Examining the Lived Experiences of Principals Who Use Literacy as an Intentional School Improvement Effort
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Leaders of high-poverty elementary schools seeking to improve student achievement must determine which programs and supports best meet the needs of their students and provide the greatest impact on learning, instruction, and school culture This study examined the lived experiences of successful principals of high performance, high poverty schools, who used literacy development as an intentional school improvement focus while simultaneously improving other measures of school success. The inquiry sought to understand how these successful principals instilled changes to teaching, learning, and school culture while developing literate students. An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach was employed to investigate, analyze, examine, and elicit the principals’ leadership and individual experiences as they implemented structures and supports to empower their teachers and struggling learners.
The findings of the study suggest that principals, particularly those serving in underserved communities, can focus on high quality literacy instruction and be successful in the accountability system. Also, districts should consider creating professional learning groups to build the capacity of school leaders who work, or choose to work, in schools in underserved communities. Similarly, districts should consider creating a coordinated, relevant, and differentiated system of support to address the contextual needs of the students and communities served by such principals and to advance the capacity of others to lead throughout the district.
Implications of the research are discussed in this study including a call for additional study in the area of how leaders address the cultural gap that exists between staff and the students they serve in underserved communities.