Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Bryan L. McCoy


The purpose of this study was to investigate the practices urban school leaders implement in daily school operations, how they form relationships with their students, and how these practices and relationships affect student initiative to engage in the high school experience and earn a diploma. High school students living in urban communities are often challenged by academic and societal deficits that separate them from their suburban counterparts. Students in these circumstances are more apt to drop out of high school. Leadership practices executed by urban school leaders to connect with their students are instrumental in motivating students to persist toward graduation.

This research was conducted as a qualitative phenomenological study of urban high school leaders; it was conducted under the scope of Ryan and Deci’s Motivation Theory and Burns’ Transformational Leadership Theory. Two urban high school leaders from a school district in a southern state participated in the study. Both leaders were interviewed and elaborated upon the strategies, instructional planning, and use of resources in daily school operations. Data from participants’ interviews were collected, transcribed, and analyzed to unveil an emergence of responses, patterns and themes. Coding procedures addressed the research questions and reinforced the theoretical framework for the study. The findings yielded emerging themes reflective of the leaders’ practices including student motivation, relationships, data, guidance and assessments, teacher support and feedback, college and career preparation, parental involvement, and community partnerships. The findings of the study revealed that the urban high school leaders’ practices are effective in decreasing student dropout rates.