School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Russ Claxton


Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Principal, School Improvement, Social Learning Theory, Title I


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe elementary principals’ experiences with school improvement in Northeast Georgia Title I schools. The theory guiding this study was Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory, which explains a triadic view of behavioral, environmental, and personal factors. Reciprocal interactions between factors contribute to self-efficacy beliefs associated with future action to achieve goals such as those in a Title I School Improvement Plan. Triadic reciprocal determinism was defined as cooperative, interdependent components shaping principals’ knowledge, skill, and direction to lead changing federal and state mandated school improvement initiatives. This study attempted to answer the central research question: How do elementary principals who serve as leaders in Northeast Georgia Title I schools describe their experiences with school improvement? The move from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to new school improvement requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) revealed a qualitative gap in research including principals’ voice, especially in different contexts such as high poverty elementary schools. I utilized a descriptive self-efficacy survey, interviews, document analysis, and a focus group to discover common themes. Themes were used to meaningfully organize units of information to fully and accurately describe principal experiences. Principals described elements of strategy, support, and progress monitoring to achieve successful continuous improvement cultures. The results of this study provide insight into principal experiences with school improvement to help facilitate stronger leadership for improvement in light of changing federal and state school improvement mandates.