26 SES 04 A, Exploring The Link(s) Between Educational Leadership, Turnover And Student Achievement
A vast amount of empirical studies have demonstrated that principal turnover is often (and mostly negatively) associated with within-school variables and student outcomes (Snodgrass Rangel, 2018). Particularly with regard to schools with students from a low socioeconomic status (so-called low SES-schools), evidence suggests that a principal turnover might be an indication of an ongoing downward spiral: These schools are more likely to have comparatively less experienced principals (Branch, Hanushek, & Rivkin, 2008) and a higher personnel turnover rate (Gates et al., 2006; Loeb, Kalogrides, & Horng, 2010). Thus, the change of a principal can be a critical event for a school. Routines might be altered or given up completely, social relationships can be disrupted, and a school may lose its institutional memory when a school leader leaves her/his position and a new one takes over the responsibility for a school.
Although some studies have demonstrated an association between principal turnover and school culture, climate and resources (Snodgrass Rangel, 2018), the consequences of such an event for classroom instruction and teaching have rarely been studied. This is remarkable, as in theory, high quality teaching should vary in response to schools’ contextual factors, including leadership (Cohen & Goldhaber, 2016). In the only research available on this topic, Leithwood and Mascall (2010) used a cross-sectional design, drew on teacher self-reports concerning teaching practices and found no significant effect of principal turnover on those variables, and thus conclude, “that teacher classroom practice is in some way buffered from direct effects of changes in principal leadership” (Mascall & Leithwood, 2010, p. 375f). However, the results are hard to interpret, particularly as it is difficult for teachers to report on the quality of their own instruction, i.e. the appropriateness of teacher-student interaction in the classroom (Bell et al., 2014; Goe, Bell, & Little, 2008; Kunter & Baumert, 2006). Thus, it remains unclear if and how principal turnover is related to the quality of instruction.
While this is the case for the international field of research in general, it is a particularly poignant “blank spot” for the German context, where not a single empirical study so far has investigated principal turnover and its consequences at all. The few scholarly German sources published that explicitly mention effects of or just issues surrounding principal succession and/or turnover work with limited sample sizes (Hancock & Müller, 2014). There is not even accurate and reliable information on turnover rates of and job vacancies for principals available. Only one study (Abs, Diedrich, Sickmann, & Klieme, 2007) casually surveyed the turnover of principals for the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (in 160 Schools) and reported a turnover rate of about 21% within three years but did not report on any determinants or effects of turnover.
Against this background, the purpose of our research is to explore the effects of principal turnover and its complex associations with context and leadership on teaching quality in a German context and thus, to address these three central research questions:
- Is principal turnover associated with a change in a schools’ teaching quality?
- Does a schools’ social context play a significant role with regard to the putative effects of principal turnover on teaching quality?
- Does an interaction of principal turnover and school leadership affect changes in a schools’ teaching quality?
This study is a secondary analysis with repeated measures on the school level of data gathered by the Hamburg school inspection during its first (2007-2013) and second inspection cycle (2012-2019). For our analyses we use data from classroom observations as well as teacher and school questionnaires from n=101 primary schools who have been inspected in both inspection cycles.
Teaching Quality is the dependent variable in our analyses. The data stems from systematic 20-minute classroom observations conducted by the Hamburg school inspection. The observation instrument is based on the notion that effective teaching could be described by a set of generic teaching or instructional practices (Praetorius et al, 2018) and intends to evaluate teaching in different subjects, grade levels, and school contexts, with differences to be accounted for in scoring rather than in observation (Goe et al., 2008). Thus, the instrument is comprised of 30 Items from four dimensions: a) classroom management, b) supportive climate, c) cognitive activation and d) adaptive teaching. All items are rated by external observers on a four-point scale. The lower limit of the amount of observations was 40 per school. For the first point of measurement n=5,202 (mean per school=52) classroom observations are available in the data set, for the second point of measurement n=4,834 (mean per school=48). The teacher questionnaire comprises a total of 114 items from which we only use the section (perceived) leadership behavior. Further, the inquiry is conducted as a full population survey on the level of each school, thus, no sampling takes place and all teachers of a school are requested to participate in the online survey. School Leadership practices within this paper are understood similarly to the OECD (2016) concept of Leadership for Learning and thus as a blend respectively integration of instructional and shared leadership practices. The response rate of the teacher online survey for our sample was 69.6 percent (n=1,916, N=2,840). The effects of principal turnover were examined by applying univariate analyses in SPSS as well as multi-level regression models in Mplus 7.3 (Muthén & Muthén, 2012). Regarding the multi-level regression models teaching quality was modelled as dependent variable with classroom observations nested in schools. For this purpose, the time of observation was used as predictor variable on level 1 (within schools) coded as 0 = baseline and 1 = second time point. The effect of time was treated as random between schools and thus reflects the school level changes in teaching quality between the two time points. Principal turnover and other school level variables were used as predictors for change, i.e. as school level predictors for the random slope of time. For all predictors, correlations with the random intercept (i.e. the school level of teaching quality at the first time point) were included in the model.
Our research reveals four major findings: First, principal turnover per se is not a significant (b=-.056, p=.493) predictor for the change of teaching quality within schools over time. Second, shared leadership behaviour is beneficial in keeping the teaching quality within a school stable over time (b=.150, p=.042). Third, the interaction of principal turnover and instructional leadership results in a strong negative change in teaching quality (b=-.556, p=.042), meaning that new principals often trying to apply strong instructional leadership practices may erode the teaching quality of a school. And fourth, it could be shown through a three-way interaction, that this effect depends on the social context of school, in that this negative effect systematically varies with the social context of a school and is less pronounced in high SES-schools (b=.105, p=.074). Thus, similarly to Mascall and Leithwood (2010) we were not able to find and verify an isolated effect of change in leadership on classroom teaching. Hence, on the one hand our study broadens the knowledge base on this topic in that it confirms prior research findings and supports the assumption, that classroom teaching might be buffered to some extend from direct effects of principal turnover. On the other hand, our analyses revealed that the associations of leadership change and a change in teaching and instruction might be more complex than assumed so far. It seems that the consequences of principal turnover are strongly coupled to a school’s context as well as to the concrete leadership actions of the new principal. Thus, the results point to the relevance of interactions and moderators in the analyses of principal turnover and the conditions under which positive or negative consequences of a principal turnover are more or less likely.
Abs, H. J., Diedrich, M., Sickmann, H., & Klieme, E. (2007). Evaluation im BLK-Modellprogramm Demokratie lernen und leben. Skalen zur Befragung von Schüler/-innern, Lehrer/-innen und Schulleitungen. Frankfurt am Main: GFPF. Bell, C. A., Qi, Y., Croft, A. J., Leusner, D., McCaffrey, D. F., Gitomer, D. H., & Pianta, R. C. (2014). Improving Observational Score Quality: Challenges in Observer Thinking. In T. J. Kane, K. A. Kerr, & R. C. Pianta (Eds.), Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 50–97). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. Branch, G. F., Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2008). Principal turnover and effectiveness. Unpublished Manuscript. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b566/3c704d2437e9ad45e62a2551062339ca0050.pdf Cohen, J., & Goldhaber, D. (2016). Building a More Complete Understanding of Teacher Evaluation Using Classroom Observations. Educational Researcher, 45(6), 378–387. Gates, S. M., Ringel, J. S., Santibañez, L., Guarino, C., Ghosh-Dastidar, B., & Brown, A. (2006). Mobility and turnover among school principals. Economics of Education Review, 25(3), 289–302. Goe, L., Bell, C., & Little, O. (2008). Approaches to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: A Research Synthesis. National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Hancock, D. R., & Müller, U. (2014). Disincentives to Remaining a School Principal: Perspectives of German and US Principals. New Waves, 17(1), 66. Kühn-Ziegler, R. (2009). Schulleiterwechsel - ein unterschätztes Ereignis. Journal Für Schulentwicklung, 03(09), 23–28. Kunter, M., & Baumert, J. (2006). Who is the expert? Construct and criteria validity of student and teacher ratings of instruction. Learning Environments Research, 9(3), 231–251. Loeb, S., Kalogrides, D., & Horng, E. L. (2010). Principal Preferences and the Uneven Distribution of Principals Across Schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 32(2), 205–229. Mascall, B., & Leithwood, K. (2010). Investing in Leadership: The District’s Role in Managing Principal Turnover. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9(4), 367–383. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2012). Mplus software (Version 7). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén. OECD. (2009). Creating effective teaching and learning environments : first results from TALIS. Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD. (2016). School Leadership for Learning. Paris: OECD. Praetorius, A.-K., Klieme, E., Herbert, B., & Pinger, P. (2018). Generic dimensions of teaching quality: the German framework of Three Basic Dimensions. ZDM, 50(3), 407–426. Snodgrass Rangel, V. (2018). A Review of the Literature on Principal Turnover. Review of Educational Research, 88(1), 87–124. Wahlstrom, K. L., & Louis, K. S. (2008). How Teachers Experience Principal Leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(4), 458–495.
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