Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kathryn G. Swetnam


American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest rates of poverty and unemployment and the lowest rates of graduation in the United States. Leadership and classroom instruction influence academic achievement. Little is known about leadership methods for turnaround efforts in American Indian schools. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to explore administrators’ and teachers’ perceptions of transformational leadership in 2 American Indian reservation turnaround schools in the Northern Great Plains. Burns’ transformational leadership theory guided this study. Two K-8 administrators and 6 K-8 teachers, who were state certified and served at least 1 year at their school site, volunteered to participate in this study. Data from semistructured interviews were analyzed using Yin’s 5-cycle recursive analysis with open and pattern coding strategies. Participants perceived that school leaders should build relationships that feature students’ academic and social-emotional progress, support teachers to foster a culture of learning for staff and students, build a collegial team to include the school community’s cultural values in the school’s mission, and support collaborative communication among educators to work toward a common goal are necessary to improve academic achievement. It is recommended that tribal leaders, who influence school decisions, are presented with these results. This endeavor could contribute to positive social change when school administrators adopt transformational leadership strategies and approaches that incorporate cultural values to improve classroom instruction and student learning and increase higher graduation rates.