Principal Descriptions of a Good School and the Culture of a Good School



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The purpose of this study is to report the voices of practicing principals about good schools and their descriptions regarding the culture of good schools. The study is significant because the current emphasis in education regarding the assessment based accountability has made it a priority for administrators to increase student achievement and the quality of schools for all students. Good schools with a healthy culture and climate increase student achievement, attract and maintain quality teachers, promote parental and community involvement, and are student-centered. Since leadership is critical and instrumental to school reform and is second only to school-related factors in its impact on student learning, educational leaders must understand the importance they play in impacting positive climates and achievement-oriented cultures. School leaders play a critical role in what they pay attention to and value as they foster the culture of a good school. For this study, 311 practicing campus principals from a large, Gulf Coast metropolitan area were interviewed. The survey utilized cognitive interviews and the items measured the principals’ perceptions regarding the importance of good schools as well as their descriptions of the culture of good schools. The results from both research questions identified six categories that principals indicated were the characteristics of good schools and their cultures. These categories are as follows: (1) Academic Focus, (2) Student-Centered, (3) Professional Development, (4) Parent and Community Involvement, (5) Positive Climate, and (6) Strong Leadership. Academic Focus was the top rated category identified by principals as a characteristic of a good school and the culture of a good school. A difference in response rates was found between all six categories and gender, years of experience as a campus principal, and by campus level. Female campus principals, principals with 0-5 years of experience, and elementary campus principals consistently identified the six categories as a characteristic of a good school and the culture of a good school more frequently than their colleagues.