Michael Lee

Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Williams, Barbara


Educational change--New Jersey; Teacher-principal relationships


Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration


Improving instruction to meet diverse student needs via early, intensive, and continuing intervention is an essential part of a comprehensive strategy to serve all students now and to produce the graduates 21st century society requires. Yet, meaningful school reform with transforming leadership, innovative vision, conversations among teachers, and authentic student achievement still remains elusive today. Our limitations in putting new ideas into practice come not from a lack of will or effort, but, in part, from the influences of our personal stories, mental models, and an immunity to change. This action research study explores educators' perceptions and behaviors in implementing an intervention and referral services (I&RS) process, within a school district that traditionally relies on a top-down, political, and status-quo dynamic that obstructs cooperative learning opportunities. The bearing on special education is profound, with a high proportion of struggling students referred for services before any remedial or differentiated instruction is offered. The erstwhile pre-referral process is viewed as a formality, a precursor to a referral to the child study team and ultimately toward classification. During three action plan cycles implemented across 11 schools, I discover that my transformational leadership is derived from servant, democratic, and social justice leadership styles. Moreover, the implementation of an I&RS system makes movement toward organizational change and meaningful improvements with teacher empowerment, classroom-based instruction, and student achievement.