Closing the Achievement Gap: A Model For Successful Principal Leadership In Impoverished Schools

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Ronald A. Styron, Jr.

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


The purpose of this study was to determine the differences in practices and styles of principals working in level one and level five schools in the state of Mississippi. All schools included in this study had a high minority student population that lived in impoverished situations. This was a grounded theory qualitative study. The systematic design was used and the themes were identified through open, axial, and selective coding. Constant comparative analysis was used to ensure the validity of results. The following themes were identified for the level one participants in this study. Principals sought staff buy-in to school goals. They spent a significant amount of time attempting to improve parental involvement in their schools. They focused on effective institutional management, and they focused on instructional development. Principals in level five schools focused their time and attention on creating a family environment. In addition they spend time developing the teachers in their buildings, and they have also developed a "no excuses policy". These principals also spend time focused on instructional development. The findings of this study indicate that while the practices employed by level one schools are not necessarily undesirable practices and should not be discarded, there does exist the need for adoption of the three themes identified as exclusive to level five schools.