The role of the principal has changed in definition and perception over the last decade. today's principal is deeply involved with instruction, curriculum, accountability as well as management of the school site. Given this change, there is a need to define critical skills essential to principal leadership, particularly of low performing schools. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the role of one principal in Los Angeles, California over a four year period as a school leader who implemented standards-based reform to raise student achievement in a Program Improvement school. The results of this case study will serve to inform the design and implementation of effective strategies for principals who lead schools in Program Improvement and may also inform other local districts with similar needs. This study was qualitative in approach and case study in design, utilizing literature review, survey, and personal interview methodology. The literature review investigated the role of the principal, the urgency of school reform, traits of effective schools and best instructional practices. Information from the review assisted with the development of a survey and interview questions. These methods allowed the study to examine both current research and perceptions from teachers and the principal of Sunnydale Elementary school. Findings revealed that there are specific attributes that are evident in a school exiting out of Program Improvement: building school capacity, accountability, high quality professional development, collaboration, common assessments, parent involvement, a clear mission and vision, and an effective instructional leader. More specifically, this case study examines the perceptions of teacher's and how they view the role of the principal with building capacity and accountability to implement standards-based reform. This case study will also reveal the process this school went through with implementing common assessments, standards-based teaching, high quality professional development, and much more to implement grand scale reform. Finally, findings revealed that in order to sustain student achievement, this school would need to continue looking at data to inform instruction and provide high quality professional development to strengthen teacher knowledge on what the California State Standards are asking students to be able to master.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Elementary school principals; Educational change -- Case studies; Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Fitzpatrick, John