Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education


Given the increased focus on high-stakes testing and district accountability measures evident in the world of public education today, it is understandable that school leaders would be influenced by the pressures associated with public expectations and dwindling fiscal resources. This study explored what public high school leaders do to evaluate and change programming in their schools through the lens of the Ethics of Care, Profession, Critique, and Justice. Following a sequential explanatory mixed method design, participant selection was conducted using the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) as the means for establishing schools that, according to the HSSSE, had strong cultures of belonging. From these quantitative results, four building principals were selected to participate in a semi-structured interview for qualitative data gathering. These interviews were analyzed for influences of the Ethics of Care, Profession, Critique and Justice.

High schools with strong cultures of belonging, as established by the HSSSE, reflected high levels of Cognitive/Intellectual Engagement (engagement of the mind), Emotional Engagement (engagement of the heart), and Social/Participatory Engagement (engagement in the life of the school). As principals of these schools evaluated their programming in areas that impact belonging (Academic, Activity, and Social-Emotional), they used multiple sources of data for analysis, relied heavily on student-voice to inform them on the engagement factor f current programming, and utilized the work of educational leadership to build capacity in their staff towards improving programming. In

sustaining these programs, the principals interviewed created highly effective and sustainable organizational structures, utilized a process for ongoing data evaluation, and worked to ensure efficient and equitable allocation of school resources. Throughout this work, they were strongly influenced by the Ethics of the Profession and Care when evaluating, creating, and sustaining programming that contributed to cultures of belonging in their buildings. Principals in schools that had more racially diverse populations were more influenced by the Ethic of Critique when evaluating, creating, and sustaining programming that contributed to cultures of belonging in their schools.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.