'Framing' Equity: Using Frame Analysis to Explore Superintendents' Attempts to Implement Policies for Equity

James C Coviello, University of Texas at El Paso


As the day-to-day leaders of a school district, superintendents oversee budgetary and other district operations, help give practical meaning to federal and state policy, and set local district policy for the schools under their charge. Superintendents therefore work in a unique and important leadership space that exists between federal, state, local governments and the principals and teachers that educate students. This space is also often complex and risk-laden, with multiple constituencies and stakeholders vying for resources and striving for program changes that are often in conflict. Superintendents therefore play an important role in “framing” – or strategically communicating – policy messages to different stakeholder groups, including the elected school board, business and community leaders, parents, principals, and teachers. In this context, superintendents seem to be in a position to implement policies that might allow schools to better serve groups of historically marginalized students. This study seeks to critically analyze how five urban district superintendents utilize strategic communication to legitimize and gain support for equity-based policies in their districts. This qualitative multi-case study consists of semi-structured interviews of five large urban district superintendents, observations of school board meetings, and document collection. The results of this study contribute to a clearer view of the ways in which superintendents make decisions for (or against) equity positions and how they might legitimize their choices within a sometimes ethically ambiguous and dilemma-laden leadership environment.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration|Education

Recommended Citation

Coviello, James C, "'Framing' Equity: Using Frame Analysis to Explore Superintendents' Attempts to Implement Policies for Equity" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10928084.