How principals of highly impacted schools are getting it done: practices for building teacher capacity in highly impacted schools

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Chelsea Sadé Smith (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig Peck

Abstract: Highly impacted schools face challenges such as high teacher turnover, low academic performance, and high percentages of minoritized students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Principals who lead highly impacted schools must not only perform the various duties given to all school principals no matter their settings, but they must also confront additional challenges characteristic of highly impacted settings. One major responsibility of all school principals is to build the professional capacity of teachers in an effort to raise student achievement, since teachers are the most important contributing factor to student success (Darling-Hammond, 2000). So how are principals in highly impacted schools getting the job done in terms of supporting teachers, especially considering the many other challenges they combat each and every day? This basic qualitative research study serves as a contribution to existing scholarship regarding the practices and strategies that principals of highly impacted schools utilize to build teacher professional capacity. In conducting a basic qualitative research study, I was interested in (a) how people interpret their experiences, (b) how they construct their worlds, and (c) what meaning they attribute to their experiences (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). My data collection included recorded interviews and observations. I first conducted interviews with a total of 11 principals. Subsequently, I chose three of the principals to observe as a follow up to our initial interview. I also conducted final interviews with the three principals whom I observed. The type of interview questions I used for this study included grand tour, concrete example, and compare and contrast questions. After completing my data collection, I engaged in analysis by coding the transcribed interviews. This process revealed five themes that represented the most common practices and strategies that principals of highly impacted schools used to build teacher capacity. These themes included: teachers support teachers (shared leadership); teachers of highly impacted schools must know their leader cares (emotional support); walkthroughs help principals determine the levels of instructional support needed; instructional supports vary in form (instructional support); and, environmental supports help teachers thrive in a highly impacted setting. To demonstrate how these themes played out in principal practice, in my findings chapter I also provide detailed descriptions of what I witnessed during my observations of three of the principals. One implication of my study is that teachers serving in highly impacted schools require not just instructional support but also emotional and environmental support in hopes of experiencing success (Kraft et al., 2015). Instructional leadership, in other words, is not the only type of leadership that principals in highly impacted schools must practice. In my research study, in fact, emotional support was the type of support that principals used most often. Another implication of this study is that principals serving in highly impacted schools must be vigilant in determining the specific needs of teachers in order to purposefully serve teachers and grow them professionally.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Capacity, Highly Impacted, Principals
School principals
Teacher-principal relationships
Professional learning communities
Teachers $x In-service training
Low-performing schools
Educational leadership

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