Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Peal


This study was a multiple case study to explore the phenomenon of the charter school executive director and the characteristics needed for success. The executive director characteristics directly affect the success or failure of a charter school (Berman, 2008). A variety of studies have researched the skill sets needed for successful leadership in several types of organizations; these skill sets overlap, and the research has revealed how these skills were interconnected. The evaluation of all these leadership skills helped define the skill set needed for successful charter school leaders and can be used by many stakeholders to improve upon current leadership, prepare new leaders, or help during the hiring process by charter school boards of directors.

Three research questions were used to guide this investigation with data being collected and analyzed using a qualitative approach. The researcher used interviews with four charter school executive directors as the primary source of data collection; other sources of data collection included site visits and document reviews. Data were analyzed and filtered through the conceptual framework of Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins’s (2008) four core practices of successful leaders. The executive director practices included building vision and setting directions, understanding and developing people, developing organizations, and managing the teaching and learning program.

The researcher identified findings that helped illuminate characteristics of successful executive directors. The successful executive directors revealed that they developed their organizations by creating structures to help them solve problems for the long term. They also spent time developing people through staff development and removing barriers to improve teacher success. These successful executive directors also created networks with other charter school leaders so they could collaborate with others outside of their particular schools. The participants also noted differences between charter school leadership and traditional school leadership. These successful directors who had all previously been traditional school leaders noted that as charter school leaders, they faced challenges with funding and finding resources they had not faced as traditional school leaders. For details on these results see Chapters 4 and 5.

This project was a qualitative study of four successful charter school executive directors. The findings indicated the importance of using the four core leadership practices identified by Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins (2008) for charter school executive directors to be successful. The purpose of this research is to help illuminate what new and existing executive directors can do to improve their practices.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License