Academic journal article Education

Leading for Low Income Students: Results from a Study on School Leaders in Low Income Elementary Schools

Academic journal article Education

Leading for Low Income Students: Results from a Study on School Leaders in Low Income Elementary Schools

Article excerpt


As the Education Trust (2015), an organization that aims to close the achievement gap and encourages and provides strategies for colleges and universities to raise the achievement of all students, recently reported a significant achievement gap between low-income students and high-income students exists. Principals and schools continue to be held accountable for ensuring learning for all students across the entire spectrum of students' socioeconomic status and ethnic background.

Research on school leadership shows a strong correlation between school leaders and student achievement. Leithwood & Wahlstrom (2011) concluded that school leadership can be linked to student achievement and research on school leadership should move from the question of if, to a question of how. Kelley and Shaw (2009) reported that school leaders need to shift from a manager to a socio-cognitive leader, which is a school leader who puts student learning first and courageously exposes inequities or inadequate student learning outcomes. Brown III (2015), in a qualitative study reported that principals can provide support to teachers to increase the student achievement of low income students.

In this context, this study explored what support principals provide to facilitate student achievement in public schools, specifically low-income students. This study investigates the principal's position through by distributing a teacher survey that pulled questions from a survey used in a study conducted by Louis, Dretzke, & Wahlstrom (2010) which focused on five areas of leadership. These areas are focused instruction, professional community, shared leadership, instructional leadership, and trust in the principal. In reporting the results of this survey this study asked teachers questions in four of these categories; focused instruction, professional community, shared leadership, and trust in the principal and looked to identify, if the principals in the high performing schools implemented these components at a higher level than principals in low performing schools, based on teacher opinion. It also looked to identify if any of the four components may be more effective, to the increase in the achievement of low-income schools.

This study looks to answer the following research questions: Do categories used in previous research, pertaining to the principal's indirect influence on student achievement for all students, influence the achievement of low income students? If they do, are some categories more important to leadership for low-income students than others?


This study is a quantitative survey methodology. The intended population was teachers in six prekindergarten through third grade elementary schools. The survey was administered to 158 teachers through the Qualtrics Online Survey System in the spring of 2015. The survey consisted of twenty-five questions divided into four categories. Questions were pulled from a survey used in a study by Louis et. al. (2010) entitled How does Leadership affect Student Achievement? Results from a national US survey. They developed this survey and found that the school leader's can effect student achievement indirectly. Four of the five categories used in the 2010 survey were used for this study. The categories included, professional community, shared leadership, trust in the principal, and focused instruction. The survey was given to 158 teachers in six Pre Kindergarten through third grade elementary schools. 120 teachers responded, sixty-five (65) from the high performing schools and fifty-five (55) from the low performing schools. The four categories included (10) questions on the principal's impact on professional learning communities, (5) questions on the principals impact on shared leadership, (5) questions on trust in the principal, and (5) questions on focused instruction (See appendix A).

All six schools used in the study have over 75% of the students identified as low income. …

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