Understanding the role of the assistant superintendent for curriculum in leading school improvement

Timothy George Kaltenecker, Fordham University


The job of assistant superintendent for curriculum is among the least understood positions in public school districts, and little attention has been given to this central office curriculum leader in the research literature. As accountability measures increase due to No Child Left Behind and the national standards movement, central office curriculum leaders find themselves at the center of attention. The assistant superintendent for curriculum is generally expected to implement local policy, state regulations and federal legislation, and help teachers and principals employ practices which guarantee high student achievement. Yet we know very little about the work of these central office leaders. The purpose of this research study was to explore the roles, responsibilities, relationships and leadership behaviors of assistant superintendents for curriculum as they implemented improvement efforts in their districts. A qualitative research design was conducted using in-depth interviews and document analysis of six assistant superintendents from suburban school districts outside New York City. The findings suggest that the assistant superintendent for curriculum is a significant position in leading improvement initiatives throughout the district. Their major role functions include: creating and commuting a vision for change; building the capacity of others; promoting collaboration; coordinating initiatives; and building and maintaining relationships throughout the district. Assistant superintendents must spend considerable time interacting with the environment to understand the impact of their efforts on instructional improvement and student achievement. They work within the cultural context of their districts and must be attuned to the needs within the building culture. The curriculum leaders carefully negotiate their roles with building principals; thus, they must strike a careful balance between accountability and autonomy as they collaborate with principals to implement new initiatives. The findings in this research study provide baseline data for policy makers, educational leaders and researchers to continue to explore the vast and ambiguous role of the assistant superintendent for curriculum. Recommendations for practice include recognizing the importance of the central office curriculum leader position, building collaborative relationships between assistant superintendents and principals, and creating support networks outside the district for curriculum leaders.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education Policy|School administration

Recommended Citation

Kaltenecker, Timothy George, "Understanding the role of the assistant superintendent for curriculum in leading school improvement" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3468274.