Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Leonard Ruchelman

Committee Member

Gail Johnson

Committee Member

Jack Robinson


This exploratory case study examines the perceptions of parents, teachers, students and principals on eight factors of school effectiveness. Two low income elementary schools in the City of Norfolk, Virginia served as the research setting for this study. Though both schools consist almost entirely of African American students, and are otherwise similar in demographics, they have achieved at different levels. While one has been recognized as a national model, based on continuous improvement in students' academic achievement, the other has not attained the same level of achievement, based on standardized test scores.

A case study methodology has been used to provide an understanding of the perceptions of individuals in these two schools. The goal has been to account for differences between the two schools, and determine why one has been more successful as a leading institution than the other. Focus groups have served as the means of obtaining and assessing data relative to the thoughts and perceptions of parents, teachers, and students. In addition, the principals of the two schools were interviewed, leading to a total of 79 respondents.

The research questions, as well as the focus group and interview questions were based on eight “correlates of school effectiveness.” These correlates have been nationally recognized, and accepted as factors which are likely to influence the learning environment. As such, they have also served as the key variables in this study. Analysis of the data was conducted through a careful examination of trends and patterns which emerged from the data.

Findings in this study confirm that the following characteristics are likely to result in a high achieving school: strong parental involvement, strong school leadership, high teacher expectations, a safe and orderly environment, time on task and opportunity to learn, monitoring, school mission, and resources. Though findings are limited to the two schools that have been studied, results also point to the importance of holistic approaches. This includes bringing the entire community together to create a caring school community for students and parents from disadvantaged backgrounds. Finally, results also highlighted the importance of student self esteem, flexibility, commitment, and group efficacy.