Perspectives on the principalship: principal, teacher, and student perceptions of principal leadership

The principalship is second only to teachers in its effect on student learning (Leithwood et al., 2004). This study examined and compared the perceptions of principals, teachers, and students regarding the different dimensions of principal leadership. The study took place in a large school district in California’s central valley. Focus groups of principals and teachers were used to identify themes for analysis of principal leadership. Students from a comprehensive high school were surveyed to solicit their views on how principals exercise leadership. This study found that principals and teachers both firmly believe that the essential work of the principalship is to support students and student learning. Principals felt constrained by conflicting district and parent demands, which pulled them away from working with students and limited their ability to focus on learning and instruction. The teachers felt frustrated by their lack of involvement as colleagues and professionals in the school leadership process. Student survey responses indicated that students did not feel that adults held high interest in them outside of school, nor did students feel connected to adults at school. These findings imply that principals should involve teachers more fully in school-based decisions and should train their teachers to build stronger positive relationships with their students. These findings further suggest that principals should involve students more fully in the decisions made regarding student learning as a means of strengthening student connection to their school.