Leadership Practices that Affect Student Achievement
It is widely accepted that school leadership has both a direct and indirect impact on student achievement. Hitt and Tucker’s (2016) Unified Leadership Framework summarized a decade of work by numerous researchers identifying the five most effective leadership domains that influence student learning. Using that work as a conceptual framework, this qualitative case study analyzed one of the five interdependent leadership domains in an urban elementary school that succeeded in educating traditionally marginalized students and outperformed other schools with similar demographics in the district. This study focused on Hitt and Tucker’s (2016) leadership domain of connecting with external partners. Specifically, it examined whether leadership practices that supported family and community partnerships were present at the school. Family and community partnerships are important because they support two essential, yet frequently overlooked, contexts where student learning and development take place. In addition, this study examined whether school leadership practices promoted these partnerships in a culturally proficient manner. This analysis was informed by the culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL) framework, which describes principal behaviors that promote cultural responsiveness in urban settings. Several leadership practices that supported the criteria established by Hitt and Tucker (2016) under the domain of connecting with external partners were evident at the school, including: building productive relationships with families and the community; engaging families in collaborative processes to strengthen student learning; and anchoring the school in the community. However, leadership practices promoting family and community partnerships did not fully support a finding of being a culturally proficient school culture. This finding was primarily based on a “one size fits all” approach to working with students and families, which has been described in the literature as “cultural blindness”. Recommendations to practitioners as a result of this study include expanding informal opportunities for parent input and engagement, conducting an equity audit, and pursuing cultural proficiency professional development.