Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Leadership Practices of Successful Urban Elementary School Principals and Their Roots
by Logan, Cheryl Jackson, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2017, 237; 10265435
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study investigated how effective urban elementary school principals enact five research based practices linked to improving student outcomes (vision; creating a climate conducive to teaching and learning; distributed leadership; instructional leadership; and managing people, data, and school processes). It focuses on understanding the practices in these domains of six principals in the School District of Philadelphia whose school demonstrated at least two cycles of positive growth on the Pennsylvania State Department of Education’s value added measure of school performance. Using a 360 strategy of interviews of the principals, two teachers from each school, and the supervising assistant superintendent, the research sought to gain multiple perspectives of the enactment of the research-based practices.

This study’s findings indicate that each of these six high performing principals exhibited an intentionality of practice. They consciously sought to connect all school operations and their leadership decisions to very specific visions that were carefully communicated so that they were well known by all stakeholders in the school. Moreover, they were consistent in adopting a learning stance, and an openness to learning, in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Furthermore, the principals exhibited high degrees of self-efficacy, informed by years of preparation for their leadership role and reinforced by past success and thoughtful reflection. The principals also reported that they prepared to become leaders long before they considered becoming principals.

Unsurprisingly, the teachers that were interviewed appeared only to be aware of a small fraction of their principal’s work. More surprisingly, the principals’ supervisors were also less aware of the principals’ enactment of the research-based practices. This appeared to be due to their preoccupation with their evaluative responsibilities, which kept them from the learning stance that could enable the district to replicate these leaders’ successes more broadly.

Implications for leadership development include providing multi-year development of those aspiring to the principalship and a focus on the integration of the leadership practices rather than on stand-alone research based-practices strategies. Leadership development also needs to extend to those who are supervising principals to ensure that a learning stance optimizes the conditions for the growth and ongoing development of principals. Lastly, using a 360 model for principal feedback may need to be examined as this study illuminated the limited knowledge of the principal’s work by the people they supervise and who supervise them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Supovitz, Jonathan
Commitee: Jellig, Jerry, Jordan, Will
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education Policy
Keywords: 360, Development, Effectiveness, Leadership, Principal
Publication Number: 10265435
ISBN: 978-1-369-82983-9
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