Measuring Principals' Openness to Change on Three Dimensions: Affective, Cognitive and Behavioral

Article excerpt

The principal's role in building-level school reform is crucial for successful reorganization. The context for this study was 307 schools funded by Ohio's legislature to implement their self-designed restructuring plans. The Inventory of Organizational Change was used to measure principals' openness to change on three dimensions. Mailed surveys were returned by 168 principals (54.7%). Mean subscale ratings (1=SD; 5=SA) were: affective 2.29; cognitive 3.85; behavioral 3.66. Analysis found a high positive correlation between cognitive and behavioral subscales (.90); there were high negative correlations between affective and both cognitive (-.70) and behavioral (-.66) subscales. Principals' feelings about change were inversely related to how they thought about change and the extent to which they reported they were willing to work to facilitate chancre. Female principals' were statistically significantly (p [is less than] .01) more open to change on both the cognitive and behavioral subscales than were male principals.

Public school reform efforts in the past ten years have focused on restructuring the institution with the local school as the unit of analysis (e.g., Comer, 1988; Elmore, 1990; Goodlad, 1990; The Holmes Group, 1986, 1990; Levine, 1988; Sarason, 1992; Sizer, 1992, Zeichner, 1991). One area for this restructuring has been the traditional hierarchical public school organization with the superintendent, board of education and building principal constituting a bureaucratic chain linked with classroom teachers who carry out mandates from above (Lieberman & Miller, 1990). Within restructuring schools, the focus is on a variety of organizational arrangements that maximize interconnectedness, active learning, shared decision making, professional development of the staff, and higher levels of thinking and achievement for all students (Fullan, 1993). These advocated organizational changes fall against what Keedy and Finch (1994) described as "... an entrenchment of relationships grounded in the cement of one-hundred years, where the major organizational norms have been control and compliance" (p. 141). With this degree of entrenchment, either a mandate or a challenge from beyond the system was needed to begin change.

Background of the Study

Timar and Kirp (1989) stated, "If states are serious about improving the quality of education and striving for excellence they must create a context in which organizational competence at the school level can develop" (p. 511). This context was created in Ohio through funding from the state legislature. Venture Capital grants of $25,000 per year per school (renewable for five years) were made available to serve as catalysts to "spark" local schools to redesign their internal structures. Ohio's commitment to restructuring was stated clearly:

   School improvement can only be achieved if there is a willingness to
   fundamentally restructure Ohio's education system. School improvement must
   focus on the development and interrelationships of all the main components
   of the system simultaneously--teaching and learning, assessment,
   governance, organization, and professional development. It must also focus
   on the culture of the system (Ohio Department of Education, July, 1993, p.
   6).

Administrators from local school districts were asked to nominate schools for Venture Capital grants. Following the district's nomination, proposals describing the nature of the proposed reform were submitted by personnel within the individual schools. As a condition for applying for funding, the schools had to provide evidence that at least 80% of the school staff was supportive of the proposed ideas as well as evidence that the building staff was poised and ready to undertake the proposed changes. Ninety two percent of the building principals were the initiators of the proposal grants and served as the Venture Capital Coordinators in their buildings. …