Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Pamela Harrison


Students who have been identified as gifted have the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities in many but not all school districts across the United States. Students from disadvantaged populations who are underrepresented in gifted programs fail to advance academically at the same rate as other students. The problem addressed in this study was the lack of an official gifted program in a high ethnic minority low-income school district in Illinois. The purpose of this study was to examine how leaders of school districts with demographics similar to the district lacking a gifted program create, implement, and sustain gifted programs. Using Senge's systems thinking theory as the conceptual framework, the research questions examined the creation, implementation process, and support needed to sustain the programs. A collective instrumental multicase study design was employed. Data collection included semistructured interviews with 7 school administrators from 2 districts using predetermined interview protocols. District financial documents and strategic plans were used as a secondary data source. Within-case and cross-case analysis was used to identify common themes, including vision-supported decision-making and planning to create gifted programs, team member collaboration to implement gifted programs, and values-driven leadership structures to sustain gifted programs. A white paper based on these themes was developed containing recommendations for school districts to incorporate shared vision, strategic planning, and innovative organizational structures. These recommendations may lead to more gifted students from disadvantaged populations reaching their academic potential, creating social change for students, families, and communities.