Successful principal leadership in challenging American public schools: a brief history of ISSPP research in the United States and its major findings

Rose M. Ylimaki, Stephen Jacobson, Lauri Johnson, Hans W. Klar, Juan Nino, Margaret Terry Orr, Samantha Scribner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: In this paper, the authors recap the history and evolution of ISSPP research in the USA with research teams that grew from one location in 2002 to seven teams at present. The authors also examine the unique context of public education in America by describing its governance, key policies and funding as well as increasing student diversity due to changing internal student demographics and global population migrations. In particular, the authors describe how decentralization in American public education that has led to long-standing systemic inequities in school resource allocations and subsequently to marked gaps in performance outcomes for children from poor communities, especially for those of color. These existing inequities were the reason the USA research team was the only national ISSPP team from the original network of eight countries that choose to study exclusively leadership in challenging, high needs schools that performed beyond expectations. Design/methodology/approach: The authors describe the common multi-case case study methodology (Merriam, 1988) and interview protocols employed in order to gather multiple perspectives on school success in high-needs communities and the principal's contribution to that success. Leithwood and Riehl's (2005) framework of core leadership practices for successful school leadership was used to analyze our data across all cases. Findings: The authors present key findings from cases across the USA and synthesize common trends across these findings. Research limitations/implications: The authors conclude the paper with a discussion of their overarching impressions from almost two decades of study, the importance of national and local context in examining school leadership and, lastly, suggestions for future research. Originality/value: This article contributes to findings from the longest and largest international network on successful leadership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-117
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 25 2022


  • Case Studies
  • Leadership
  • Principalship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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