Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Donna Graham


Educational policy researchers have concluded that if U.S. schools transition from the traditional model of grading and reporting to a uniform standards-based grading and reporting model, students would benefit academically. However, very few middle and high schools in the United States have made the transition to standards-based grading. This qualitative research study was designed address the role of leadership in change by identifying a set of best leadership practices to guide school principals in leading such a transition. The conceptual framework was Kotter's change model. A national sample of 7 middle and 5 high school principals from 8 states who had previously led their schools in the transition to standards-based grading elected to serve as study participants. This panel completed an open-ended questionnaire designed to identify perceived best leadership practices school leaders should consider as they plan to lead such a change. Using the Delphi technique to determine consensus, a set of 78 best leadership actions were identified. Then, these actions were rated by the same panel, resulting in a set of 8 best leadership change practices consistent with Kotter's framework. Practices included establishing and communicating a sense of urgency, developing a change vision and stakeholder buy-in, building coalitions and broad-based actions, generating short term wins and continuing processes, and incorporating change into school culture. This consensus set of leadership practices might affect positive social change by assisting school principals in planning and leading grading change initiatives in schools to enhance students' learning and improve systems of communicating student academic progress using uniform and consistent standards.