07 SES 02 C JS, School Leadership and Equity
Paper Session Joint Session NW 07 with NW 26
As Ball (2010) warned in the European Conference on Educational Research keynote address in 2009, Europe was experiencing a shift in the governance of education that was dependent on the seductive “neo-liberal managerialism”. We assert that the practical change to schools as a result of these policy frameworks depends on the quality of the local educational leader. Given the longer history of enactment of this policy regime in the United States of America, lessons from a high school principal fully immersed in a similar system offer insights for local educational leaders in Europe.
In past empirical studies, the direct and indirect effectiveness of high school principals’ contribution to student success was viewed with skepticism due to variations in measures used for student outcomes and in results of principals’ effectiveness—from high impact to none (Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Witziers, Bosker, Krüger, 2003; Day, & Leithwood, 2007). The limited cases targeting high school leaders’ contribution to student and school success are included along with elementary and middle school data using test scores as success indicators. For example, a recent study of Texas school leaders’ effects on student outcomes used average mathematics achievement gains as a measure of success and incorporated principals from high school, middle school and elementary school to show the principals’ effectiveness school principals had an annual impact range of 4 to 16 percentage points on student test scores (Branch, Hanushek, & Rivkin, 2013). Studies like Branch et al. failed to include a holistic approach to successful school leadership practices including the power struggles, accountability threats, and transformative cultural norms (Burns, 2012). Scholars also recommended isolating high school leadership from primary school leadership since differences exist due to the structure of departmentalized content areas and a larger student and staff population along with addressing older students with diverse goals (Bossert, Dwyer, Rowan, & Lee, 1982; Hallinger & Murphy, 1987; Day, Harris, Hadfield, Tolley, & Beresford, 2000). Studies targeting effective high school principals demonstrated the link between positive student academic effects of leaders with high academic goals and their autonomy in selecting and hiring teachers (Brewer, 1993), as well as data-directed dialogue and collaborative instruction with school leaders within content-specific departments (Cooper, Ponder, Merritt, & Matthews, 2005). Similar findings validated that effective school leaders engaged in relationship building and collaborative learning with shared ownership (Moos, Johansson, & Day, 2011; Pashiardis, Kafa, & Marmara, 2012; Garza, Drysdale, Gurr, Jacobson, & Merchant, 2014). Limited empirical research about high school leadership points to the type of relationships between teachers and school leaders; focusing on instruction may have a greater impact on student achievement (Robinson,
Lloyd, & Rowe, 2008; Robinson, Bendikson, & Hattie, 2011). However, a need exists to examine the process high school principals take to incorporate changes towards improvement of academically underperforming schools during the challenging, transformational phases while using holistic success indicators.
The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine the practices of an urban high school principal that aggressively targeted school improvement with a high-minority, low-income student population. The school and principal were purposefully selected to examine the practices implemented by a new principal at a school aiming to improve holistic student outcomes, including cultural pride, respect, honor, and test scores, as well as the resulting perceptions from teachers, parents, and students.
Two overarching research questions guided this study: (1) What were the practices of an urban, high school principal’s efforts for school improvement? (2) How did the principal perceive these practices implemented at different phases?
To address the research questions, several theoretical approaches were considered including Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Leadership, CRL (Santamaria, 2013), and Organizational Theory (Mintzberg, 1984).
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