Perceptions of middle school principals in facilitating student success: A descriptive case study
Sowell, Marsha Diane
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In today's high accountability educational environment, the principals' leadership holds one of the many keys to student success as they create environments conducive to student learning. Although students' test scores traditionally drop during the middle school years, over half of Texas' accountability assessments occur during the middle school years, placing unique pressures on middle school principals. Additionally, middle school is a time of increasing maturity for children, causing the middle school to be a unique place of transition. To ensure student success, middle school principals must meet the academic needs of students as well as their developmental needs. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the multiple ways in which middle school principals perceive they utilize holistic leadership to create environments that facilitate student success and meet state accountability expectations. This study explored how five middle school principals perceive their tasks of the job facilitate student success in the middle school setting. Data collection included interviews, observations, and documents over three months. Results showed that middle school principals agreed that successful middle schools develop students academically and personally. To develop students academically, principals used assessment data and teacher professional development opportunities to enhance instructional programs. To develop students personally, the principals' focus was on providing students multiple opportunities to grow and learn attributes associated with a good work ethic and responsibility. This academic and personal development was supported in a culture of fun and trust. The principals in my study crafted this culture through the use of humor and relationships. Furthermore, middle school principals negotiated their role as holistic leaders to meet accountability expectations of the state by ensuring each student was held to high academic expectations. As ethical leaders, they clarified this role for the school. As instructional leaders, they supported teachers' professional development towards this goal. As managerial leaders, they analyzed data and developed opportunities within the school to increase students' academic knowledge. It was believed by the principals in this study that by providing students with challenging and appropriate learning opportunities, schools would meet state accountability expectations.