Defining Leadership Qualities of Effective Principals of High English-Language Schools



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On March 13, 2010 the Obama Administration released A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Blueprint focused on four areas, including (1) Improving teacher and principal effectiveness (DOE, 2010, p. 3). The goal was for districts to improve the effectiveness of leaders and to ensure “that the students in high-need schools are being led by effective leaders” (DOE, p. 14). Districts were required to develop teacher and principal evaluation systems (DOE, p. 15).

The purpose of this quantitative study was to explore and describe the characteristics, background, and leadership qualities of five elementary school principals identified as effective principals using achievement data from the district’s Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVASS). The sample schools were selected using the following criteria: high proportion of students living in poverty as measured through National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Free and Reduced Cost Meal (FARM) qualifications; high proportion of Latino students; high proportion of students identified as English Language Learners (ELL); and high levels of student achievement as measured through the selected district’s value-added achievement data. A purposive sample of five principals was selected for their willingness to participate.

This study was grounded in the practice and the literature that principals make a difference (Barth, 1986; Gezi, 1990; Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005; Leithwood & Jantzi, 1999; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005; Mortimore,1993; Reitzug & Patterson, 1998; Robinson, Lloyd & Rowe, 2008; Scheurich, 1998; Silins, Mulford & Zarins, 2002; Spillane, Diamond, Burch, Hallett, Jita & Zolmmers, 2002; Townsend, 1994; and Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003). The literature on principal practices and measurement of their practices was also reviewed (Camburn & Han, 2005; Camburn & Barnes, 2004; Grissom & Loeb, 2010; Halverson, Prichett, Grigg & Thomas, 2005; Horng, Kalogrides, & Loeb 2009; Porter, Murphy, Goldring, Elliott & Polikoff, 2008; Rowan, Camburn, & Correnti, 2004; Wahlstrom, Louis, Leithwood, & Anderson, 2010; Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003).

This quantitative study used survey research methods to gather data for the purposive sample of highly effective principals (Fowler, 2013; McNamara, 1994; Scheaffer, Mendenhall, & Ott, 1990). While this study used some open-ended questions in the survey, the goal was to gather statistical descriptions by asking questions of a sample of five effective principals (Fowler, 2013). The aim of using survey research methodology was to tap the subjective feelings of a sample of principals (Fowler, 2013). While survey research provides a first-effort opportunity to learn about effective principals, the data gathered in this study may be used to develop a full-scale probability sample survey.

Findings in this study were quantified using principal characteristics, backgrounds, and leadership qualities. In identifying effective principals in English-Language-Learning schools it was reported for all principals: 100 percent had exclusively elementary school experience as both classroom teachers and administrators; 100 percent served as bilingual teachers with state certifications in elementary self-contained, bilingual and mid-management;100 percent had undergraduate degrees in education; and, 80 percent of the principals had teaching experiences in both lower grades and upper grades within the elementary school setting. While the principals had an average of 2.8 years of experience as principals in the sample schools, they had an average of eight years of total principal experience. Responses from the McREL based survey suggest that there is a definite disconnect between what principals’ score themselves on perceived mindsets (what they actually think they are doing or believe should be done) and their perceived actual behavior as effective principals.



Principals, Elementary education, ELL, Leadership, Value-added, Low-income, McREL