All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Loucrecia Collins

Advisory Committee Members

Evelyn Nettles

Gary Peters

William B Rogan

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore principal perceptions of how reading scores improved in high-poverty, high-performing schools in Alabama that had achieved Torchbearer School status. In 2005, the Alabama State Department of Education began bestowing the honor of Torchbearer schools to schools in high poverty areas throughout the state that have achieved high academic performance in Reading and Math. The goal of this qualitative study was to understand principal experiences and the essence of what it meant to be a principal of a successful high poverty school, to hear the voices of the participants. Participant descriptions revealed the true essence of the phenomenon rather than the researcher’s preconceptions. Data from ten principals representing eight school districts throughout the state of Alabama were gathered through semi-structured interviews. Five themes emerged from the analysis of this data. The themes that emerged were Student Needs; Data; Culture; Collaborative Work; and Commitment and Dedication. Researchers have demonstrated that the school leader plays a pivotal role in improving student performance. Understanding Torchbearer principal practices and perceptions concerning reading instruction may inform other school and district administrators as well as policy makers on professional development and practices that could lead to real and sustainable change in turning around high poverty low performing schools’ reading performance. Keywords: high-poverty schools, principal perceptions, reading instruction, Torchbearer schools

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