Term of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Teri Denlea Melton

Committee Member 1

Linda M. Arthur

Committee Member 2

Samuel Hardy III


Students in schools across the country are failing to meet academic standards. School leaders are responsible for solving the problem and must search for ways to help all students learn and improve academic achievement. Although copious studies have been devoted to exploring the benefits of and barriers to family involvement and engagement in schools, very few have deconstructed the direct role of principals in family involvement in school. The purpose of this study was to explore how elementary principals in low income, elementary schools in the southeastern U.S. use elements of relational trust in family involvement efforts. Grounded in cultural study and critical theory research traditions, and informed by symbolic interactionism, the study was guided by an overarching question and was supported by three sub-questions. After a thorough review of relevant literature including the topics of family involvement, trust, and leadership practices, a phenomenological study was conducted to answer the research questions focused on the perceptions of current principals of low income, Red Carpet award winning elementary schools in South Carolina regarding their role in building trust with families. The study consisted of conducting face-to-face interviews of ten (10) purposefully sampled participants using a structured interview protocol consisting of fifteen (15) questions and review of artifacts. Thorough and extensive analysis of the data revealed themes and sub themes. Principal perceptions provided thick, rich descriptions allowing the researcher to support the goals of the study. Principals defined family-school trust as providing a safe comfortable place that is inclusive of all stakeholders and inspires a sense of confidence in the principal and school. Principals held the following beliefs: trust plays an important role in family school trust; certain strategies are the most productive for working with low income families to build trust and improve involvement; competently acting in the best interest of families and having high academic expectations demonstrates leadership best practices; and finally, principals believe they have a moral imperative to ensure that children in their care are receiving the quality education they deserve. Recommendations include suggestions for future research in the area of the principals' role in trust building for family involvement.

Research Data and Supplementary Material