Invisible to visible, unheard to heard: African American principals leading high priority schools in North Carolina

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Reginald DeVan Wilkerson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Carl Lashley

Abstract: The topic of turning around a struggling or high priority school is currently a heavily contested space with involvement from federal, state, local and private entities all jockeying to influence the school turnaround agenda. While there are many voices affecting the school turnaround movement, one voice is alarmingly muted in the discussion: the voices of those charged with transforming these schools. Research shows that high priority schools are likely to be led by African Americans. This qualitative study examines the experiences, perceptions, and thoughts of four African American males who lead high priority schools in North Carolina. It investigates the type and quality of support they received from their communities and interrogates the effect leading a high priority school has upon them. Concurrently, utilizing a Critical Race Theory (CRT) conceptual framework, the school leaders' thoughts surrounding the role race plays in their being assigned to a high priority school and the role working in a turnaround school may play in their career progression (or regression) are examined. The intent of the study is to extend the research base in educational leadership relating to this marginalized group while at the same time capitalizing on the counter-narrative aspect of Critical Race Theory to give voice to this segment of educational leaders. The findings of this study illuminate the close kinship these leaders feel towards their school and their students, while also showing the depths, despair, and solitary existence leading a high priority school can elicit. Leaders of high priority schools are vulnerable to high levels of career derailment most often aligned to the negative stature of the schools they lead. As such, the leaders of these schools are in dire need of support to help them elevate their schools to higher levels of academic success. The research that emerges from this study holds the potential to help add a human element to the school turnaround puzzle by recognizing the school leader as a human and not a super principal. This understanding could help lead to policies and procedures more fully grounded in supporting educational leaders, allowing them to better serve their school and its student population.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
African American males, Critical Race Theory, Educational Leadership, School reform
African American school principals $z North Carolina $v Case studies
Educational accountability $z North Carolina $v Case studies
Educational leadership $z North Carolina $v Case studies

Email this document to