Examining Instructional Leadership: A Study of School Culture and Teacher Quality Characteristics Influencing Student Outcomes

By Ohlson, Matthew | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Examining Instructional Leadership: A Study of School Culture and Teacher Quality Characteristics Influencing Student Outcomes


Ohlson, Matthew, Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


Introduction & Literature Review

This research is a report of a statistical modeling study of the relationship between school leadership, school culture, teacher quality and the influence these variables have upon student outcomes. The research is based upon data gathered during the start of the 2007 school year and includes twenty-three public elementary schools in the state of Florida. The findings offer valuable insight into the characteristics of quality teaching, instructional leadership and school culture that demonstrate greatest impact on student attendance and suspensions and thus may influence educational policy, teacher training, educational leadership, and school reform initiatives.

For policy makers to provide comprehensive teacher evaluation programs, it is paramount to understand what constitutes quality teaching. Linda Darling-Hammond (2000) found that student achievement increased and dropout rates decreased when teachers were certified in their field, obtained their master's degrees, and were enrolled in graduate studies. In addition, she contends that teacher preparation and certification had the strongest correlation for student achievement, more than any other school based factors. Furthermore, teaching in-field, in math and science particularly, led to increased student achievement (Goldhaber and Brewer, 1997).

This need for school-based evaluation methods and support for professional development stresses the importance of effective educational leadership. Effective instructional leadership is generally recognized as the most important characteristic of school administrators (Hoy & Hoy, 2009). Cosner and Peterson (2003) go so far as to claim that promoting teacher professional development is the most influential educational leadership behavior. Principals and administrators are needed to lead educational improvement, foster effective change efforts, lead the implementation of new standards, and are central to shaping strong, professional school cultures (Deal & Peterson, 1998).

The relationship between effective teaching and effective leadership is reinforced in the vital role of school culture. Among the numerous definitions of school culture, Deal and Peterson (1990) and Schein (1985) affirm that school culture refers to the deep patterns of values and beliefs and traditions that have been formed over the course of the school's history and which are understood by members of the school community. Peterson (2002) suggests that culture is built within a school over time as teachers, school leaders, parents and students work together. It is the school culture that often influences the staff development and professional growth that takes place within a school. Fullan and Steiglebauer (1991) contend that the key to successful change is not only a change in organizational structure but also more importantly a change in the culture. A positive school culture may have a significant influence on the academic and social success of the students within schools (Squires & Kranyik, 1996). When a school exhibits characteristics of a positive school culture, there are fewer suspensions, increased attendance rates, and increased achievement on standardized test scores (Anson et al. 1991, Becker &Hedges 1992).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to determine if teacher quality characteristics and school culture components influence student attendance and suspension rates. Specifically this study will address the following questions:

1. Is there a relationship between the characteristics of teacher quality (the percentage of classes taught by out-of-field teachers, the percentage of teachers with advanced degrees, and the average years of experience for teachers within a school) and student attendance and suspension rates?

2. Is there a relationship between school culture factors, as measured by the School Culture Survey, and characteristics of teacher quality (the percentage of classes taught by out-of-field teachers, the percentage of teachers with advanced degrees, and the average years of experience for teachers within a school)? …

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