Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary Renck Jalongo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Valeri Helterbran, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Kelli Paquette, Ed.D.


In the current age of accountability, there are increasing pressures on building principals to raise standardized test scores. School administrators must identify and implement effective leadership practices that will exert a positive influence on classroom instruction and ultimately enhance student achievement. Research has shown the leadership practices of school principals have significant effects on student learning (Blasé & Blasé, 1998; DeMoss, 2002; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003; Waters, Marzano & McNulty, 2003). The purpose of this case study was to gain a greater understanding of the leadership practices of principals in Pennsylvania who have been successful in earning the Blue Ribbon School designation for their elementary schools. The study explored how principals perceive their own leadership behaviors and experiences in an era of high-stakes accountability with regards to their impact on student achievement as measured by the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). The theoretical framework for this study was rooted in efficacy (Bandura, 1977), specifically collective teacher efficacy created by leadership practices (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008). The conceptual framework was based on Hallinger's (1987) Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (PIMRS) and its three domains: (1) defining the school's mission, (2) managing the instructional program, and (3) promoting a positive school learning climate. The participants included three elementary school principals currently leading Blue Ribbon Schools in Pennsylvania. Longitudinal assessment data were collected from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, interviews were conducted, and relevant artifacts were analyzed in order to explore this topic. Findings show that the role of an effective principal is a complex one that requires knowledge and skills in many areas. Four significant themes emerged: organization and operations, roles and relationships, data-driven practices, and an instructional leadership model. The research confirmed the importance of the importance of principal involvement in the development of collective teacher efficacy, as well as the potential of transformational leadership as an effective leadership model. Gaps were identified in leadership practices that could inform changes to principal preparation programs and school districts. This study concluded that more research is needed to further explore the effective leadership in Blue Ribbon Schools.