23 SES 14 D, Mixed Session
Ball (2010) warned in the 2009 European Conference on Educational Research keynote address that Europe was experiencing a shift in the governance of education that was dependent on the seductive “neo-liberal managerialism”. In the US, the move for managing schools through the No Child Left Behind Act placed considerable accountability school leaders, especially those working in impoverished communities, forcing principals to focus on ways to produce results. As such, Explorer High School (EHS), located in the inner city of a large urban city in the southern United States region, with a complicated race-based political history, provides a perspective for addressing many racial, socio-economic, and political accountability challenges.
While exploring the multidimensional structure of school leadership, a consortium of educational researchers under the auspices of the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP), examine successful school leadership in a variety of international contexts. The focus on successful principals working under challenging school and community contexts (e.g., high poverty levels, high mobility rates, high adult illiteracy and unemployment rates, high crime rates, etc.) is of great interest to many stakeholders pursuing sustainable improvement agendas. Evidence across international contexts presented practices of successful school leadership including: building vision; understanding and developing people; redesigning the organization; and managing the teaching and learning process (Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris, & Hopkins, 2006). Importantly, the network of researchers noted that these core practices led to success when enacted in concert within specific contextual (cultural, social, and political) milieu. For example, US studies found a principal’s successful leadership reflected a strong sense of efficacy nurtured by a supportive family, a passionate and unwavering commitment to students, and a strong partnership with the community (Garza, Murakami-Ramalho, & Merchant, 2011), and principals’ ability to redesigned schools with a self-renewing capacity as well as maintaining a sense of purpose and direction, high expectations, caring, and an internalized accountability for student learning (Jacobson, Johnson, & Ylimaki’s, 2011). Klar & Brewer (2014) examined an American middle school and noted the principal engaged the rural cultural context to encourage a “family” atmosphere and regularly participating in service learning activities and charity events.
From international contexts at two Australian schools, Drysdale, Goode, & Gurr (2011) found that two principals’ leadership styles – strongly articulated personal values, personal qualities and characteristics, effective relationship building, and strategic interventions – were common denominators attributed to sustained improvement in the schools. Similarly, a Norwegian study (Moller, Vedoy, Presthus, & Skedsmo, 2011) revealed leadership dimensions consistent with those identified in the Australian context, including: strong personal values (persistence, resilience, and optimism); commitment to the philosophy of schooling; and promoting good relationships. A comparison of these bounded case studies of the principal’s contribution to school improvement in high needs schools leads us to theorize that effective school leadership is enacted on three different scales: the personal, the organizational, and the cultural.
The overarching research questions are: • What were the practices of an urban high school for school improvement? • How do socio-economic factors affect the history and perception of the school? Theoretical Framework To address the guiding research questions, several theoretical approaches were considered including Critical Race Leadership (Santamaria, 2013), and Organizational Theory (Mintzberg, 1984). For this qualitative study, the school and community were purposefully selected to examine the reform efforts of a high school that is charged with a school facing imminent closure from an inability to meet academic yearly progress for three years, as declared by the Texas Education Agency. In addition, the campus leadership met the criterion of implementing campus level school reform aimed at improving holistic student outcomes, cultural and community pride, and academic achievement in a high-minority, low-income student population. Researchers began documenting the reform efforts of Explorer High School (EHS) and collected data sources for a seven-year study that includes interviews with school personnel and community members, focus group interviews, extensive observations, and relevant documents. Ethnographic case study methodology was utilized including formal audiotaped interviews of the principal, school staff, students, parents, and community members following Seidman’s interview technique. Focus group and individual interviews were transcribed and coded. Multiple informal observations of the overall school campus operations were conducted including interactions among staff members, students, parents, and principal. In addition, teachers, classrooms, the Special Education department, disciplinary hearings, school events, extracurricular activities, counseling sessions, and bilingual program meetings were observed. All observations were documented through field notes. Other data collected included parent communications, state standardized testing results, state college readiness predictors, board meeting minutes, Communities in Schools meeting minutes, yearbook information, school pictures, and media related articles and videos of the school. Following Saldaña’s (2012) coding procedures, emerging themes were documented.
The purpose of this study is to offer a different perspective for understanding school improvement. Much of the current leadership practices for school improvement focus on linear or specific approaches in defined contexts. However, this study highlights the challenges associated with maneuvering through different levels in a school context to achieve successful reform outcomes that honor the struggle for school improvement in a large urban high school community. As such, this complex study works to contextualize the reform cycle of a school in a major southwestern city to outlines the larger socio-political realities as well as critical events that shaped the possibilities for quality education at this school. From the demographic shifts in the community and school, advocacy within the school has been fluctuating. Additionally, findings outline cultural meaning of the school to the community and simultaneously the district politics around zoning and desegregation. Furthermore, the significance of this school resides in the melding of leadership efforts with the historical discursive construction of the school as a place of cultural gathering for people.
Brewer, C. A. (2014). Historicizing in critical policy analysis: The production of cultural histories and microhistories. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(3), 273-288. Drysdale, L., Goode, H., & Gurr, D. (2011). Sustaining school and leadership success in two Australian schools. In L. Moos, O. Johansson, & C. Day (Eds.), How school principals sustain success over time: International Perspectives (pp. 15-37). London: Springer Brewer, C. A. (2014). Historicizing in critical policy analysis: The production of cultural histories and microhistories. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(3), 273-288. Garza, Murakami-Ramalho, & Merchant (2011). Leadership Succession and Successful Leadership: The Case of Laura Martinez. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 10(4), 428–443. Hargreaves, A., & Goodson, I. (2006). Educational change over time? The sustainability and nonsustainability of three decades of secondary school change and continuity. Educational administration quarterly, 42(1), 3-41. ISSPP Publications (online). Retrieved from http://www.uv.uio.no/ils/english/research/projects/isspp/publications/ Jacobson, S. L., Johnson, L., & Ylimaki, R. (2011). Sustaining school success: A case for governance change. In L. Moos, O. Johansson, & C. Day (Eds.), How school principals sustain success over time: International Perspectives (pp. 109-125). London: Springer Klar, H. W. & Brewer, C. A. (2014). Successful leadership in a rural, high-poverty school: The case of County Line Middle School. Journal of Educational Administration, 52(4), 422-445. Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2006). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership. England: NCSL. Mintzberg, H. (1984). Power and organization life cycles. The Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 207-224. Moller, J., Vedoy, G., Presthus, A. M., & Skedsmo, G. (2011). Sustainable improvement: The significance of ethos and leadership. In L. Moos, O. Johansson, & C. Day (Eds.), How school principals sustain success over time: International Perspectives (pp. 55-71). London: Springer. Murakami-Ramalho, E., Garza, E. and Merchant, B. (2010). Successful school leadership in socio-economically challenging contexts: School principals creating and sustaining successful school improvement. Journal of International Studies in Educational Administration, 3(3), 35. Saldaña, J. (2012). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Santamaria, L. J. (2013). Critical change for the greater good: Multicultural perceptions in educational leadership toward social justice and equity. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(3), 347-391. Young, M. D., & Brewer, C. (2008). Fear and the preparation of school leaders the role of ambiguity, anxiety, and power in meaning making. Educational Policy, 22(1), 106-129.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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