Gauging Deficit Thinking: An Investigation of Principals’ Perceived Self-Efficacy in Influencing Dropout Rates Among African American and Hispanic High School Students in Texas
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this research study was to investigate the link between Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory and deficit thinking on principals’ efforts to decrease dropout rates at their low-income minority high schools. Although the rate of high school dropouts is declining overall in the U.S., the phenomenon still remains a persistent problem. Principals play a key role in reducing dropout rates on their respective high school campuses. However, when principals are not perceived to have the self-efficacy to effectively influence dropout rates on high school campuses, any efforts made could be significantly diminished. This is especially true within the context of schools primarily comprised of low-income minority students, contexts in which a deficit paradigm normally exists. The defining characteristic of the deficit mindset is the attribution of low-income minority students’ inabilities to succeed to the student’s own shortcomings – or deficits – as a poor minority rather than attributing the cause of failure to pedagogic practices or a school’s systemic and administrative failures. Thus, the presence of deficit thinking could potentially impact principals’ sense of efficacy by leading them to an inevitable conclusion: certain students are doomed to fail academically and/or drop out of school, and the principal is powerless to prevent this inevitable outcome from occurring. Employing a qualitative case study approach utilizing site observation, face-to-face interviews, and focus groups for data collection, this research study sought to understand principals’ levels of perceived self-efficacy, if and how deficit thinking influenced efficacy, and how efficacy affected efforts to curb dropouts in schools. Three principals of predominantly low-income minority high schools and dropout prevention teams were interviewed, and the findings were transcribed, coded using Stake’s (2005) reductionist method, and analyzed for insights and emergent themes across the data collection. Study findings revealed all of the principals operated with some level of deficit thinking; however, their personal backgrounds, which were similar (to some extent) to those of the students in schools, mitigated the effect deficit thinking had on levels of self-efficacy. As a result, levels of self-efficacy to prevent students from dropping out remained moderate to high, and persisted in engaging aggressive programmatic and personal efforts to reduce dropouts on their campuses. The study’s findings empower education administrators with key knowledge on how to prepare and select principals who most effectively work with low-income minority students.
Subjectgauging deficit thinking
Wooldridge, Toron Jamaine (2016). Gauging Deficit Thinking: An Investigation of Principals’ Perceived Self-Efficacy in Influencing Dropout Rates Among African American and Hispanic High School Students in Texas. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from