Dr. Lynn Lysko ’12 developed a model to help school districts effectively implement policy changes.

Dr. Lynn Lysko.
Dr. Lynn Lysko

September 2013—Dr. Lynn Lysko ’12, who received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), was awarded Walden University’s Frank Dilley Award for Outstanding Doctoral Study for her research, An Analysis of Governance Policies and Practices in One School District Regarding English Learners.

In essence, her research was a policy analysis designed to create a ripple of change in a school district. Dr. Lysko knew that secondary English-learning students in a large, urban high school district were not achieving at the same rates as other identified subgroups on standardized tests. She wanted to explore what could be done to change this—and increase students’ overall learning.

Dr. Lysko’s qualitative study examined the district’s practices for this subset of students, analyzing the data to determine if policies resulted in student success or failure. Ultimately, what she found was a guideline that can be followed for any policy, no matter the subject.

For a policy to be effective, it should follow a distinct path. First, it must go into writing at the board level. “Put what you want to happen into writing so if someone is new or questioning things, it’s available for their review,” and, she adds, “it’s research based.”

Next, when district leaders make policy changes, communicate those changes across all levels, from the board all the way down to principals and teachers. “When you make changes, it’s important that everyone knows what the change is and how to implement it,” Dr. Lysko explains.

The final, and perhaps most important, step is to complete the circle by following up with professional development across the district. “Professional development guarantees everyone knows what you want and how to do it,” she says. “Coaching ensures everyone is successful.”

Dr. Lysko, who is currently the assistant superintendent of education services in Atwater, Calif., has stopped at nearly every step of the education career ladder, working first as a teacher in Ontario, Can., and later as an educational consultant, a principal at Grace M. Davis High School in Modesto, Calif., and a curriculum director for Modesto City Schools. Her next goal, she says, is to become superintendent.

Success Through Steadfast Support
Her research would not have been possible without the support she found at Walden, Dr. Lysko says. Her doctoral study committee consisted of Dr. Pamela Harrison (chair), who received the Rita Turner Award, Dr. Elizabeth Warren, and Dr. Carole Pearce.

Dr. Lysko found a true collaborator in Dr. Harrison. Not only did she accept frequent phone calls, Dr. Harrison also offered support at every step of the doctoral study. “I was sailing uncharted waters,” Dr. Lysko says. “You have to find a chair who will support you and who matches your thinking.”

Ultimately, all of the work that went into her coursework and doctoral study was worth it, Dr. Lysko says. “My eyes are open to a bigger world. Everybody in the country is studying the same problems and every state has a different answer. It made me a better thinker to see what people in Atlanta, Alaska, and New York were writing about. I loved having a classroom of people across the country, and I really appreciated hearing different perspectives. It made me a better thinker.”

About the Award
The Frank Dilley Award for Outstanding Doctoral Study is bestowed annually upon a Walden graduate whose dissertation or doctoral study is judged as meeting the highest standards of academic excellence. It honors Dr. Frank Dilley’s singular academic contributions to higher education and, specifically, his dedication to Walden’s academic programs. An active contributor to the university programs and, in particular, to residencies, Dr. Dilley personifies Walden’s innovative spirit.

Read more about the Frank Dilley Award and past recipients.