Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Leadership and Policies

First Advisor

Doyle Stevick


One of the greatest challenges in America’s public education is overcoming the economic and demographic disparities facing high-poverty schools, particularly in rural areas. Despite the obstacles, some high-performing, high-poverty schools are beating the odds. Research on successful leadership practices in high-poverty, high-performing elementary schools has been focused primarily in urban settings. There is limited research on the leadership practices of principals in high-performing, high-poverty elementary schools in rural contexts, particularly in the South. This study examines the lived experiences, beliefs and daily practices of two elementary exemplary principals who lead rural, high-performing, high-poverty schools in South Carolina. Particularly, the researcher investigated the leadership practices that support high-achievement in high-poverty rural schools in order to identify the leadership style that is employed by the principal. The researcher selected schools that are classified by the South Carolina Department of Education as Reward Schools. Reward Schools are Title I high-poverty schools. Using qualitative case studies, the researcher examined how two principals in two rural, elementary, high-poverty South Carolina Reward Schools in the Upstate regions of South Carolina, help their schools to be successful. The two schools selected for this study vary in their demographics. One school is predominately African Americans and the other is racially diverse. The methods used for data collection included observations, in-depth interviews and focus groups with the principals and stakeholders familiar with the school principals. There were 17 participants.


© 2019, Sharon Jefferies