Examining the influence of principal leadership in urban, high-performing, high-poverty elementary schools



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This study considered the important role that principal leadership plays in the implementation of changes that are designed to close achievement gaps among student groups. A qualitative research approach and protocol was followed, and a multiple case study methodological approach was utilized. The data gathered consisted of interviews of three principals, three instructional coordinators, and three teacher leaders. A review of documents, artifacts, observations, field notes, and member check data were used to triangulate data. The data analysis applied the McRel Balanced Leadership conceptual framework and used three research questions to organize and guide the discussion and findings. These research questions are: (1) How did the principal implement research-based leadership responsibilities that led to the pursuit of high academic achievement for all students? (2) How did the principals implement a school-wide improvement framework that has resulted in sustained academic achievement growth for all students? (3) How did the principal implement the identified strategies that ensured high academic achievement among all student populations? Over the course of five months, data were gathered through individual interviews, observations, analysis of documents, and other artifacts. Several themes emerged as a result of data analysis. These included: (a) communicated ideals and beliefs, (b) challenged status quo, (c) culture of collaboration, (d) focus on learning, (e) data driven, (f) research based learning, (g) and curriculum alignment. The findings in the study suggest that the principals were instrumental in creating the conditions that helped the teachers build upon their collective capacity to support student success.