Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




appreciative inquiry, change process, critical education theory, innovation, institutionalization, standardized assessment


The accountability era of the past three decades failed to produce significant educational change, yet the standardized measures of student performance in primarily cognitive domains that epitomized that era continue to consume a disparate amount of energy and influence a disproportionate degree of decision-making in education organizations. That strategic-growth-crippling perseveration on standardized assessments is compounded by a general lack of change-process training, understanding and purposeful use in education contexts, and particularly exacerbated by the inability of education organizations to institutionalize effective innovations. The purpose of this study was to understand how a school district’s leadership team might move beyond a perseveration on parochial standardized assessments to innovate and employ a range of practical measures designed to bolster the district’s strategic improvement and embed operational innovations across the organization through a comprehensive change process. Acting from outside the district as a consultant, the researcher used critical education theory to inform a pragmatic-transformative worldview and appreciative-inquiry approach to that proposed change as well as emphasize the strengths and limits of the district leadership’s application of transformational leadership for organizational improvement. To provide an extensive example of a practical measurement tool, the Change Path Model (Cawsey, Deszca, & Ingols, 2016) is compared to the school district’s accreditation-informed change process; through that practical assessment, strengths of the district’s change process are appreciated and built upon while a lack of straightforward measures for successful institutionalization of innovations within that change process is emphasized and subsequently resolved by the description of novel organizational measures that could be used by the district’s leadership team to positively inform the district’s strategic growth. The researcher concluded that the innovation and institutionalization of a broad range of practical, context-specific improvement measures should accelerate a school district’s strategic growth. The limits of using a pragmatic, structural-functionalist approach for social-justice change are acknowledged, and the need for more research into the use of a purely transformative approach to change is considered.