Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education


This study investigates principals’ individual and aggregate perceptions of and expectations for students who use African American Vernacular English. Using the African American English Teacher Attitude Scale (AAETAS), the study seeks to describe the relationship between principals’ demographic characteristics and their perceptions of African American Vernacular English. The study uses raw scores from the AAETAS instrument created by Hoover, McNair-Knox, Lewis and Politzer (1997) and codes the principals’ perceptions of AAVE in a histogram. Principals’ demographic information was gathered on the following categories: race, gender, home language, county location, childhood hometown community, age, years in education, years as a teacher, years in administration, student socio-economic class, school’s dominate culture, and total school enrollment. The results show an overall attitude of mild acceptance of AAVE in about 80% of the respondents. Five principals reported to having a negative attitude toward AAVE. Demographic factors such as gender, race, school location, enrollment, socio-economic status, age of principal, hometown setting and dialect were shown to influence principals’ perceptions and expectations of African American Vernacular English.

Principals may want to view the AAVE as different as opposed to derogatory, deviant, or deficient (Jonsberg 2001). This study found that a majority of the high school principals in Cook County, IL, who completed the principal’s profile and the African American English Teacher Attitude Scale were in the ”Difference” category. “Difference” means that listeners view AAVE as different and not necessarily negative. Seventeen respondents out of 22 (77.3%) were in this category. “Deficit” represents a strongly negative attitude towards AAVE. Five out of 22 principals were in this category (22.7%). “Excellence” is a strong positive attitude towards AAVE. No principals fell into this category.

Because this is a qualitative study, the principals’ responses have been explained through narrative. The findings in this study showed that most principals are neutral to mildly positive about AAVE and have neutral to mildly positive expectations for students who use AAVE. Five of the 22 school principals in this study indicated that the dialect could be harmful to one’s academic career, and they perceived AAVE as a dialect they would mildly prefer students not use.

Creative Commons License

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