The leadership behaviors of principals and their effect on school improvement in effective urban high schools

Date of Completion

January 1992


Education, Administration




This study examined the leadership behaviors of two urban high school principals and compared them with the six leadership behaviors identified by James Sweeney (1982) as behaviors of principals of effective schools. Members of the Action Planning Teams in each high school who had participated in the Secondary School Development Project of the Connecticut State Department of Education were interviewed. The researcher asked the participants to respond to questions about their principal's leadership behavior in the areas identified by Sweeney: (1) coordinating instructional programs, (2) emphasizes achievement, (3) frequently evaluates pupil progress, (4) provides orderly atmosphere, (5) sets instructional strategies, and (6) supports teachers. The Audit of Principal Effectiveness questionnaire was administered to the members of the Action Planning Teams of each high school to obtain their perceptions of their principal's effectiveness. Documents relative to each principal's effectiveness were also reviewed. A qualitative analysis of the data was used to cross-validate the results of the study.^ The principals in each high school were perceived to have leadership behaviors in the following areas which made their schools more effective: (1) Emphasizing Achievement, by promoting high expectations for teachers and students and developing activities which recognized student achievement, contributed to improved academic achievement, (2) Providing Orderly Atmosphere, through high visibility and consistent enforcement of rules, contributed to improved student discipline and teacher-student rapport, and (3) Supporting Teachers, by being accessible and willing to listen to teacher concerns, resulted in teachers being willing to work for the improvement of the school. One of the two principals was also perceived to demonstrate leadership behavior in (4) Frequently Evaluating Pupil Progress, by emphasizing increased classroom assessments and developing programs to address the needs of students as a result of the assessments. The leadership behaviors of (5) Coordinating Instructional Programs and (6) Sets Instructional Strategies were not perceived as primary elements of the principal's leadership behaviors. Although the principal plays a secondary role, his/her behavior is important.^ Four of the six leadership behaviors (emphasizing achievement, provides orderly atmosphere, frequently evaluates pupil progress, and supports teachers), as identified by Sweeney (1982), were perceived by teachers as behaviors of their principals which effected improvements in their schools. ^