Transformational leadership: The missing link in motivating teachers to close the achievement gap in impoverished communities

Laverne Card Nimmons, Fordham University


The research sought to determine the effectiveness of transformational leadership in closing the achievement gap. A combination of transformational leadership and transactional leadership qualities were evaluated for their ability to enhance teacher satisfaction, commitment, and effectiveness, thereby raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap. The survey, Teacher's Involvement and Perception of Teamwork of Principal (TIPTOP©) was designed specifically for the study. TIPTOP gathered demographic data and asked teacher respondents' to evaluate their perceptions of transformational and transactional leadership qualities: trust, collaboration, high expectation, management, bartering and monitoring of their principal and its effect on teacher satisfaction, commitment, and effectiveness. Participants included 115 teachers from four New York City elementary schools. Each school had an African American principal with over three years of experience. Each school also had over 75% of their students eligible for free or reduced price lunch, over 85% African American students, and had demonstrated at least 9% of progress for approaching transformed schools and at least 16% progress for transformed schools. Schools with less than 16% progress became School Group 1 and those with more than 16% progress became School Group 2. The demographics of the respondents were incredibly similar; a large majority of respondents were African-American women with Master's degrees, between 41-50 years of age, with 11-20 years teaching experience. Transformed School Group 2 demonstrated significantly higher scores than School Group 1; teacher respondents in School Group 2 gave their leader a higher rating on trust, collaboration, high expectation, monitoring, management, and bartering and also perceived themselves as more satisfied, more committed, and more effective. In short, the greatest student progress was shown in schools demonstrating transformational and transactional leadership qualities. Recommendations for improved practice included creating a model for transformational leadership to address the achievement gap in low-performing schools, instituting programs which raise teacher expectations, and assisting principals with building trust, collaboration, and satisfaction among teachers. Considering the dearth of research on the subjects, further research is warranted into the leadership skills demonstrated by African-American principals in schools succeeding in urban, impoverished neighborhoods. Further studies are also recommended on teacher skill sets which address the needs of minority students in impoverished communities. Such research would be an important resource in ensuring that all children receive a quality education.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Nimmons, Laverne Card, "Transformational leadership: The missing link in motivating teachers to close the achievement gap in impoverished communities" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3373831.