Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Andrew Alexson


Evidence suggests that principals' practices influence student achievement. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the beliefs elementary school principals in the mid-Atlantic United States had about which leadership practices have been instrumental in reducing the achievement gap between economically-disadvantaged students and all other students at their schools. The leadership model that Kouzes and Posner developed, which identified 5 practices of exemplary leaders, served as the conceptual framework for this study. Eleven principals who were leaders at schools where the achievement gap in reading had been reduced compared with the state average were interviewed. A combination of a priori and open coding was used to support thematic analysis. Six leadership practices, aligned with transformational and instructional leadership practices, were identified as influencing student achievement positively. The participants indicated the importance of leading by example and developing positive relationships with all stakeholders and communicating and inspiring all stakeholders with their vision for their schools, believed in shared decision making and developing teacher leaders, and understood the value of risk-taking and innovation along with a strong instructional focus. The results of this study add to the research supporting the influence that principals have on student achievement by identifying practices principals could implement at their schools to increase student achievement. It is recommended that school division personnel and principal preparation program personnel use these results to inform their training programs and school improvement initiatives. Positive social change may occur when principals implement these 6 practices at their own schools, thereby increasing the reading achievement of economically-disadvantaged students.