Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP PREPARATION: ENHANCING LEGAL LITERACY TO CREATE 21st CENTURY READY PRINCIPALS

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP PREPARATION: ENHANCING LEGAL LITERACY TO CREATE 21st CENTURY READY PRINCIPALS

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The signing into law of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) 2001 reauthorized the longstanding Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, Jorgensen & Hoffman, 2003), and immensely changed the educational landscape. This landmark event ushered in an era of accountability for students, teachers and administrators, and notably caused the job of principals to increase in complexity and pressures (Boyland, Lehman, & Sriver, 2015). Growing evidence suggesting that principals both directly and indirectly affect academic achievement, combined with these increasing accountability measures, translate to potentially serious consequences for principals if they fail to find a way to adeptly address the multi-faceted demands of their jobs (Davis et al., 2005; Voelkel, Johnson, & Gilbert, 2016). The most recent re-authorization of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, affords flexibility to state and local districts to decide how to raise student achievement-a move that may unwittingly place more accountability and pressures on educational leaders (Voelkel et al., 2016), and calls for heightened awareness to enhancing their preparation.

Legal literacy, a term used to describe competence in school law knowledge, and the ability to use deliberative tools to properly apply it (Militello, Schimmel, & Eberwein, 2009) is both central and essential to meeting the demands of accountability legislation (Painter, 2001). Strong legal literacy in principals is recognized as a powerful fulcrum in leading large-magnitude reform and necessary in effective day-to-day transactions of schools (Davis et al., 2005; Pauken, 2012). However, principals typically do not demonstrate proficiency in this realm (Milittelo et al., 2009; Painter, 2001; Pauken, 2012). When principals are non-conversant in school law and are faced with perplexing problems, they frequently default to a less nuanced, piecemeal approach to applying law in search of formulaic answers to complex challenges. These approaches do little to challenge the status quo and deconstruct the structural inequities that perpetuate the achievement gap. Furthermore, steady increases in litigation against schools shift principals' focus away from important work and overall school improvement efforts and yet, avoiding litigation is challenging. School law is not static and policy and law development often lag behind contemporary issues. Adding to these challenges, education is fraught with tensions that exist between competing interests. While most principals may be capable of identifying major cornerstones of school law, many are not prepared adequately to use their legal literacy to support school improvement through both in-the-moment and deliberate decision-making (Painter, 2001; Pauken, 2012). This lack of strong legal literacy hampers their efforts to fulfill schools' missions (Painter, 2001), and invites increased scholarly attention to the conversation of how to improve the effects of school law courses.

While better preparation in the realm of school law would be one approach to increasing legal literacy, and consequently school improvement efforts, institutions struggle in this endeavor (Hoff, personal communication, 2015). In general, producing principals who are prepared to take on the task of leading in the 21st century is fraught with persistent and pervasive problems (Levine, 2005). This lack of proper preparation promotes turnover, and makes it challenging to improve schools (Jensen, 2014). Arming principals with strong legal literacy would provide them with a broader foundation of the tools necessary to avoid attrition and challenge the dominant cultures that perpetuate structures, policies, and practices that promote unearned privilege and widen the achievement gap. Immersive simulation is posited by many prominent scholars to be a possible solution to challenges of adequately preparing educational leaders (Johnson et al., 2011; Johnson et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.