This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Closing the Gap: Culturally Competent Principals and African American Students' Success




Cole, Latryce

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


African American students are not achieving at the rate and in a manner consistent with their peers. News headlines continue to report a dismal future for the American education system as a whole and for students of color, specifically (Layton, 2014). Scholars have addressed the problem of academic achievement for students of color for decades, but the problems still exists (Delpit, 2012). Over that time, numerous approaches have been presented as possible solutions to closing the achievement gap between students of color and their White counterparts. Ideas focused on the curriculum to ideas on relationships between stakeholders within the school community have been presented (Firestone and Riehl, 2005). One concept that is emerging in the field of education is cultural competency. Although this is a concept that has been a part of the medical training profession, it entry into the field of education holds great promise. In recent years, the conversation has moved from the cultural competency of teachers, the individuals who have the most direct interaction with students, to school leaders. However, there is still much work to be done in exploring the role that culturally competent leaders play in helping all students achieve academic success. This paradigm is addressed in this study. Using the manuscript format, this study includes two manuscripts. The first manuscript highlights the development and psychometric properties of the survey used in this study. The second manuscript examines the relationship between principals’ level of cultural competence and the achievement level of African American students. Results indicated that principals perceive themselves to be culturally competent. Several professional and personal factors influence the development of cultural competency. But regardless of the level of cultural competence that principals perceive themselves to be, this had no impact on the academic achievement gap at the school level. The findings of this study are the beginnings of a new and potentially beneficial area of research in the field of educational leadership. While principals’ cultural competency may not have a direct impact on group performance on standardized tests, the cross section of cultural competency and principal leadership create a complex dynamic that warrants further exploration.