Date of Award

Fall 12-27-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Daniel Gutmore, PhD

Committee Member

David B. Reid, PhD

Committee Member

Peter Gorman, EdD


academic optimism, enabling school structure, student achievement, pandemic, socioeconomic status


This study investigated the relationships between student achievement and the school characteristics of academic optimism and enabling structures. Perceptual data were collected from a sample of 496 faculty members across 67 schools in 25 districts in northern NJ. These data were then merged with demographic and student achievement data from the New Jersey Department of Education for analysis through descriptive and inferential statistics. The study was modeled after prior studies outside of New Jersey and before the onset of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

The study found that enabling structures were well correlated with school academic optimism and that optimism, in turn, was positively associated with math achievement. The study also found that socioeconomic conditions of students have a strong and negative impact on student achievement in both math and English language arts. Socioeconomic status also had a negative impact on optimism levels but did not impact a school’s enabling structures.

These findings paint a picture of education in the post-pandemic period where socioeconomic factors may play a stronger role. However, school academic optimism continues to offer the ability to offset socioeconomic forces. Further, enabling structures, which are directly within the control of school leaders, offer a way to influence achievement independent of socioeconomic status.