Bridging the achievement gap for elementary students living in poverty can be accomplished by creating relationships with community partnerships. It is also reasonable to believe that the role of the elementary principal has the potential for building capacity with community partners, while also improving student achievement for young readers through advocating these partnerships. For the purpose of this case study, mixed-methods afforded an in-depth investigation of this role. The theoretical framework of community partnership expert, Joyce Epstein, was woven into this study to explore the three research questions guiding this study. A focus group meeting with ten community partners and parents highlighted the importance of the principal having compassion and a non-judgemental, welcoming demeanor, especially when families and partners visit the school. The information gleaned from the focus group can be used
for schools desiring to start, or improve upon community partnership activities. The online, Likert scale survey distributed statewide to 169 rural elementary principals leading in high poverty populations, revealed four, primary themes of importance to the role of the principal: 1) one who advocates partnerships, 2) one who offers volunteer opportunities in the school, 3) one who effectively communicates, and 4) one who takes time to meet with partners. Analysis of reading test scores provided evidence of a strong correlation relationship between reading proficiency and rural students who are identified as economically disadvantaged (.663). A welcomed discovery in the findings revealed that the state reading literacy proficiency scores for the third graders at the target school (91%) were actually higher than the state reading proficiency for all third graders by two percentage points. This study fills the gap that exists in literature concerning the role of the rural, elementary principal and the impact this role has on community partnerships in high poverty, rural schools. Implications for educational policy can be made as a result of this study, but only if policymakers are willing to endorse school and community partnerships as a proven strategy to improve educational outcomes for students living
in high poverty.