A case study of leadership in systemic education reform: The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence

Mary Alicia Parra, University of Texas at El Paso


This qualitative case study research focuses on the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a systemic reform organization launched formally in 1992 by education, business and civic leaders from the El Paso community. The case study of leadership takes a historical perspective, telling the story of what the Collaborative is, why it came to be and how its leaders affected local reform efforts. The purpose of the study is to trace the El Paso Collaborative's history and evolution as a way of learning about and understanding this local education reform effort, the factors which motivated its early development, as well as the goals and principles of the leaders who came together to establish this organization. It examines the roles of key leaders and how their perspectives on broad education reform issues shaped the early development and work to date of the El Paso Collaborative. The history and evolution of the Collaborative was depicted in four stages: (1) Laying the Foundation for Systemic Reform, (2) Creating a Unity of Purpose and a Common Discourse, (3) Deepening School Organizational Capacity and Sustaining Systemic Reform, (4) Broadening Responsibility and Accountability for K–16 Renewal. Six areas were identified as having been influenced and improved by the reform efforts of the Collaborative. They were as follows: significant improvements in student achievement, changes in the culture of schools, enhanced school organizational capacity for reform; renewed district focus and expectations for all students achieving at high levels, creation of an infrastructure for building civic capacity, and contributions to the national story of educational change and improvement. Among the ten lessons learned was the fact that in systemic reform, high academic achievement is expected of all students, and toward that end, improvement of teaching and learning must be at the heart of the reform agenda. In summary, the Collaborative created an infrastructure for collaboration and partnerships, challenged traditional cultural mores, and raised expectations for what all students should learn and be able to do. It served as a constant source of stability for schools and districts during chaotic and troublesome changes in leadership.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Parra, Mary Alicia, "A case study of leadership in systemic education reform: The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence" (2002). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3049701.