Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

An Investigation of School Leadership Priorities

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

An Investigation of School Leadership Priorities

Article excerpt

This article describes a qualitative research study that examined the leadership and management experiences of 25 elementary principals in the central Virginia region. The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards were used as the framework to explore the principals job responsibilities and how they prioritized the many facets of their administrative function. It is clear from the literature that the job demands of school principals continue to grow and escalate. Thus, with increasing accountability, it is essential that school leaders learn to balance the responsibilities of being the instructional leader as well as the school manager. The study findings revealed that although instructional leadership was apriority, it was often overshadowed by school managerial demands. Principals described their administrative role as having multiple and competing responsibilities. The findings suggested that an increased focus on professional development for administrators in the area of management is especially needed.

Implicit in current national and state education policy is the assumption that effective principal leadership is central to student achievement. As the leaders of the school, principals have tremendous influence over the values, beliefs, practices, and efforts that guide the faculty, staff, students, and parents (Lashway, 2002). In fact, the single most powerful force for improving school effectiveness and for achieving excellence in education is the school principal (Anderson, 1989; Leithwood, Louis, Andersen, & Wahlstrom, 2004; Sykes, King, & Patrick, 2002).

All principals and schools are different; as a result, leadership necessarily takes a variety of forms. In addition, school leadership has evolved dramatically over the past 30 years (Catano & Stronge, 2006; McEwan, 2003). In the 1970s and early 1980s the school administrator typically focused on the management areas of planning, controlling, leading, and organizing (McEwan, 2003), However, today there is little doubt the public eye is keenly focused on school principals to deliver results in the form of increased student achievement. Succinctly expressed,

accountability is not just another task added to the already formidable list of the principal's responsibilities. It requires new roles and new forms of leadership carried out under careful public scrutiny while simultaneously trying to keep dayto-day management on an even keel. (Lashway, 2002, p. 13)

In this era of heightened accountability, principals not only need to respond to accountability requirements, but they must also be accountable to their own job responsibilities. Today's administrator must fulfill the role of instructional leader while relying on managerial skills including delegation and collaboration. Of particular interest is the role of the elementary principal, who typically has fewer administrative staff and personnel than his or her middle- or high-school counterparts, and is, in many instances, the only administrator in the building. Therefore, this study was designed to examine specifically the ways in which elementary principals understand their jobs and their leadership practices.

Using the 2008 Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2008) as a framework, this research explored the relationship between the standards and the ways acting elementary principals described their work. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (2001) asserted that the standards are a catalyst for new thinking about the role of principal as a leader and manager. Further, the standards provide the educational framework to prepare competent and successful school leaders more effectively and to chart a path for school leaders to assist them in improving student success (Lovely, 2004).

Trie ISLLC standards are comprised of six function areas that describe and define strong leadership: (a) setting a shared vision of learning; (b) developing a school culture and instructional program that supports student learning and staff professional growth; (c) ensuring effective organisational management, which includes resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment; (d) collaborating with members of the faculty and community, responding to the diverse interests and needs of the community, and securing community resources; (e) acting in an ethical manner with integrity and fairness; and (f) understanding, influencing, and responding to the political, social, legal, and cultural contexts (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2008). …

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