26 SES 17 A, Exploring Issues Of Autonomy, Inspection And Equity
For aspiring school principals, it is important to have the depth of knowledge and competencies necessary to lead the instruction, services, and social-emotional wellbeing of all students in their schools, including the deaf and hard of hearing students. The following research study advances the work of inclusion in principal preparation advocating for equitable education for deaf children in public schools and grow special education leaders. The participants in this study are aspiring principals in a residency program where a strong concentration on knowledge and framework to lead equitable and socially just instructional leadership for marginalized school populations is the curricular focus. The purpose of this study is to capture the application experiences of aspiring administrators in a fifteen-month job-embedded residence program as they learn to lead educators and curriculum in deaf education.
Existing social justice and equity literature is crucial to framing the instructional leadership of educators and students in public schools. Schools require principals who advance equity as social justice leaders (Theoharis, 2009), who can lead and model for the entire school environment by responding to the schooling needs of minoritized students (Khalifa, Gooden, Davis, 2016), and who are transformative leaders, leading with questions of justice and democracy, critiquing inequitable practices, and addressing both individual and public good (Shields, 2010). More importantly, it fills a wide gap of knowledge in school leadership as the current literature is absent of school leaders leading deaf education through equitable frameworks.
The principal interns in residence engaged in strategic leadership equity audits for deaf students in public schools through: (1) framing equity to drive equitable instruction for deaf students and uncover inequities around their instruction and social-emotional well-being; (2) an inclusive systemic framework where curriculum, student engagement with educators, and engaging faculty and staff to address the learning needs of student with disabilities; and (3) prepared interventions and action plans to improve the educational outcomes and access of deaf students. The study uncovered aspiring principal awareness, best practices, and the complex challenges special education leaders face every day in public schools advocating for marginalized populations. There continues to be a dearth of research on how to adequately prepare a special education leader, especially, with a focus on deaf education, and support while leading schools.
Currently, school principals are expected to have a depth of knowledge and skills to lead multiple populations in schools, including the deaf and hard of hearing (O’Brien, 2011). However, few leadership programs provide leaders the knowledge of diversity, the curriculum, and pedagogical needs of the students (O’Brien, C. & Robinson, 2017). To address the gap, university personnel involved in this study provided students in residency with opportunities to learn by requiring prepared interventions and action plans to improve the educational outcomes of identified deaf students in their schools and districts. These opportunities began with an interview of the campus principal who led the education for deaf and/or hard of hearing students. The university’s team also collaborated with an expert in deaf education to address the limited program knowledge in this specific area. The following two research questions guided this study: RQ1: In what ways can aspiring principals in a residence program lead instruction for deaf education students in public schools? RQ2: In what ways can principal preparation programs prepare school leaders to be knowledgeable, equitable, and socially just instructional education leaders for students who are deaf?
Methods Section Qualitative research methods provide tools for the researcher to study a phenomenon within a situation (Baxter & Jack, 2008). The qualitative research design was further utilized to examine a cohort of aspiring principal interns in a fifteen-month residence program through a multiple-case study design (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007). This multiple case study design allowed faculty and researchers to focus on the phenomenon from multiple perspectives as members in the same job-embedded principal preparation residency program explored the school leadership practices for deaf education in public schools. The multiple case study design provided the researchers a deeper understanding of the experiences gained in advocating and leading instruction and social-emotional well-being for deaf students in public schools. The selected principal interns were vetted through a school-university and a non-profit organization partnership for high selectivity. Although not part of this study, the principal interns in residence also conducted classroom observations and interviewed teachers, parents, and the students in the class. Additionally, they also consulted with counselors, diagnosticians, school and district leadership on curriculum, special education and 504 services, and on law and policy to gain knowledge in leading deaf education in public schools. The partnership included five public school districts, fourteen campuses including elementary, middle, and high schools, and a diverse population of principal interns, representing male, female, White, Black and Latinx identities. Data Analysis In this qualitative study, the focus was on the documented analysis of principal interviews conducted by residency program interns and their leadership experiences in rural, urban, and suburban schools. Data were analyzed through the use of a qualitative software, NVIVO10, that researchers searched for common themes among the data. The themes that emerged from the data were categorized into themes and sub-themes. Data were compared with the initial data collected to ensure accuracy.
The research study finding first pointed to the perceptions and gained knowledge of interns in residence as they examined the realities of leading deaf education. Second, findings provided a model environment for learning and educator support and also exposed outdated practices, lack of knowledge and complex challenges for families and educators involved in leading deaf education. Third, the study found the support of the first finding, aspiring administrators have limited knowledge of deaf culture, deaf education, American Sign Language, and curriculum support for their mastery in learning. Fourth, this study demonstrates the need to focused special education experiential learning opportunities provided in the residency program as valuable and needed for public school administrators to lead special education students in public schools. This study magnified the limited knowledge of current school leaders and educators in serving deaf education in public schools. The findings in this study provide principal preparation programs a guide on where to start, the questions to ask, and how to prepare aspiring school leaders to engage with public schools to improve leadership for marginalized students. This study discovered that leaders have a tremendous ability to influence deaf education and of deaf children, and do this formally and informally, as well as intentionally and unintentionally. This study also recommends implications for the central conclusion to prepare leaders to practice more of a servant and social justice form of leadership in mainstream public schools. The session is relevant to the 2019 ECER Conference Theme, “Education in an Era of Risk-the Role of Educational Research for the Future,” in that it addresses new ways of understanding how leadership and culture inform our research regarding policy and practice by exploring people and schools that have been traditionally marginalized and underrepresented in educational leadership scholarship.
Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative case study methodology: Study design and implementation for novice researchers. The qualitative report, 13(4), 544-559. Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R., & Gall, J. P. (1996). Educational research: An introduction. Longman Publishing. Khalifa, M. A., Gooden, M.A., Davis, J.E. (2016)/ Culturally responsive school leadership: A synthesis of the literature. Review of Educational Research. doi:10.3102/0034654316630383 O’Brien, C. (2011). The influence of Deaf culture on school culture and leadership. A case study of a school for the deaf. A Dissertation Published by the University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri. O’Brien, C. & Robinson (2017). Leadership for cultural and language diversity within the context of schools for the deaf. Journal of School Leadership. Shields, C. (2010). Transformative leadership: Working for equity in diverse contexts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46, (4), 558-589.doi: 10.1177/0013161X10375609 Theoharis, G. (2009). The school leaders our children deserve: Seven keys to equity, social justice, and school reform. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
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