07 SES 06 JS, Social Justice and Educational Leadership
Paper Session, Joint Session NW 07 and NW 26
Economic, social, and demographic developments create and perpetuate disparities in societies, which are perceived as the primary causes of inequitable educational provisions. These disparities causes achievement gaps between students of different social strata. Particularly schools located in disadvantaged settings fail to accomplish equal level of student outcomes compared to schools which are located in socio-economically developed settings. The achievement gap has been one of the core concerns of scholarly research. However, this concern is not a new one. Since Coleman’s report (Coleman et al., 1966), educational researchers have been trying to identify the role of school level and home environment factors in student outcomes. Coleman’s report triggered a wide research stream around school effectiveness. Despite the decline in research on school effectiveness during 1990s, PISA studies triggered another movement in school effectiveness and school improvement research (Verdis et al., 2003). The literature on school effectiveness documented several factors which are validated cross culturally (or across different national education systems) as the primary determinants of student outcomes (Reynolds et al., 2002; Teddlie & Stringfield, 1993; Verdis et al., 2003).
Many scholars indicated the role of leadership in lifting student outcomes up and suggested school leadership as a remedy to disparities caused by social and economic factors (Jean-Marie, 2008; Marshall & Gerstl-Pepin, 2005; Scheurich & Skrla, 2003). Despite the popularity of leadership in school effectiveness and school improvement research, it is difficult to claim a commonly validated effect of leadership on school effectiveness, and as a consequence on student outcomes. Similarly the effect of leadership on the effectiveness of disadvantaged schools is also ambiguous. For example, in their recent meta-analysis Kyriakides et al. (2010) demonstrated that leadership has a negligible effect on student achievement. Similarly, Muijs et al. (2010) stated that in some countries (e.g., the Netherlands) leadership has no effect on student outcomes. Documenting limited effect of leadership on student outcomes does not nullify the importance of leadership in schools because the studies investigated the relationship and/or the effect of leadership considered standard conditions, including standard leadership practices. However, it can be argued that poor leadership may cause a higher decrement in student outcomes. Hence, rather than discarding leadership as a factor contributing to betterment of disadvantaged schools, documenting its role in school effectiveness and student outcomes is a growing scholarly tendency among educational researchers. Parallel to this understanding Muijs et al. (2010) in their review talked about the “indirect but strong role of leadership” in improving the capacity of disadvantaged schools.
Another issue related to research on leadership and school effectiveness is that most of the studies have been conducted in economically developed countries, which possess relatively decentralized educational systems. Although the outcomes generated from these studies provide wide insights for developing countries, it is difficult to argue that the outcomes produced out of research conducted in these countries are exactly applicable to every educational system. Hence, there is a need to investigate the topic in different educational systems. Particularly centralized educational systems are interesting cases to investigate the role of leadership in improving disadvantages schools. One reasons for this is that he literature speaks about participative, shared and distributed leadership practices as effective approaches for improving schools and student outcomes (Muijs et al., 2010); however, the extent to which these leadership practices can be demonstrated in centralized educational systems is not clear.
Based on these arguments this study attempts to investigate the role of school leadership in dealing with social disparities. The study will document specific leadership practices enacted to deal with the disparities caused by social and economic conditions surround the school.
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