Date of Award

Spring 2-25-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Christopher H. Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Barbara V. Strobert, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Lauren Schoen, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Tramaglini, Ed.D.


principal leadership, principal preparation, principal training, instructional leadership, ethical leadership, distributed leadership, visionary leadership


In this era of data-driven accountability for school success and high student achievement, successful school leadership has been hailed as one of the most import tools in creating effective schools. Principal preparation programs have an ever-demanding job of producing high-quality principals capable of effective school leadership, as the failure or success of a school can be directly attributed to the training and preparation of the school principal. It is the desire of the researcher that the findings of this study will add to the research on school leadership and perhaps encourage university principal preparation programs to examine their practices and engage in ongoing communication with the school districts in which they serve.

The purpose of this study was to examine principal preparation programs within the Pennsylvanian State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and to ascertain whether their programs were structured in a way that would equip principal candidates with the leadership roles deemed essential for 21st century school leadership. The four leadership roles uncovered in this research as essential for 21st century school leadership success are: (1) instructional leadership, (2) ethical leadership, (3) distributed leadership, and (4) visionary leadership. The sample size for this qualitative case study consisted of nine schools (N=9), and data for this study were collected by means of available online program documentation.

Examining principal preparation through the lens of General Systems Theory and Systems thinking, the researcher analyzed the program structure and overall program design for each principal preparation program within the PASSHE system of schools. Study results revealed two important findings of note: (1) principal preparation programs within the PASSHE system of schools overwhelmingly structured their programs around the ideals of instructional leadership, with the other three leadership roles only sparsely covered in program content and (2) although PASSHE is purported to be a collective system of schools, none of the schools in the study adopted a set of common principles or operated their principal preparation program in the same way. Each school operated as a separate entity, with varying requirements and program objectives.