Exploring the relationship between school leadership and middle school mathematics achievement: an examination of leadership practices of principals

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This mixed-method study was designed to investigate the extent to which leadership practices differ in middle schools identified as at risk of not meeting state standards in mathematics and in schools identified as meeting state standards in mathematics. This study sought to understand the school leadership practices of middle school principals. The theoretical framework of Powell (2004) guided this research project. Powell (2004) identified five domains of effective principal leadership behaviors and practices. According to Powell, these domains contribute to effective school leadership. The domains include: (1) vision, mission, and culture; (2) curriculum and classroom instruction; (3) collaboration and shared leadership; (4) family and community involvement, and (5) effective management. Powell (2004) designed a survey and interview questions based on the five domains.

These data were gathered through the use of a survey and focus groups to answer the four research questions. A survey instrument was mailed to 33 principals, 33 mathematics resource teachers and 190 teachers from 15 middle schools that made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in mathematics and 18 middle schools at risk of not making AYP in mathematics. The survey was designed to solicit judgments about school leadership behaviors. Focus group interviews were held with principals, mathematics resource teachers and mathematics teachers to identify curricular issues between the two types of schools.

These data provided insight regarding successful leadership practices for schools meeting standards in mathematics. The descriptive and inferential analysis identified few mean differences between principals, mathematics resource teachers, and mathematics teachers across Powell's five domains in the two groups of schools studied. The researcher conducted a one-way analysis of variance within each group of schools. Results showed very few differences between principals, mathematics resource teachers, and mathematics teachers in schools meeting state standards. There were important differences between principals and mathematics teachers in the at-risk schools.

This study has training and practice implications for middle school principals. It provides a shared leadership model for identifying leadership practices in mathematics. It is expected that this research will assist school systems in their efforts to support state accountability efforts.