gauge the school boards against the leadership dimensions of the benchmarking tool to determine if these leadership dimensions are truly present in a successful school system and absent in a seemingly failing school system.