Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date



Mathematics reform efforts have been of interest to educational researchers for many years, particularly since the first Curriculum and Standards for School Mathematics over twenty years ago. Yet, despite efforts to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics for all students, many students, particularly poor and minority students, still do not have access to instructional practices that allow them opportunities to learn important mathematics. Researchers have called this a problem of scale (Cobb & Smith, 2008), and have begun to consider the important role of the principal in scaling up the reforms. This qualitative cross-case study investigated the conceptions of three principals in predominantly Hispanic-serving schools as they consider their leadership role in implementing district-adopted mathematics reform initiatives. While there have been a small number of important studies focused on principal leadership and mathematics reform, and studies on principal leadership and policy initiatives, this study is an attempt to bridge policy and practice. The research considers the combined influences of principals leadership content knowledge (Stein & Nelson, 2003), their school contexts, and district policies on their ideas about effective leadership of mathematics reforms. In addition, the research expands the construct of leadership content knowledge to consider each of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) Prime Leadership Principles of equity, teaching and learning, curriculum, and assessment. Over a period of two school years, six individual interviews were conducted with each principal. In addition, the researcher joined the principals as they conducted observations of mathematics lessons. Focus interviews, conversations with district personnel, researcher memos, and district/school documents provided further data. The data was analyzed first as individual cases to learn the conceptions of each principal. Then the data was analyzed across cases to look for common themes and insights. Findings showed that principals' ideas about leading mathematics reform in their schools were manifestations of their leadership content knowledge in mathematics, their brokering of district policies related to accountability, curriculum and supervision, and the dynamics within their individual school contexts. Because the variables that impact principals' sense-making about leading mathematics reform are so complex, none of the principals had set a clear direction for the reforms, and the necessary support for teachers to learn new curricula and new pedagogy was weak. At the end of two years, the principals continued to describe highly variable mathematics teaching in their schools.'


Mathematics--Study and teaching--Curricula--United States, Curriculum change--Social aspects--Case studies, School principals--Attitudes--Case studies, Educational leadership--Social aspects--Case studies, Educational leadership--Psychological aspects--Case studies


National Science Foundation Center for Mathematics Education of Latinos

Document Type




Degree Name

Teacher Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Advisor

Kitchen, Richard

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mitchell, Rosalita

Second Committee Member

Celedón-Pattichis, Sylvia

Third Committee Member

Trinidad-Galvin, Ruth

Fourth Committee Member

Madsen, Anne