School Leadership Practices, Student Socioeconomic Status, and Student Achievement in One Virginia School District

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Virginia Tech

The literature review for this study suggests that socioeconomic status is a factor in student achievement results. Over the decades the variety of factors contributing to the changes in the achievement gap among subgroups of students has consistently included such elements as educational attainment, employment and earnings, and neighborhoods affected by concentrated poverty. As the income gap has widened, so has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families (Reardon, 2011). The purpose of this study was to identify the perceptions of school leaders in one Virginia school division regarding the relationship among SES, leadership practices, and student achievement. Using a survey design that included qualitative analysis of free response questions allowed the researcher to examine K-12 administrators' perceptions of the relationship between SES and student achievement and the leadership practices they use to balance any effects of low SES on student achievement.

This study was conducted through a survey of elementary, middle, and high school leaders. The survey participants were building level administrators within one diverse, school division. The administrators were at various stages of their career with a wide range of service years. The findings of this study identify school leaders' perceptions of the practices they should employ to mitigate the impact of SES on student achievement. School leaders perceive SES to have an impact on student achievement based on available resources, environmental experiences, and developmental skills students bring to school with them.

The collective responses are important in helping school divisions make informed decisions to mitigate any negative impact low SES has on student achievement by understanding the community demographics and having the resources to help balance the impact of income-deprived communities. The variables mentioned in the qualitative data responses regarding the relationship among SES, leadership practices, and student achievement indicated that school leaders perceive their understanding of student and community culture, relationships, and high academic expectations as factors that can help mitigate the negative impact of low SES on student achievement. The identified leadership practices include building relationships, understanding community culture, and being visible.

instructional leadership, student achievement gap, school improvement, socioeconomic status, organizational culture, instruction