Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Administration and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Kent Seidel, Ph.D.


Leadership, Pay-for-performance, Principal leadership


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore principals' perspectives on how they make sense of their leadership roles in a new pay-for-performance system. The study describes the perceptions of six principals, two each from elementary, middle, and high school levels, regarding leadership in a recently changed system. Principals were asked about their leadership roles in implementing a pay-for-performance system, and responses focused on leadership styles, actions, beliefs, preparation, and experience of leading in a time of change. Four themes emerged from the data as significant aspects of leading change in a pay-for-performance system: (a) supporting a culture of excellence, (b) leading through sense making, (c) maintaining balance, and (d) providing instructional leadership.

The theme of "culture of excellence" refers to the standpoint of preparing students for higher learning expectations. Participants discussed creating a "high culture of excellence" as setting a sense of urgency for learning. Principals' responses were generally about how to set the stage to prepare students for learning. However, there was an underlying message that leaders must be able to establish a climate for learning by involving people throughout the process. The theme of "leading through sense-making" includes ideas that the leader needs to be able to make sense of a changing system for self and others, understand the significance of the change, and work actively with others as a change agent. The theme of "maintaining balance" describes participants' feelings that money is not the sole motivation factor for teachers in a pay-for-performance system; it is more important to find the right balance of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Maintaining balance includes finding the right staff members, providing the right level of support, and balancing rewards for good teaching. Finally, the theme of "providing instructional leadership" focuses on the principal as a master of instructional practices. All of the participants felt that the most important role as a principal in a pay-for-performance system is to be an active instructional coach for their teaching staff. To foster improvement of teacher performance, the principal needs to provide instructional coaching and feedback, create a team atmosphere, and make regular visits to classrooms to establish a climate focused on improvement.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Amanda Lela Ortiz-Torres

File size

133 p.

File format





Educational leadership, Educational evaluation, Educational administration