Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)

Department

Education Specialties

First Advisor

Anthony J. Annunziato

Second Advisor

Mary Ellen Freeley

Third Advisor

James Campbell

Abstract

Research reveals that school leadership is the second most important in-school factor impacting student achievement, with greater impacts seen when principals’ leadership practice is focused on learning. Research also shows that leadership practices in the area of principal supervision and supporting principal leadership have a positive impact on student achievement. This qualitative phenomenological study utilized concepts from sociocultural learning theory to frame understandings of the lived experiences of principal supervisors in Nassau County, New York. The rationale for this study stems from a moral imperative to address gaps in learning and achievement in disadvantaged groups through effective educational leadership practice. The purposefully selected sample included ten superintendents who were identified from the 56 public school districts in Nassau County, New York. Interview transcripts from superintendents responsible for supervising elementary principals practicing in K-6 and K-5 schools were coded to identify significant statements, resulting in over 425 individual coding references. The analysis and interpretation of the findings were organized into four analytic categories found within the conceptual framework: (a) leadership support, (b) role of principal supervisor, (c) student achievement outcomes, and (d) principal leadership. Findings show that principal supervisors’ practice includes robust support for principals’ professional learning and an emphasis on fostering responsive relationships with principals. Superintendents often support principals by including other central office administrators in supervision. Participants understand the importance of principal leadership and its impact on student achievement outcomes, especially principals’ practice that emphasizes a focus on teaching and learning. The lens of sociocultural learning theory informs the extent to which these practices are performed. Along with these findings, this research identified that a specific role for supervising principals is not clearly defined and practitioners do not use a standard or framework that defines leadership practice focused on learning in their principal supervision work. Recommendations from this study have valuable implications for central office leaders who want to support principals’ leadership through research-based principal supervision practice that can ultimately impact student achievement outcomes and reduce persistent achievement gaps for students in Nassau County public schools.

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