This study used a multiple mixed-methods approach to take an in-depth look inside three suburban elementary schools to investigate the factors that have contributed to their high levels of student success on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA). This study also provides a reflective analysis of the school I have served as principal for the past six years, to investigate the potential barriers that have prevented similar achievement levels. The mixed-methods study, titled “The Secrets of School Greatness”, was developed based on a review of scholarly research, personal and professional reflection, and a collaboration with teachers and administration. The approach involved identifying three high-achieving elementary schools with student populations similar in size and demographics to my school, collecting qualitative data through site visits to notice leadership practices, staff interactions, and observations of leadership team meetings, conducting interviews with a purposeful sample of team members, and quantitative data through a grounded survey that was distributed to certified faculty at each site, including my home school in the winter of 2018. This study investigated the perceptions of study participants and the factors they believe have led their schools to reaching levels of student achievement above and beyond state averages and those at my site, despite having students with similar or more challenging barriers to their learning. The study concluded that the following three concepts are the Secrets of School Greatness: (1) Symbiotic Humanity, (2) Protective Umbrella, (3) Promoting Greatness. Generally, staff at the three study schools have a strong sense of community and belonging that was developed through the work of a strong, empowering, and relational principal, serving as the “Master Gardener” to cultivate a cohesive and student-centered culture. The foundation of these “Great” schools was established through the reciprocal, collaborative, and aligned vision of an emotionally supportive leader that developed a culture of Symbiotic Humanity focused on developing a sense of consanguinity. This foundation of family amongst the staff creates a culture where staff are fearless to take risks that they believe will benefit student learning. Understanding their leader and colleagues are aligned and working collectively to promote student learning under this Protective Umbrella, shielding them from external distractions, staff develop a sense of psychological safety to work collectively in generous and cohesive teams to best meet the need of their students. When staff are collectively committed to one another, have a sense of psychological safety to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of their students, the staff at these “Great” schools are Promoting Greatness through the reinforcement of high expectations through purposeful dialogue, taking ownership of student learning and functioning as a collective dominion for student success. These concepts are the Secrets of School Greatness that unite to establish a New Professionalism of Education for current and future educators to emulate in order to ensure higher levels of student learning. However, further research is needed to provide a greater perspective of these and other school communities, including those of students, families, community members, and support staff that comprise the totality of the school culture.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2019. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Peter Demerath. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 253 pages.
Remmert II, William F..
The Secrets of School Greatness: The Cultural Influence of Leadership.
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