Principals' perceptions about district involvement in a school improvement initiative

Stephanie Patricia Viola, Fordham University


External accountability places pressure on principals to ensure school improvement. Research shows that district leadership can have a positive effect on student achievement. This study sought to understand the experiences of principals with district involvement during a district initiated school improvement effort. This study was conducted in a suburban public school district. Eight principals participated in interviews that were transcribed and analyzed. Seven major conclusions were drawn: (a) districts that employ a top-down approach to initiate a large scale reform effort engender principals’ support of the reform; (b) district culture transfers to individual schools through building leaders to influence the successful implementation of a school improvement initiative; (c) principals rely on collaboration and data-driven decision-making to build shared responsibility for achievement results and a focus on continuous improvement; (d) sustainable district reform occurs when districts build principals’ capacity for shared leadership; (e) principals rely on district flexibility, availability of resources, and effective communication to successfully implement a district initiated reform; (f) principals respond constructively to external accountability when their role in school improvement is supported by their districts; and (g) a system-wide focus on student achievement drives the entire organization with a clear purpose for accomplishment. Implications for policy and practice include the establishment of tight district goals focused on achievement, monitoring goals through shared responsibility for data-based decision-making, and providing principals the flexibility to meet those goals. A recommendation for future research is to investigate the perspectives of district leaders about their role in large-scale school improvement.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education Policy|School administration

Recommended Citation

Viola, Stephanie Patricia, "Principals' perceptions about district involvement in a school improvement initiative" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10250176.