Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Marie Cianca

Second Supervisor

Diane Reed


Increased levels of accountability, mandated implementation of common core learning standards, and shrinking state funds for public schools have created unique challenges for principals seeking to increase student achievement levels. Schools located in states receiving Race to the Top (RTT) funds must measure teacher and principal growth by adopting evaluation systems based on student achievement measures. These issues are more significant for rural school administrators, who must pair these demands with the confining nature of small-town life; the multiple and sometimes conflicting tasks; and the lack of opportunity for professional camaraderie and growth. Although a large body of literature has identified principal behaviors that can lead to improved student achievement, few studies have focused on contextual factors in New York State rural schools. Using Leithwood’s four core leadership practices as a framework, this study examined the perspectives of principals in low-wealth New York rural elementary schools. The study used a qualitative research design including a phenomenological strategy to learn about the lived experiences of 10 New York State rural elementary school principals. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews. Analysis of transcripts identified principal core and specific practices related to improving student achievement. Understanding the impact that principals’ practices have on student achievement can provide guidance to school leaders in low-wealth rural elementary schools intent on improving.

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