California's elementary school principals' philosophies, perceptions, and practices regarding retention in relationship to the No Child Left Behind Act

Joseph Boyd Dixon


The purpose of this study was to compare the differences and similarities of the school leader's educational philosophies, perceptions, and practices, by investigating the relationships to the topic of retention, as influenced by the No Child Left Behind Act, and subsequent school ranking. The qualitative data was gleaned from extensive face-to-face interviews with three principals. The study sought to differentiate perceptions of principals based on state school performance rankings that lead in lower socio-economic schools. Lastly, the study focused on what alternatives or strategies principals would most support as replacements for retention and social promotion if given the opportunity. Principal participants of the quantitative portion of this study held perceptions on retention that were not strongly aligned with previous research. The results suggested that performance of the school had little impact on retention decisions and view of NCLB. And, in both cases of retention and NCLB, the principal's positive perception was mixed at best, with an average response hovering in the neutral range. The means of the results hinted that a larger percentage of principals from higher performing schools supported retention as a form of remediation. This study discovered that progressive minded principals reject retention as a means of remediation. This study discovered that principals had positive perceptions of alternative practices to avoid retention. Principals strongly supported early intervention, teacher training, smaller class sizes, clear objectives for students to meet standards, on-going classroom assessments that better inform teaching, universal pre-school, intense reading instruction during the school day by reading specialists, parent training, and organized after-school tutoring, as highly regarded alternatives to retention and social promotion. In particular, this study discovered that progressive minded principals support multi-age classrooms, reading specialists during the school day, and the early intervention Reading Recovery program.