Principals' Social Justice Leadership in Demographically Changing Suburban Public Elementary Schools in Arizona
AuthorRuich, Cynthia Therese
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study described how suburban public elementary school principals and teachers perceived the principals' social justice leadership as shifting demographic diversity increased in racial and ethnic minority students, decreased in white students, increased in child poverty, and threatened schools academic achievement status. The two Arizona high performance suburban public elementary schools (SPES) were located in two different suburban districts on opposite sides of a metropolitan city. A multiple embedded replication case study involved principals and six K-5 grade teachers at each school and included participant semi-structured interviews, school observations, and document analysis. The data showed how principals' leadership was perceived and practiced in educating students with social and educational inequalities while simultaneously trying to maintain high performance schools. Findings revealed that principals' different and similar practices were not motivated from a social justice disposition. Nevertheless, I discovered that principals' leadership practices imperceptibly included tenets of social justice. The teachers perceived that principals made concerted efforts beyond contemporary leadership practices that addressed children's inequalities owing to poverty and lack of academic preparation. The principals and teachers cared for the students and pushed for additional resources. The educators expressed being underprepared professionally for the tensions brought about by students' shifting demographics. An unexpected finding was that child poverty trumped the children's race and ethnicity as the foremost issue challenging the principals and teachers. As a result of the findings, part of my proposition supported the premise that principals would perceive the educational inequalities experienced by students. Conversely, part of the premise stating that principals' perceptions of students' educational inequalities would influence them to use social justice leadership was weakly supported because principals did not perceive or attribute their practices with teachers as driven by a belief in social justice. Two themes emerged from the analysis of patterns across cases: (1) Principals did not have a social justice consciousness driving their leadership practices, and (2) Principals' contemporary leadership practices imperceptibly combined social justice leadership tenets to influence teachers and promote equality of educational opportunity for all students.
Degree ProgramGraduate College