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An Analytical Study of School Climate and Principal Leadership

Maria Pia Perez, Johnson & Wales University


There is increasing pressure to improve student achievement and educational leadership accountability (Allen, 2001; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2002). The learning environment of a school is critical to achieving these measures. One important aspect of a learning environment is the link between a principal’s leadership style and school climate (Bryan, 2011; Kelley, Thornton, & Daugherty, 2005; Vail, 2005). Principals through their leadership style and behavior can foster a positive school climate (Chirichello,1999; Waters, Maranon, & McNulty, 2004; Wheelock, 2005). Some of the benefits of a healthy school climate include more productive staff, higher job satisfaction, and high academic emphasis (Black, 2010; Marshall, 2004; Vail, 2005; Wheelock, 2005). Previous studies have examined this relationship in elementary settings, but few have studied this construct in a suburban secondary school setting (Allen, 2011; Black, 2010; Kelley et al., 2005; Wheelock, 2005). This sequential mixed method study explored behaviors of N=79 secondary teachers from a suburban high school and a principal by measuring aspects of principal behaviors (supportive, directive) and aspects of teacher interactions (engaged, frustrated, or intimate). Two basic dimensions of school climate, openness and intimacy were explored, as well as the demographic variables of gender and years of teaching. The first phase included administering a questionnaire that measured school climate openness by examining the behaviors of the principal and teachers. During the second phase a focus group with N=7 teachers was conducted and an elite interview with the principal. Quantitative data analysis consisted of descriptive and inferential statistics and thematic content analysis was used for the qualitative data. The findings suggest that supportive leadership behaviors promote an open school climate. Additionally, this research identified a significant difference between the females’ (M=2.58) and males’ (M=2.21) views on administrative work at the (p=.033) level. Further, novice teachers required more assistance than their more experienced cohorts at the (p= .002 (η2 =. 156) level. The focus group and elite interview findings indicate that supportive, approachable, shared leadership, and visionary behaviors result in a school climate exemplified by: respect and engagement, autonomy and recognition, collaboration and innovation, socialization and personalization.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Management|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Perez, Maria Pia, "An Analytical Study of School Climate and Principal Leadership" (2015). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3704512.