Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

William R. Black, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Mann, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Michael Sherry, Ph.D.


Appreciative Inquiry, school improvement plan, deficit thinking, principal evaluation rubric, teacher perception survey


In this study, I analyzed three important documents to principals in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) in Florida for the presence of deficit and asset-based discourse. I chose the documents for this study because of their impact on my practice as a Principal in HCPS. The first document is the template for the school improvement plan (SIP) required of all schools in Florida who fall under the Differentiated Accountability (DA) status in Florida. The second document is the HCPS principal evaluation rubric used to evaluate principal practice in the district. The third document is the HCPS Tell teacher perception inventory used to drive principal practice, district attitudes around principal practice, as well as principal evaluation. To conduct this study, I conducted a discourse analysis using techniques inspired by Huckin. The analysis of each document included an examination of the whole document, in sentences, as well as individual words and phrases to identify the existence of deficit and asset-based discourse. Literature reviewed for this study established the harmful nature of deficit discourse around schools. Therefore, an examination of key documents governing the practice of school principals in HCPS for deficit discourse is significant. My emic, auto-ethnic biographical viewpoint is key to informing the recommendations based on the discourse analysis of the key documents.

The discourse analysis of the selected documents yielded three major findings. First, the findings of the research showed the documents relied heavily on the deficit narrative around the leader as a “problem solver” that meets a “need” and/ or “fixes” something that is “broken.” Two, each document contains conflicting discourses where both deficit and asset based language was used to define similar behavior. For example, the HCPS principal evaluation rubric rates principals as “accomplished” and/or “exemplary” based on discourse that includes both deficit and asset-based discourse in the same domain. Finally, my own emic reflection during the study reflected how the practical, everyday application of the documents in my practice reflects deficit thinking even with the presence of asset-based discourse in each document. For example, the HCPS teacher perception inventory rates teacher perception from primarily an asset-based lens however virtually all of the coaching around the survey results is based on low ratings or areas of teacher dissatisfaction. This practice must change through creating templates and protocols that include asset-based discourse and thinking, training of principals around asset-based approaches to leadership, and a renewed commitment of principals like myself who do know the power of asset-based thinking to apply it in our own practices.

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