Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, much attention has focused on
urban schools, where a great number of students are living in poverty and where the highest number of failing schools exists. In spite of a decade of eorts, a signicant achievement gap between urban students and other students remains. In addition, urban districts are often more likely to face less resources, more leadership turnover, and diculty in attracting and keeping highly qualied teachers than non-urban school districts. In spite of such obstacles, examples of urban schools having consistently high levels of student achievement continue to occur. Research suggests the leadership abilities of the principal can have a signicant impact on the success of such schools in improving student achievement. This study examined the leadership abilities of principals in three high achieving, high poverty schools located within the same urban school district, as perceived by the principals themselves and their staffs. Using the conceptual framework of Kouzes and Posner (2001, 2003, 2007), this mixed-method study used surveys and interviews/focus groups to examine the leadership abilities of the principals. Results indicated that both the principals and their teachers perceived the visionary leadership of the principal as having the most impact on the culture of successful teaching and learning in these schools. The implication for educational leadership is the need to develop professional development programs for aspiring and practicing urban school principals that focus explicitly on how school leaders can, develop and implement a shared vision of learning that leads to excellence in teaching and student achievement.