Date of Conferral
Failure of high school students on the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in Nigeria is severely limiting the number of students qualified to enroll in college. The purpose of this multiple case study of 6 high schools in southern Nigeria was to describe principals' perceptions of student performance on the SSCE and the principals' influence on school climate, teacher expectations and approaches, and student performance. The theories of reasoned action and planned behavior provided the framework for the study. The research questions focused on the extent to which principals developed and sustained a school climate that supported positive outcomes. Qualitative data on principals' perceptions were gathered using semistructured interviews with 48 lead teachers and 6 principals. Data derived from textual transcripts, document reviews, and the results of a cross-case analysis were categorized and developed into themes such as student-related issues, family socio-economic status, and the education system. The results showed students' socio-economic challenges and principals' concerns about the SSCE. Effective principal leadership and positive school climate were essential to enhancing teacher expectations and approaches and were linked to improved student performance in high-performing schools. These findings and implications can inform professional development programs for principals that emphasize a holistic approach, support students' socioeconomic experiences and academic needs, and gather parents' views on best practices. The potential for social change includes improved principal leadership and contributes to higher achievement on the SSCE and increased college enrollment.