Curriculum Leadership in a Conservative Era

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose is to examine how recent conservative cultural political shifts have affected the meanings of curriculum leadership in schools. The author examines four principals in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act and other related policies and trends. Design: This is a critical ethnographic study of principals' curriculum leadership in four northeastern U.S. elementary schools. All four principals were highly aware of the politics surrounding curriculum decision making, pedagogy, and assessments. The researcher conducted monthly observations and interviews with the four principals, teachers, parents, and students from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2006. Furthermore, interviews were conducted with the superintendent and community members who were involved in curriculum issues. Findings: Drawing on a theoretical framework at the intersection of educational leadership, curriculum theory, and cultural politics, the data revealed two categories of curriculum leadership in a conservative era-namely, new professional curriculum leadership and critical curriculum leadership. These curriculum leadership categories emerged over time and were constructed in relation to "other" curriculum leaders and broader cultural political shifts. Implications and Significance: There is growing interest in curriculum leadership among educational administration and curriculum scholars as well as practitioners. Although instructional or curriculum leadership has been studied extensively in educational administration, these studies do not explicitly consider curriculum theory or the role of politics. In curriculum studies, leadership has received little attention. Findings from this study suggest the need for a new field of curriculum leadership at the intersection of educational administration and curriculum studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-346
Number of pages43
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • critical curriculum theory
  • curriculum leadership
  • ethnography
  • neoconservativism
  • neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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