Principal leadership, teacher leadership, and student achievement in a public elementary school

Joan Guinan Lunney, Fordham University


Urban schools in America have a substantial number of students who fail to receive an education that will allow them to be self-fulfilled, productive, and contributing citizens. The problems faced by urban schools revolve around the vast diversity of the student body, socioeconomic status, and problems in the local environment. Larger numbers of students are entering school unprepared to face the challenges of learning presented to them and schools are largely unprepared to meet their needs. The school restructuring movement is providing support to enhance learning for all children as well as an alternative to the deficit model of education that is prevalent in many urban schools. This study examined the ways in which the multiple roles of teacher leaders were promoted and supported by the principal in a successful urban elementary school. It explored how the changes in roles and relationships of the school professionals led to changes in teaching and learning and led to enhanced student learning. Respondents in this ethnographic study included the principal and seven teacher leaders. Data were collected through interviews, observations, and document analysis at an urban elementary school that was in the process of restructuring. The findings of the study were classified into four themes. The first examined the learner-centered environment of the school. The second probed the changes in the norms, beliefs, and attitudes of the teachers that led to changes in teaching/learning. The third explored the variety of teacher leadership roles developed in an environment of continuous professional development that was focused on student learning. The fourth investigated the transformational nature of the principal's leadership. The study demonstrated that through transformational leadership, the principal promoted a collaborative school culture, fostered teacher professional development, and involved teachers in solving problems beyond the classroom. In addition, it revealed that a change in teacher beliefs was central to improved student performance. The change in beliefs was linked to continuous professional development at the school site. Crucial to the success of the restructuring effort was the opportunity for teachers to assume formal and informal leadership roles and opportunities to share in decision making.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Lunney, Joan Guinan, "Principal leadership, teacher leadership, and student achievement in a public elementary school" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9708262.