Cherise Roper


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore and describe the lived experiences and perspectives of 4 elementary school principals and 4 instructional leaders committed to social justice practices who have improved and sustained grade level performance in reading with Black students for the duration of 3 consecutive years. Four research questions guided this study and included: What strategies are used by elementary principals and instructional leaders to advance equity, access, and opportunity, to improve core teaching and curriculum, address barriers faced, and develop resilience when leading the work of social justice? Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with the intention of learning specific leadership strategies used to create, promote, and sustain equitable learning environments where Black students meet and exceed proficiency rates in reading. Key findings suggest that leaders who accomplish and sustain high academic achievement at their schools hold high expectations for their students, immerse themselves in culturally responsive professional development trainings, seek community supports to enhance curricular programs, and invest in professional study and self-care practices to sustain themselves both professionally and personally. Recommendations for future policy demonstrate the need for principal preparation programs dedicated to addressing social justice leadership practices as a means to advocate equity, access, and opportunity for marginalized and oppressed students everywhere.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; African American students -- Case studies; Education, Urban -- Case studies; Elementary school principals; Social justice; Education -- Social aspects -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Purrington, Linda;