Examining the Perceptions of Principals' Ethical Leadership Behaviors and Student Academic Achievement

Jessica Willard Grayum, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this study was to examine and determine what relationship exists between perceived ethical leadership behaviors and student academic achievement. Educators from two rural school districts in Tennessee were asked to complete the Willard Grayum Ethical Leadership Behavior Survey. This survey was created to gather information regarding five types of behaviors most often identified in ethical leadership throughout research: competence, consistency/reliability, openness, respect, and integrity. Data on student academic achievement outcomes were collected from the last three years of state achievement tests (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) that were available at the time of data collection as provided by the Tennessee Department of Education. Results indicated that there were no significant relationships between perceived ethical behaviors of administrators and student outcomes in math, reading or science. Despite the non-significant results, findings suggest a positive association between the variables, meaning that ethical behaviors of school leaders and student academic achievement are positively associated, particularly in math. Educators were found to perceive fewer ethical behaviors of principals in comparison to principal self-ratings. There were no differences in perceptions between males and females or race/ethnicities. However, differences were present dependent upon degree held by the participants and scores in math and science. This study shows that the perception of ethical conduct is important for school leaders. Leaders need to foster transparency of their behaviors to ensure proper motivation and morale all the while contributing to a positive productive school environment. As mounting pressure is placed on teacher competency, it is extremely important that leaders use ethical behaviors to help teachers improve their instructional practices. Institutional policies and a standardization of ethical codes across all levels of educators is vitally important. Further research in this area is needed to explore the relationship between ethical behavior and academic achievement. Future researchers could include the perspectives of students and teachers in understanding the influence of school leaders, not only the general school climate. Further development of a Willard Grayum Ethical Leadership Behavior Survey would help to establish a consistent tool to examine ethical behaviors in education.

Subject Area

Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Jessica Willard Grayum, "Examining the Perceptions of Principals' Ethical Leadership Behaviors and Student Academic Achievement" (2018). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI10787275.