Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Steve Myran

Committee Member

Karen Sanzo

Committee Member

Kristine Sunday


School leaders are tasked with greater responsibilities than ever before. Today’s school leaders are expected to act as social justice leaders, ensuring all students have an equitable environment to learn in. State departments of education hold leaders accountable by comparing standardized test scores of students in majority and minority groups. The problem is these assessments measure the outcome of learning, but fail to measure the environments learning occurs in. The purpose of this study was to understand, within the context of the accountability climate, school leaders’ espoused beliefs about social justice, and the practices they employ to those ends. Using the dual lenses of epistemic injustice and critical race theory, in this qualitative research study, I sought to understand the complex bidirectional and reciprocal relationship between the accountability climate and school leaders’ espoused beliefs and practices regarding social justice. After conducting my study with seven school leaders from six different school districts in Southeastern Virginia, I discovered school leaders believed social justice was a concern, however struggle with their role in eradicating societal injustices. My findings indicated how complex that relationship between the accountability climate and leaders practices are. I uncovered a schism between leaders’ personal beliefs and unofficial practices when it came to social justice and the official practices required by central office supervisors. Although participants believed social justice was an issue they struggled to understand the role they should play in ending the cycle.