Date of Award

7-3-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Eric Freeman - Chair

Second Advisor

Donna Breault

Abstract

Parental input and participation on curricular decisions influence the educational process in private schools. Parental participation in the development and continual examination of the curriculum is essential to maintaining an educational environment that reflects the ideals and goals of all of the stakeholders. However, parents often have differing ideas from schools on what the curriculum should encompass. The problem facing private school leaders is how to negotiate the tensions resulting from conflicting parental expectations for the curriculum of the school. Literature is reviewed surrounding the main research question for this study: how do school leaders respond to the differences in expectations for curriculum between parents and private secondary schools? Areas of the literature reviewed include the purpose of education, the curriculum development process in schools and the role of educational leadership in the curriculum development process. The overall research design of this study is framed by a qualitative methodology that includes a multiple-site case study that aims to create a better understanding of the dynamics of parental influences on curriculum in private schools. Data from the Upper Schools of three private schools in a metropolitan area were collected over the period of one academic semester from a variety of sources, including interviews, observations and document analysis. The emerging themes were constructed around the current and past knowledge of informants within the context of the social interactions of the stakeholders in the three schools. Several significant findings resulted from this study, which provides a framework to understand how school leaders negotiate parental curriculum expectations. These findings include parental influence and expectations, the distinction between leadership with the curriculum versus the co-curriculum, and the factors influencing the negotiation of curriculum conflict. This inquiry is important because it creates a dialogue among the stakeholders who influence curriculum in private schools. The results of this study help school leaders understand the influences of parents on the curriculum of their schools and offer practical suggestions for private school leaders on how to negotiate the differences in expectations for curriculum between parents and private secondary schools.

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