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NASSP is pleased to announce the winners of its 2013 Dr. Ted Sizer Dissertation Competitions, Dr. Ken Nicely for the high school competition and Dr. Leslie Ann Newman for the middle school competition.

The winning entries exemplify NASSP's long-term commitment to supporting best middle level and high school leadership practices. This award program is intended to focus professional and scholarly attention on the complex problems facing high school and middle level leaders, and bring the national research agenda to bear on issues of concern for school leaders.

Dr. Ken Nicely, winner of the middle level competition, is the director of secondary instruction and technology for Roanoke (VA) County Public Schools. His dissertation, Middle Level Schools in an Era of Standards and Accountability: Adaptations of the Features of the Middle School Concept, explored the development and testing of an innovation configuration map for the middle school concept implemented in the context of standards and accountability.   
Dr. Leslie Ann Newman, winner of the high school competition, is an assistant principal at Topsail Middle School in Hampstead, NC. Her dissertation, Pieces of the Puzzle: Improving Turnaround High Schools, examined three low-performing “turnaround” schools in rural North Carolina and investigated the school leaders’ perceptions of what elements contributed to their schools’ reform.  

Ken Nicely, winner of the middle level competition, is the director of secondary instruction and technology for Roanoke (VA) County Public Schools. Nicely completed his doctorate at Virginia Tech under the tutelage of James Craig in March 2012.  His dissertation, Middle Level Schools in an Era of Standards and Accountability: Adaptations of the Features of the Middle School Concept, explored the development and testing of an innovation configuration map for the middle school concept implemented in the context of standards and accountability. The product of the process was the development of a diagnostic tool that may be used in future research to identify acceptable forms of implementation of the middle level philosophy of education.

“Dr. Nicely’s study comes at an opportune time as many middle level schools are struggling to find a way to maintain the middle level concept in an era of standards and accountability,” said Patti Kinney, NASSP associate director of middle level services. “His creation of a diagnostic tool to aide in the identification of critical features of the middle level concept in today’s educational context should prove valuable to both researchers and practitioners.”

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Leslie Ann Newman, winner of the high school competition, is an assistant principal at Topsail Middle School in Hampstead, NC. Newman completed her doctorate at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington under the tutelage of John Fischetti in October 2011. Her dissertation, Pieces of the Puzzle: Improving Turnaround High Schools, examined three low-performing “turnaround” schools in rural North Carolina and investigated the school leaders’ perceptions of what elements contributed to their schools’ reform. The principals mainly credited their successes to progress monitoring; high expectations; collaborative leadership; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; shared mission, vision, and goals; professional development; and leadership. 

“Dr. Newman’s research contributes to the national discussion on what it takes to turn around an underperforming school,” said John Nori, NASSP associate director of program development.  “According to her findings, what practitioners perceive as the elements of school improvement align with the recommendations of the NASSP Breaking Ranks Framework.”

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Winners receive a complimentary one-year NASSP membership, a cash award, and a commemorative plaque.