Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Education (EdD)



Committee Chair(s)

Michael K. Freeman


Michael K. Freeman


Gary L. Carlston


Steven P. Camicia


Steven O. Laing


Matthew L. Sanders


The lack of successful leadership in many public high schools across the United States has resulted in a leadership crisis, the lack of ability to transform schools, and low student achievement. This study sought to identify characteristics of two successful high school principals who have directed high schools during a period of unprecedented student academic growth.

The purpose of this study was to examine the key leadership characteristics of principals at two different high schools: (a) Good-to-Great High School (GTGHS) and (b) Overachieving High School (OHS). This study was a qualitative exploratory case study with an inductive approach using interviews and observations of two successful high school principals and interviews of 10 faculty and staff to identify emerging themes. Open and axial coding was used throughout the data analysis process.

Several themes emerged that identified common characteristics and behaviors of successful high school leaders. Conclusions from the study proved that successful high school principals establish relationships of trust, collaborate effectively with all stakeholders to develop a school vision with high expectations for all, positively shape and sustain a warm school culture, select and develop people within the organization, and reach out to all involved to make the most of the resources available to build academic achievement for students. The findings also supported the notion that a visible principal who is highly involved in the development of the curriculum and the instructional environment and who stays current with the instructional ideas of the day will have a positive impact on student learning. Also of note was the notion that high school principals who embrace change and are willing to develop and share leadership will make a positive difference in the lives of young people. If action is taken on the outcomes of this study, social change will occur by minimizing the national public school leadership crisis. In addition, schools will be more positively transformed and student academic achievement will likely increase.