Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Louie F. Rodriguez, Ed.D


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to critically analyze the experiences and practices of Inland Empire urban school principals as they work to close the African American achievement gap. The achievement gap begins in elementary school and continues to persist throughout elementary and secondary schools producing differences in high school graduation rates, college and career attainment, and ultimately socio-economic differences in income between various racial and ethnic groups.

We know the impact of school principals on student achievement is significant. The literature demonstrates that school principals play a key role in developing the structures and systems necessary to improve the outcomes for urban schools and more specifically African American students. Ten school principals from a large urban Inland Empire school district participated in the study and served to provide their lived experiences while leading diverse schools.

Findings indicated three emergent themes: (1) relationship builders, (2) caring environments, and (3) courageous leadership were influential in principals establishing and maintaining a school that was sensitive to the needs of African American students. Another major finding from the study demonstrated the impact that race still plays within the public school setting. Several of the study participants expressed their struggles with providing overt support of African American students.

Implications of these findings underscore the need to build principal capacity to effectively meet the needs of African American students. Additionally, the findings demonstrate the importance of building organizational sensitivity to culture and diversity in an effort to build equitable schools.