Leadership in High-Poverty Schools in Districts of Innovation: Principals' Perspectives

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Educational Administration

Date of Award

Fall 2020


Large achievement gaps exist between students educated in schools in high-poverty areas and those educated in low-poverty areas. Research indicates this issue is due to many barriers that hinder student achievement in high-poverty schools (Borg, Borg, & Stranahan, 2012; Hersi, 2010; Walsh et al., 2014). Despite this normal occurrence, there are instances in which students in high-poverty schools reach higher levels of achievement and this progress is impacted by the leaders of the individual campuses (McKenzie, Skrla, Scheurich, Rice, & Hawes, 2011; Woods & Martin, 2016). Furthermore, to achieve success, principals often implement major changes, known as second-order change, that may result in schools in high-poverty areas being highly successful, despite common barriers to achieving success. The purpose of this qualitative narrative inquiry study is to further develop the phenomenon of leadership practices utilized in four high-poverty, high achieving schools in Districts of Innovation in Texas. The common behaviors of principals’ leadership will be explored to determine evidence that affirms or contradicts previous literature and to potentially discover additional new themes. In addition, the study aimed to provide insight into perceptions of what had contributed to the success of campus principals in these schools. Four principals in Texas public schools were interviewed using an unstructured narrative interview protocol to: (a) determine how principals implemented paradigm shifts using various leadership styles and (b) how barriers were addressed during the implementation of change. Four principals participated in this study. Data were gathered through unstructured interviews and a review of school achievement data. The data gathered were analyzed to identify common themes of leadership styles among all principals and any common practices for overcoming barriers to implementing change. Findings were compared to previous research and added to the current body of research on leadership in high-poverty, high-achieving schools.


Kriss Y. Kemp-Graham

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision