Best practices of successful elementary school leaders

Karen S. Crum (Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)
Whitney H. Sherman (Department of Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA)
Steve Myran (Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Publication date: 2 February 2010



This study is one in a series which aims to examine the theories of actions developed and internalized by school principals that help them serve as successful leaders in the tumultuous accountability climate. The dearth of recent empirical research focusing on best practices of successful school principals in a post‐NCLB nation sets the tone for and drives the study.


An inductive exploratory study was designed to provide insight into how successful elementary school principals facilitate high levels of student achievement. The research was grounded by allowing principals to talk about what their actual practices as leaders.


The principals provided a wealth of information that helped to identify common themes of practice across all 12 participants. The following categories represent the central themes: leadership with data; honesty and relationships; fostering ownership and collaboration; recognizing and developing leadership; and instructional awareness and involvement.

Practical implications

This study identified vital practices of successful elementary leaders that enabled them to facilitate high levels of student achievement and to dispel any notions that success is not possible in a high stakes environment. Interviews with the principals identified common themes of practice that, when collectively utilized, have led to high student achievement.


This study is very relevant and contributes to the growing body of research that seeks to define the qualities of effective leaders during times of increased accountability.



Crum, K.S., Sherman, W.H. and Myran, S. (2010), "Best practices of successful elementary school leaders", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 48-63.

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