THE VALUE OF INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP IN HIGH SCHOOLS:
ESSENTIAL PRACTICES FOR EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS
Teresa A. Newbold
B.S., University of Colorado, 1985
M.A., University of Colorado, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Teresa A. Newbold
has been approved by
Newbold, Teresa Ann (Ph.D., Educational Leadership)
The Value of Instructional Leadership in High Schools: Essential Practices for
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Nadyne Guzman
This case study of three high schools, identified as effective, was based upon research-
based characteristics of effective schools. The three high schools studied were those
cited most frequently by reputational sampling as demonstrating effective schools
criteria. The research question for this study was: Do high schools that have been
identified as effective schools have an identifiable source of instructional leadership?
Data were gathered through interviews with each principal, administration of the
ILEAD survey for instructional leadership and instructional climate with each faculty
member, and analysis of school documents. Findings demonstrated that these three
sites did have instructional leadership from each principal and all three sites had an
instructional climate. Four themes emerged from this research: (a) these principals
made research-based decisions; (b) these principals were strong communicators; (c)
instructional leadership can be a shared responsibility; and (d) staff development was a
priority for each of these principals.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.
I dedicate this thesis to my mother, Virginia R. Zivkovich, for her belief in me and
ability to achieve this goal and to my children Abra and Adam Millman for their
willingness to let me pursue my academic goals.
My thanks to Rodney Muth for his untiring efforts to establish regional graduate
cohorts. Many thanks to my advisor, Nadyne Guzman, who knew better
than I what I could accomplish. Finally, thanks to my best friend and editor, Ken
Figures .......................................... viii
1. NATURE OF THE PROBLEM............................. 1
Problem Statement.............................. 4
Purpose of the Study .......................... 4
Scope of the Study............................. 6
Limitations of the Study....................... 6
Value of the Study..............................7
Organization of this document ..................7
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ..........................9
Historical Perspective of Effective Schools.....9
Review of Effective Schools Research ......... 17
Research on Principals as Instructional Leaders 23
Synthesis of Research on Instructional Leadership,
1985-95 ................................... 25
Synthesis of Research on Instructional Leadership,
1995-97 ................................... 30
Gaps in Instructional Research................ 34
3. METHODOLOGY ......................................35
Sample Selection ..............................41
Testing Instruments ...........................45
Manages Curriculum and Instruction..........48
Supervises Teaching ........................48
Monitors Student Progress ..................48
Promotes Instructional Climate .............49
Scripted Interviews........................ 51
Sample Case Outline.......................52
4. ANALYSIS OF DATA ..........................55
Case Study, Site A........................56
Case Study, Site B........................66
Case Study, Site C........................73
5. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND
Comparison and Contrast of Themes ........86
Recommendations for Further Research......93
A. INSTRUCTIONAL CLIMATE INVENTORY.............98
B. LETTER FROM METRI-TECH, INC................104
C. INSTRUCTIONAL CLIMATE REPORT............105
D. SCRIPTED INTRODUCTION......................123
E. INTERVIEW QUESTIONS .......................124
3.1 Methodology .....................................37
3.2 Theoretical Framework............................40
3.3 Purposeful Sampling..............................44
4.1 Case Study A......................................65
4.2 Case Study B.....................................71
4.3 Case Study C ....................................80
NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
During the 1970s, researchers (Brookover, 1978; Edmonds, 1979) began to
focus on schools that were experiencing extraordinary success, particularly those
schools that exhibited high levels of risk factors such as low socio-economic
conditions. This body of research resulted in a movement that came to be known as
"effective schools research. This movement dedicated itself to demonstrating that
schools which are effectively managed and organized can make a difference in the
achievement of all students, including disadvantage children.
Good schools, bad schoolspopular opinion has identified schools thus. But
what are the critics really saying? What makes one school better than another? Is it
possible to identify characteristics of schools that set them apart from other
institutions? Some schools are indeed better than others in terms of student
achievement. For purposes of this study, the questions is: Do effective high schools
have instructional leadership and instructional climate?
Background of the Study
Effective schools research from the 1970s and 1980s identified principals who
were instructional leaders as a key component to schools that achieve maximum
academic achievement. Blumberg and Greenfield (1980) developed studies of four
principals and found instructional leadership lacking in three of the four buildings.
Thomas (1999) addresses the core work of school leaders and finds the main job
of administrators is to focus on standards, frameworks, assessment and accountability.
He asserts, By focusing on our core work and analyzing student data, we can put in
place instructional strategies and programs that are research based and that have a
proven track record to assist us in delivering equitable quality instruction for every
student (p. 26). Austin & Krug (1995) noted that no research had determined if
effective principals result in effective schools. They found that most research ignored
the personal, environmental, and organizational settings which make schools unique.
DeBevoise (1984) examined the instructional leadership of building principals as it
relates to student outcomes and found that principals leadership styles should be
studied to see how they relate to student achievement. Sweeney (1982) stated that the
principal is directly responsible for instructional leadership, while Edmonds (1979)
focused on equity and instructional leadership. Although each of these authors
focused on a different aspect of instructional leadership, all found it to be a critical
component for student achievement.
The original foci of effective schools research were equity issues as they
pertained to the acquisition of basic skills. Edmonds (1979) studied elementary
schools to find schools where children of low socio-economic families acquired basic
skills comparable to children of middle-class homes. Basic skills achievement was an
elementary school issue; thus, the initial research focused on this level. A number of
studies have developed data to support instructional leadership at the elementary
school level (Brookover,1978; Edmonds, 1979). However, less research has been
done on secondary principals as instructional leaders. For instance, one study by
Niece (1988) sought to determine how high school principals develop their skills as
instructional leaders and found that effective instructional leaders are people-oriented,
read professional journals to remain current in their field, and are influenced
professionally by other administrators.
Stronge (1993) reviewed the principal as a maintenance manager concerned with
resource allocation and student discipline, whose responsibilities rarely include
instructional leadership. Because of the greater size and increased discipline issues in
high schools these principals' responsibilities pull high school principals further from
instructional leadership activities. Griffith (1999) finds that Juxtaposed is other
research that proposes effective principal leadership to be concerned chiefly with
providing coordination among classroom teachers, discerning the needs of the
external environment (parent and community) and providing a bridge between the
external environment and the school (p. 268). Again, the greater complexity of high
schools makes the study of these communities more difficult. Blumberg and
Greenfield (1980) cite the difficulty in studying complex organizations when studying
high schools, and say more research is needed in this area.
Another reason for the difficulty in conducting high school research is the lack
of comparable data. For instance, in Colorado no standardized achievement testing is
applied to all high schools. ACT/SAT results are only reported as above or below
national averages; further, not all students are tested. Graduation rates are not
comparable because each school district determines its own graduation requirements.
This lack of standardization makes it difficult to compare schools or districts.
Research on the value of instructional leadership at the secondary level is sparse.
A number of researchersGreenfield and Blumberg (1980), Niece (1993), and
Sheppard (1993)~cite the lack of research on effective schools practices at the
secondary level. Krug (1992) conducted a study to determine the effect of
instructional leadership on student achievement and reports that "Findings
demonstrated a significantly positive correlation between principals' self-ratings of
instructional leadership and student achievement (p. i). However, Krugs study was
conducted at third, sixth, and eighth grades. The gap in instructional leadership
research is at the secondary level, and so this study addresses instructional leadership
as it relates to secondary schools. The answers to the questions posed in this
research form the basis for the next wave of effective school research: research on
instructional leadership at the secondary level.
Purpose of the Study
This study examines instructional leadership as defined by effective schools
research and determines the influence of high school principals as instructional leaders
on school effectiveness. Stringfield (as cited in Reynolds et al., 1994) states that
"Very few students learn reading or mathematics at the principal's knee. Students
learn at school, but schools do not teach. Rather, principals and school organizations
achieve effects managerially and organizationally" (p. 162). Teddlie (as cited in
Reynolds et al., 1994) observes: "One aspect of effective instructional leadership is
the promotion of a positive school climate for learning, which involves high
expectations for student performance (p. 128).
For purposes of this study, the definition of instructional leadership includes the
following dimensions: defining mission; managing curriculum and instruction;
supervising and supporting teaching; monitoring student progress; and promoting
instructional climate. Therefore, for this study, instructional leadership describes a
school leader who engages in specific activities related to the management and
evaluation of curriculum, staffs and students as these activities relate to academics.
Instructional climate includes the following dimensions: accomplishment,
recognition, power, and affiliation. For purposes of this study, instructional climate is
defined as the attitudinal infrastructure of the school that can be directed by school
leaders to achieve organizational objectives.
The principal question of this research, then, is: Do high schools that have been
identified as effective schools have instructional leadership and an instructional
Given these definitions, the following questions are addressed in this study:
1. Does instructional leadership exist in the high schools of focus in this
2. In what form does instructional leadership exist?
3. Do principals who are identified as instructional leaders evidence specific
4. Do factors emerge that influence the principal's commitment to
Scope of the Study
This research was conducted through case studies of three high schools. Each
site was chosen by reputational sampling (Merriam, 1998, p. 48). Experts in
education (Colorado Association of School Executives, superintendents, principals,
professors of education) were asked to identify a high school principal whom they
thought exhibited instructional leadership. The principals at the three selected schools
were interviewed; their faculties took an instructional leadership survey; and, finally,
data from the schoolsuch as standardized test scores, attendance records, and
graduation rateswere analyzed. Each school was studied to see if the principal's
perception of instructional leadership matched the faculty's evaluation of instructional
leadership in the building. The records of student achievement at each school were
matched with the principal and teacher findings to determine if the level of active
instructional leadership in the building corresponded with student achievement.
Limitations of the Study
As case studies conducted by one researcher, this sample of three schools is small.
However, this study complements previously conducted research on effective
schools that focused primarily on elementary schools. This study expands on that
research and expands it to the secondary level. In order to address this possible
limitation, I identified basic assumptions based upon prior research and expanded the
triangulation of data at all three sites beyond the scope of previous studies.
Reynolds et al (1994) found the following:
Because the idea behind school effectiveness was not just that
schools differ in the results they get with comparable pupils but
that it is possible to introduce these effectiveness characteristics
into schools, people believed that in such a way it may be possible
to improve schools, (p. 7)
Developing an understanding of secondary principals and their instructional
leadership will help school boards, superintendents, and graduate education programs
identify the skills needed to lead secondary schools toward greater academic
Value of the Study
This research adds to the body of knowledge in the area of instructional
leadership as one component of effective schools established by previous research.
This study also augments the data about instructional leadership at the secondary level.
High school principals have multiple roles that require division of their labor. This
study enables researchers to identify functions that are critical to instructional
Organization of this Document
Chapter One provided an overview of the study, and outlined the limitations of
research on instructional leadership at the high school level. The nature of the study, a
case study of three high schools, and the limitations of the study also are addressed in
Chapter Two is an historical literature review with a focus on one component of
effective schools: instructional leadership. This chapter is divided into a review of
effective schools research with specific sections addressing instructional leadership. It
concludes with a section on gaps in instructional leadership research, specifically the
lack of research on instructional leadership at the high school level.
Chapter Three addresses the methodology of this study, including sample
selection, case study technique, and the instrument used to survey teachers. An
additional section describes the research base for the survey instrument. A sample
case outline has been included in chapter three and was used to write up findings for
Chapter Four describes the structure of the study, analysis of the data, and the
major findings. This chapter explains any unexpected events and how they might effect
Chapter Five presents conclusions and recommendations. Conclusions include
four common themes of the principals of effective schools: (a) the use of research-
based decisions, (b) strong communication skills, (c) the ability to share instructional
leadership, and (d) strong staff development programs. Recommendations for
inclusion of these themes are also included, as are specific limitations of the research.
Finally, implications for future research are addressed.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
This literature review is divided into three sections. The first section is an
historical overview of education. It is designed to develop the context in which
effective schools research emerged. Second is a review of effective schools research,
and third is a summary of the research on one component of effective schools,
instructional leadership. The purpose of this literature review is to establish a
framework for evaluating high school principals as instructional leaders.
Historical Perspective of Effective Schools
Effective schools or successful schoolsregardless of the terminology, the
American public has debated this issue since the founding of the United States. What
exactly do the critics want from our secondary education system? The pendulum of
public sentiment for the education of American students swings between liberal and
conservative positions. Hahn and Bidna (1965) state, American secondary education
has no single universally accepted philosophy. The word education does not appear in
the Constitution of the United States; administration of the schools remains essentially
a state prerogative guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment (p. 91).
Throughout history, education has evolved to meet the needs of the people
served. In Europe, two educational tracks existed during the Reformation and
Renaissance Periods. Primary schools were for the masses and classical humanist
schools were for the upper class. One could argue that this issue is still unresolved
600 years later with the debates over ability tracking, vocational education, and
college preparatory courses on-going.
Hahn & Bidna (1965) also examine the development of education in America and
find that, during the Colonial Period, the British imported the philosophy of Latin
Grammar school. This trend declined in the late 18th Century because the curricular
focus on mastery of grammatical and stylistic mechanics was considered too narrow
The Academy absorbed and replaced the Latin Grammar school and private
venture schools. The Academy provided classical Greek and Latin needed for college
entrance and offered practical subjects such as bookkeeping, navigating, and
surveying. In the early 19th Century public high school was generally attended by
children of businessmen, professionals, and socially favored groups. Minorities and
immigrants dropped out of school when legally possible.
However, in 1874 a taxpayers group filed suit because they felt primary college
preparatory curricula benefitted only a small minority. Justice Thomas C. Cooley
agreed with the right of the Kalamazoo School District to raise taxes to support a high
school. This case made it possible for students to attend tax-supported public
education from elementary through high school. Thus, the American public
secondary system was established.
Gutek (1983) reports that, "To resolve the problems of curricular
standardization, the National Education Association established the Committee of
Ten in 1892" (p. 210). This committee wrestled with the questions of purposes for
high schools. Was it a college preparatory institution as had been traditionally true of
secondary education? Or was the high school a terminal institution for those
completing formal education? Should it stress traditional college preparatory
subjects, or should it offer industrial, commercial, vocational, and agricultural
Public school enrollment has increased over the past 100 years. In 1880, the
majority of Americans had attended elementary school and by 1980 the majority of
Americans had attended high school. This was largely due to state laws that set a
minimum age for employment and required compulsory school attendance.
Does this render a large captive audience for secondary education? Are we
warehousing American adolescents? Although both of these positions are true to
some extent, the purposes of secondary education change with the times.
Historically, it has been difficult to specify the general goals of secondary education
because of the various that pled their own special interests. (Gutek, 1983; Hahn &
As the American public high school developed, the role of the lead teacher~the
principalevolved as well. Prior to the 1850s, the position was primarily clerical and
record-keeping, along with teaching responsibilities. In the late 1800s, matters of
school organization and general management were included. By 1900, "The
principal had become the directing manager, rather than the 'presiding teacher' of the
school" (Pierce, 1934, as cited in Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980, p. 11). As early as
the turn of the century, principals were involved with community relations via their
work with the First Mothers Club. By the mid 1930s, the principal was seen as an
instructional leader as well as a supervisor of teachers.
Button (1966, as cited in Blumberg & Greenfield, 1980, pp. 13-16) identified
five doctrines of educational leadership over the last 100 years. They are:
1.1855-1870 "teacher of teachers"
2.1885-1905 "administration as applied philosophy"
3. early 20th Century "school administration as management"
4.1930-1950 "democracy in schools"
5. 1950 "school administration as applied science"
In the late 1800s, administrators were seen as all powerful and all-knowing. At
the turn of the century, they were partially perceived as businessmen and handled
fiscal matters. In the 1930-1950 period, according to Gutek (1983), administrative
power decreased as the operation of schools became more democratic. More recent
responsibilities for principals include conflict managementthe ability to keep things
"cool." Superintendents in particular value principals who can resolve issues within
their schools. Additionally, principals are seen as decision makers. This role more
than any other brings into play the values of the leader, because the principal's
judgement is influential Blumberg and Greenfield (1980) found that "this
conception of the principal as a decision maker thus presumes that a set of value
premises guides the choices, the decisions, that are inevitably made" (p. 22).
Principals are also seen as organizational change agents with a range of roles
from initiator to non-actor. Blumberg and Greenfield (1980) also found that, "while
all principals are decision makers and managers of conflict, and some certainly live
up to these role demands more fully than others, few are effective instructional
leaders or organizational change agents in the broader sense of those ideas" (p. 24).
Sergio vanni (1991) adds, "Principals function in the role of figurehead and liaison
with outside agencies. They have greater access to information which allows them to
decide what to share" (p. 324). It is interesting to note that the evolution of building
administration has moved principals further from the classroom and instruction.
Mark F. Goldberg, the author of Educational Leadership's Portrait Series, found
after ten interviews "that my subjects had more in common than extraordinary
achievement. They shared patterns that constituted a pattern in their careers. These
patterns include five characteristics: vision, tenacity, recursiveness, time commitment,
and dedication to career" (1995, pp. 72-76). Principals who lead are goal oriented
with clarity, and they are alert to opportunities to make things happen and/or to create
Additionally, they have a high degree of ontological security (sense of self), they
have a strong sense of themselves as people and are able to be open with others.
Further, they have a high tolerance for ambiguity and a desire to test the institution's
limits. Also, they are sensitive to the dynamics of power, have a highly analytical
perspective, and are in charge of the job instead of the job being in charge of them.
Sergiovanni's (1991) research supports this position and discusses the ambiguity
associated with secondary administration. This uncertainty is so common that
administrators are often questioned about their ambiguity tolerance.
Sergio vanni (1991) describes the complexity of the job in the following way:
Running a school is like trying to get a giant amoebae from one
side of the street to another. As the glob slips off the curb onto
the street and begins its meandering journey, the job of the
principal is to figure out how to keep it moving in the general
direction of the other side. (p. 67)
So who are these people who take on this responsibility? A study of eight
successful principals conducted by Blumberg and Greenfield (1980) found three
reasons for their success: (a) their individual commitment to the realization of a
particular educational or organizational vision, (b) their propensity to assume the
initiative and to take a proactive stance in relation to the demands of their work-world
environment, and (c) their ability to satisfy the routine organizational maintenance
demands in a manner that permits them to spend most of their on-the-job time in
activities directly related to the realization of their personal vision. They do not allow
themselves to become consumed by second-order priorities.
According to Blumberg and Greenfield "The wonder of it, from our position as
professors, is that they continue to do what they do with enthusiasm and that they
seem to have fun doing it (p. 227). This is an important point for those individuals
who dedicate their careers to secondary administration, for they must
have a passion for their work. Without this drive, few administrators could continue
the frenetic pace and deal with the never-ending responsibilities. Clearly, this job
requires energetic and organized individuals who can communicate the vision and
mission of the school.
Additionally, these individuals need to understand curriculum and instruction in a
way that sets them apart as the instructional leader of the schooL
Blumberg and Greenfield state that
The test of a good principal is not the extent to which he/she can
endure emotional stress. If that were all there were to it, we could
simply select people who were terribly thick-skinned and had little
or no insight into or caring about their own needs, precisely the
kind of person who should not be a principal, (p. 227)
They further identify several problem areas for the principal, including the difficult
process of terminating a tenured teacher, frustration over limited administrative
options and the behavioral constraints placed on them by role expectations.
In order to overcome these problems, principals need the support of those
around them. Sergiovanni (1991) discusses leadership density and defines it as the
total leadership available from teachers, support staff, parents, and others on behalf of
the school's work. In order to be successful secondary leaders, principals must be able
to build a support baseor leadership densitythat is broad and encompasses teachers,
students, staffs community, and central administration.
When purposes for secondary education are compared historically and
contemporaneously, they are remarkably similar. The current debate over vocational
programs versus college preparation programs is not new. The greatest difference is
the types of careers that students are prepared for and the content needed for college
admission. Hahn and Bidna (1965) reviewed the "Statement of Purpose of Council of
Basic Education, a document created in 1956; these purposes are very similar to the
current national education goals.
Hahn and Bidna (1965) also discuss philosophies of education that have ranged
from Franklin and Jefferson, who maintained an educated electorate was essential to
the continuance of a democratic society, to John Dewey, who believed that intellectual
freedom should be combined with the social needs of society. Just as these
philosophies cover a wide range of options, the definition of quality education covered
a broad spectrum.
Historically, the raison d'etre for schools has been vague. Goodlad (1984) states
that "Schools appear not to be acutely self-conscious about what they are trying to do.
But they inevitably perform functions from baby sitting to job preparation and
intellectual development" (p. 29). However, a definition of quality education is
essential if we are to assess learning. The standards movement is the most current
attempt to identify what students should leam. From these criteria a measure of
assessment could emerge. These measures will allow taxpayers some form of
accountability vis-a-vis one school's performance relative to another's.
Review of Effective Schools Research
Effective schools research began as an attempt to measure student achievement
in order to assess whether schools were having an impact on student learning. The
effective schools movement started as a reaction to the report of Coleman, Campbell,
Hobson, McPartland, Wood, Weinfeld, and York (1966). The Department of Justice
initiated the survey to determine if there was wiMil discrimination in education. The
Office of Education asked James S. Coleman of John Hopkins University and Ernest
Q. Campbell of Vanderbilt University to direct the $1.5 million project.
The main conclusions were: (a) family background is important for
achievement, (b) relationship of family background to achievement does not diminish
over years of schooling, (c) variations in schooling have little effect over family
background, and (d) factors that have the greatest effect are teacher competencies, not
facilities or curricula.
Coleman et al. (1966) asserted that,
Whatever may be the combination of non school factors
poverty, community attitudes, low educational level of parents-
which put the minority children at a disadvantage in verbal and
nonverbal skills when they enter the fast grade, the fact is the
schools have not overcome it. (p. 21)
Some researchers set out to prove Coleman wrong. Effective schools research
began in 1981 when the National Commission on Excellence in Education gathered
testimony from citizens and educators across the countiy and commissioned over forty
scholarly papers on the state of U.S. education. Based on these data, A Nation At
Risk was released in 1983. The controversy and renewed interest in public education
that this report generated cannot be underestimated. Today, nearly fourteen years
later, the report is still cited as a reason for educational reform.
The effective schools movement was spawned by this report and has dedicated
itself to demonstrating that public schools that are properly managed and organized
can make a difference in educational achievement for disadvantaged children. Over
the years, these findings have been applied to all students as we seek to increase
academic achievement nationwide. The body of effective schools research sought to
identify schools that were effective regardless of social/economic impact and found
there were schools that defied this argument. At such maverick or outlier schools,
students from low socio-economic conditions not only learn, but thrive academically.
The research is, however, frequently referred to as the five factors:
characteristics of schools that are designated effective. They are: (a) a school climate
that is conducive to learning, (b) the expectation among all teachers that students can
learn, (c) an emphasis on basic skills instruction and high levels of student time on
task, (d) a system of clear instructional objectives for monitoring and assessing student
performance, and (e) a school principal who is a strong programmatic leader and who
sets school goals, maintains student discipline, observes classrooms frequently, and
creates incentives for learning.
The National Council for Effective Schools defines an instructionally effective
school as one which meets the following criteria: (a) high and sustained overall
achievement when compared to state and national performance, (b) no significant
difference in academic achievement among socio-economic or ethnic groups, and (c)
measurement of achievement in reading, language arts, and math.
Some researchers think that the above criteria are too narrow to assess secondary
school effectiveness. Rutter (1979), for one, suggests seven alternative measures:
scholastic achievement, classroom behavior and discipline, absenteeism, attitudes
toward learning, continuation in education, employment, and social functioning.
Newman, Smith, and Wehlage (1983) defined five outcome domains: basic literacy,
academic knowledge, higher order thinking, vocational competency, and social
maturity. With the exception of social maturity, all outcomes are similar to those
suggested by Rutter. Lipshz (1984) defined seven non-negotiable criteria as:
standardized test scores above district mean, low absentee rates among students and
staffi low incidence of vandalism, little or no graffiti, low suspension rates, high
parental satisfaction, and reputation for excellence. A summary of these studies
indicates agreement that high school outcomes should include scholastic achievement,
high school graduation and post secondary employment or continuing education.
The amount of time a student spends in school from age 5 to high school
graduation has been estimated at approximately 15,000 hours (Rutter et al.).
This means a child spends almost as much of his or her waking hours at school as at
home. How does this time affect children? Does it matter which school a child
attends and are there particular school features that have an impact? Rutter et al.
found that schools do make a differenceand in some very clear ways. They found
differences in climate and practices in the twelve schools they studied. This led them
to speculate why these schools, from similar geographic areas, were so different. They
found the influence of the head teacher to be considerable and called for further
research on leadership style. Informal observation led these researchers to state that
leaders took differing approaches. Rutter et al. (1979) state that "Nevertheless, it was
likely that these had essential elements in common and it is important to determine
what these might be (p. 204). The following summary represents the findings of the
15,000 hours of study:
1. Secondary schools do have an effect on students
2. Variations in outcome were associated with characteristics of schools
3. There are variables associated with good schools.
4. Pupils are affected both as individuals and as a group in behavior and grade
These results strongly imply that schools can foster good behavior and grades.
One goal of effective schools research is to determine whether differences in
resources, processes, and organizational arrangements affect student outcomes. Early
on, Edmonds (1979) added equity as a component to the effective schools definition
and stated that, I require that an effective school bring the children of the poor to
those minimal masteries of basic school skills that now describe minimally successful
pupil performance to the children of the middle class (p. 16). Indeed an underlying
premise of effective schools research is that all students can learn. As this research
developed the principles were applied not only to children of the poor, but to all
children. This more recent application of the research represents an effort to assure
academic achievement for all students in much the same way as the standards
movement and assessment have done.
As schools apply the principles of effective schools research there are definitive
stages that must be addressed in the process. Lightfoot (1983) suggests the following
six stages of development for schools to become more effective:
1. Safety and security
2. Attendance and discipline
3. Basic skills and graduation
4. Post-secondary preparation and individualization
5. Intellectual growth and performance
6. Leadership and responsibility
A summary of this research indicates that effective schools are different because
they are more tightly managed; curriculum, instructional practices, and tests are more
carefolly aligned; and they work toward agreed upon goals. Stringfield (1994) states,
"School effects research is about the process of differentiating existing ideas and
methods along dimensions deemed to be of value. School effectiveness studies do not
'invent' new ideas or programs. They identify and describe practices which already
exist and are working in schools" (p. 56).
The first wave of effective schools research began to identify these schools.
Benjamin (1981) searched for these schools and found that, "The solutions these
schools suggest are not academic, but pragmatic; they are not perfect models, only
examples of schools that are more or less effective at common, important tasks" (pp.
9-10). This research began to focus on instruction as a means to evaluate education.
Rowan, Bosert, and Dwyer (1983) state that,
In this respect, this research represents an important advance over
past studies of school effects. These previous studies focused on
gross measures of school facilities, funding, and staffing that are
for removed from important teaching and learning processes, and
as a result, they were never very successful in locating the specific
features of school organizations that influence student
achievement, (p. 27)
As researchers began to focus on student achievement and the effects of
educational practice, it became imperative to measure these phenomena. Lezotte
(1994) questions, "What should we be willing to accept as observable, measurable
evidence of school effectiveness or school improvement" (p. 317)? To ease the
confusion, Lezotte offers this definition of an effective school,"... one that can
demonstrate the joint presence of quality (acceptably high levels of achievement) and
equity (no differences in the distribution of that achievement among the major subsets
of the student population" (pp. 317-318).
One of the most cited articles on effective schools research was written by Ronald
Edmonds in 1979. His premise is that urban schools that teach poor children
successfully have strong leadership and a climate of expectation that students will
learn. Edmonds further asserts Our thesis is that all children are eminently educable
and that the behavior of the school is critical in determining the quality of that
education (p. 20). Edmonds research acknowledges the belief of many social
scientists and opinion makers that family background is a chief cause of quality of
student achievement However, he goes on to state that this belief has effected
education by absolving educators of their professional responsibility to be
instructionally effective. Edmonds found the following common characteristics of
effective schools: (a) strong administrative leadership, (b) climate of high expectations,
(c) orderly atmosphere, (d) precedence of learning basic skills, and (e) frequent
The second wave of effective schools research centered on questions about
school characteristics that lead to effective schools. Out of this research came five
factors of effective schools (Edmonds, 1979): They are: (a) the principal's leadership
and concomitant attention to the quality of instruction, (b) a pervasive and broadly
understood instructional focus, (c) an orderly, safe climate conducive to teaching and
learning, (d) teacher behaviors that convey the expectation that all students will obtain
at least minimum mastery, and (e) the use of measures of pupil achievement as the
basis for program evaluation.
Throughout this period, research continued to demonstrate that individual schools
could achieve effective schools results regardless of other cultural factors. This led to
a renewed vigor as individual schools began to implement effective schools practices
and transform their schools, one school at a time.
The on-going legacy of effective schools research is best summed up by Lezotte
(1995) who says, "Finally, we have the large and evolving body of effective schools
research, the process of disaggregating student outcome data, and the assessment of
school environments for the presence or absence and strength or weakness of effective
school characteristics" (p. 342). Based on Lezotte's research, as schools sought
improved student achievement a number of components were encouraged. Principal
among these was instructional leadership. In particular, a principal who acted as an
instructional leader was deemed necessary to an effective schooL
Research on Principals as Instructional Leaders
Throughout the history of public education, the principal's role has changed.
Lemahieu (1997) finds that
In the broad sweep of the history of the American education
system (and especially efforts to improve it in the last century), the
limelight has focused on each of several key forces in turn.
Historically, the principalship has undergone five evolutionary
stages: one teacher, head teacher, teaching principal, school
principal, and supervising principal, (p. 583)
It is of interest that only during these last two stages has the principal been
separated from the classroom. Boyd (1996) finds that, historically, school principals
have been a central figure for only a short time. Changes in the way schools were
structuredfrom the one room schoolhouse to consolidated systemsled to
organizational changes. Content and delivery of instruction have also been an
important focus. Effective schools research helped to enhance these areas and led to a
focus on the principal as instructional leader.
More recently, teacher empowerment, standards, and assessment have
overshadowed the principal's role as an instructional leader. Yet, how will these
assessment goals be reached without strong instructional leadership? Ramsey (1992)
observes that, "Although providing leadership for the instructional program has always
been in the mix of expectations for the principals, this role is now rapidly assuming
preeminent priority status" (p. 4).
As the focus on student achievement increases, the search for strong instructional
leaders will continue. It is critical that principals be able to define, model, and evaluate
good instructioa Ripley (1997), argues that since the instruction of students is a
primary purpose of schooling, principals should be able to model quality teaching, they
should also possess a wealth of knowledge about teaching to share with colleagues.
Educational leadership requires not only a powerful and effective leader, but one who
also possesses noble intentions based on sound educational values. Leadership can be
viewed as a continuum of followership to commandership to leadership. Only
at the level of leadership are individuals found who command, set the course, and help
staff members determine a clear sense of direction. These individuals are the
inspirational leaders with visions of the future.
Building principals must enhance the potential of staff pupils, parents, and
patrons as they run buildings and plan for the future. Principals must act as both
managers and leaders. Future principals will need to perform the previous tasks and
improve the quality of life in the community as a whole. Frequently management is
seen in a negative light. Leadership is often thought of as innovative, changing,
invigorating, and inspiring. However, it is principals who are both managers and
leaders who empower others. Principals who are instructional leaders manage to
convert time spent on mundane tasks into quality time. For instance, time spent on
lunch room duty can be used to assess what students are learning in their classes.
Synthesis of Research on Instructional Leadership
A major theme cited in effective schools research is the importance of
instructional leadership. Although researchers differ on who should provide this
leadership there is overwhelming agreement that it is necessary. Sweeney (1982)
developed a synthesis of eight research projects on effective school leadership and
states The direct responsibility for inproving instruction and learning rests in the
hands of the school principal (p. 346). He further surmises that principals of schools
with high achievement demonstrate particular leadership behaviors. Of the eight
studies Sweeney reviewed, all eight found that effectiveness is enhanced by principals
who emphasize achievement; all eight found principals who set instructional strategies
to be of primary importance; seven of the studies found an orderly environment to be
significant; five studies found frequent monitoring of student success to be of value;
four studies found coordination of instruction important; and three studies found the
support of teachers important. In summary, these results indicate that a principal who
focuses on instruction, is assertive and results-oriented, and is able to develop and
maintain a challenging academic environment are most likely to make a difference in
Sweeney also recommends increased research on school effectiveness. In
particular, he thinks case studies of average schools should be pursued. This would
balance the research of effective versus ineffective schools. Also, instructional
leadership behaviors need to be clearly defined. Finally, Sweeney recommends
research should be done investigating the association between high expectations by
staff and positive school outcomes.
DeBevoise (1984) looked at research on principals as instructional leaders and
surmised, "We broadly interpret the concept of instructional leadership to encompass
those actions that a principal takes, or delegates to others, to promote growth in
student learning" (p. 15). Further findings by DeBevoise reveal a lack of research on
the principal-as-person. In particular what principal characteristics correlate with the
desired outcomes of schools? Next how do effective principals compare to ineffective
principals? Thus the overall question raised by DeBevoise is: does the principal have
a measured effect on student achievement? If so, what are the characteristics that
contribute to the effect? Can these effects be replicated?
Other researchers, Gersten and Carmine (1981) for example, believe that
principals are not trained to be instructional leaders and have too many other demands
to handle the job. They can, however, ensure that someone is handling instructional
leadership functions such as: implementing effective programs, monitoring student
progress, evaluating teacher performance, providing technical assistance,
demonstrating visible commitment, and providing emotional support and incentives.
Klein-Kracht (1993) examined indirect instructional leadership as demonstrated by
a secondary principal. This researcher discovered a new slant on the view of the
principal where "we might envision the principal as an instructional leader who
primarily facilitates leadership in others and empowers them to be leaders" (p. 211).
Stronge (1993) questions whether principals can be both instructional leaders and
middle managers. Stronge states that, "The dichotomized viewpoint of instructional
leadership versus middle management tends to support the premise that instructional
leadership (whatever that may be) is more worthy of the time and attention of the
principal, and that managerial responsibilities are relatively unimportant, demeaning,
and generally to be avoided" (p. 4).
Womer and Brown (1993) examine the principal's role as instructional leader and
the extent to which these responsibilities should be shared and with whom. This study
encourages future research to ask whether instructional leadership functions are being
effectively carried out, not whether the principal is the instructional leader. Brubaker,
Simon, and Tysinger (1993) report that "A major finding is that a majority of
respondents view most principals as general managers" (p. 33). This research further
identifies the "halo effect" perception of principals. Thus respondents identify most
principals as general managers, but those they know personally as good instructional
Despite disagreement about who should perform instructional leadership
functions, there is overwhelming agreement in the literature on what the functions of
the instructional leader are. All include communicating a vision of the schools
purpose, monitoring student and teacher performance, recognizing and rewarding
good work, and providing effective staff development. Unfortunately the agreed upon
functions have not been correlated with student achievement, absenteeism, staff
morale, or climate.
Effective schools research is a logical framework for instructional leadership
because of its focus on effective teaching and instructional methods. Sheppard (1993)
asserts that, "Since a major conclusion of the effective schools research is that
successful schools have strong school leaders who promote instruction, it is not
surprising that instructional leadership has been emphasized" (p. 17).
This importance of principal leadership is emphasized by Benjamin (1981) who
states that "The principals' leadership is critical. It is one of the axioms that almost
everyone involved with schools seems to agree upon. All across the country it
echoes" (p. 112).
Yet, what exactly do we expect of these principals who are instructional leaders?
"We insist, for example, that principals be instructional leaders in schools and be the
managers, cheerleaders, and motivators of teachers" (Sergiovanni, 1996, p. 6). Some
research on instructional leadership has led to a broad definition of the duties of
instructional leadership. Results of Niece's (1993) research indicates,
In rank order: that effective instructional leadership involves the
secondary principal: possessing a substantial knowledge base in
curriculum, instruction, and evaluation; providing vision and
direction for the school; promoting positive teaching and learning
environments; establishing patterns of effective communication
and motivation; and maintaining high expectations for self, staff
and students, (p. 15)
Since no single individual can accomplish all of these tasks, it is important that
principals especially understand how to delegate some of these responsibilities at the
secondary level Neumann (1992) asserts that effective school change depends on
school leadership beyond the principal A major function of effective administrative
leadership is to nurture it in othersa point recognized in the literature, but not
prominently emphasized in common images of the effective school principal.
Lezotte (1994) finds that "Superintendents and principals proven to be
instructional leaders in effective schools and districts seem to depend heavily on
commitment, not authority, to achieve leaming-for-all results" (p. 21). How principals
develop that commitment is a matter of style. Hutto and Criss (1993) suggest ways to
improve how others perceive the principal as an instructional leader. Enthusiasm
toward instructional matters, congratulatory remarks for academic achievement, and
assuring instructional matters have top billing in daily announcements and faculty
meeting agendas are proposed as subtle clues to promote the principal as an
Heck and Marcoulides (1993) reviewed instructional leadership at the primary
and secondary level to determine the importance of such leadership at each. Their
results indicate that the manner in which elementary and high school principals
govern the school, build strong school climate, and organize and monitor the school's
instructional program are important predictors of academic achievement" (p. 25).
The Committee for Economic Development ( 1994), an independent research and
policy organization stress that, If those who govern, manage, and work in our
schools succeed in concentrating the mission of the public schools on learning and
achievement, we believe that all American students will be better served and prepared
for the next century (p. 6).
Synthesis of Research on Instructional Leadership
The following synthesis of research on instructional leadership is intended to
recognize common themes as well as identify differences in opinions of researchers
from 1995-1999. This section will continue to evolve and should not be viewed as
complete. A common theme in current instructional leadership research is shared
power. As society becomes more complex and demands on public education increase,
collaboration is viewed as a method to ease both the burden on the principal and to
involve teachers in the process of change.
Demands on principals have increased over time. Sergiovanni (1996) states that
"We insist, for example, that principals be instructional leaders in schools and be the
managers, cheerleaders, and motivators of teachers" (p. 6). Griffith (1999) finds
previous research on effective principal leadership identifies the principal as a
curriculum leader and as a manager of interpersonal relations and resources. Hoerr
(1996) acknowledges the principal's responsibility for the overall quality of the school,
yet he urges teachers to take some responsibility for instructional leadership. Hoerr
states "This means the principal will share power. It means leadership teams" (p. 380).
The development of leadership teams does not mean the role of the principal will
decrease in importance, but rather the focus will change. Kaufinan (1997) asserts,
"The role of the school principal is increasingly being cited as the keystone of
educational reform. It is not, however, the solitary, authoritative role of times past,
but that of a dynamic change agent within an interactive system" (p. 101).
These organizational changes will require collaboration among all occupants of
the building. Keefe and Howard (1997) examine schools as learning organizations and
find, "Schools traditionally operate on a king of the mountain principle whereby
administrators guard their prerogatives, teachers close themselves inside self-contained
classrooms, and faculty meetings variously resemble lecture halls or debating societies"
(p. 39). As a result of these findings, Keefe and Howard urge school leaders to
cultivate and support learning environments that are risk-free and conducive to
learning. Carefully addressing both physical and cultural school environment issues
can lead to essential classroom changes. Kaplan and Evans (1997) state that "Schools
with high student achievement share an organizational culture in which administrators,
staff members, and students agree on a common purpose for educational outcomes
and undertake cooperative team efforts to reach these goals" (p. 3).
Not all researchers find instructional leadership to be critical for student
achievement. Hallinger, Bickman, and Davis (1996) researched principal effects on
student learning. Results of this research which focused on elementary reading
outcomes showed no relation between a principal's instructional leadership and student
achievement. Hallinger et al. (1996) state that "The results did, however, support the
belief that a principal can have an indirect effect on school effectiveness through
actions that shape the school's learning climate" (p. 527).
Yet, the role of principal remains pivotal. Evans and Mohr (1999) state
Principals' work is essential. Principals who reexamine their belief systems and
transform their practice facilitate change at their schools. Good professional
development for leadership scrutinizes its own belief system, content and process.
Everyone, including the facilitators, stretches and grows, and that truly makes a
difference (p. 532). Baron & Uhl (1995) focus on training to improve instructional
leadership skills and to validate instructional leadership practices principals are familiar
with. They define these practices as, "Instructional leadership generally refers to the
principal's role in providing direction, resources, and support to staff members and
students to improve teaching and learning" (p. 63). Borelli (1997) reviews the
implementation of a school wide discipline plan that empowers teachers. He asks
principals, "What happens to you? You will supervise your assistant principal
supervising teachers. It will enable you to be the instructional leader and
organizational manager of your building" (p. 75). Lyons (1999) continues this line of
reasoning and recommends that principals have a vision for their school, develop clear
goals, establish a safe and positive school climate, focus on academics and practice
shared decision making.
Rowan (1995) asserts, "Although learning and teaching constitute the core work
of students and teachers in K-12 schools, issues of instructional management have not
been central to the study or practice of educational administration" (p. 115). He
continues to develop this theme of learning and teaching and argues that enormous
changes are taking place in the way teaching and learning are viewed: "For over a
decade, cognitive models of teaching and learning have been replacing behaviorist
models in instructional theory" (p. 350). Rowan argues that behaviorist approaches
to instruction focus on basic skills, whereas cognitive approaches to learning focus on
critical thinking, problem solving, and transfer of school learning to everyday life.
Although current research indicates a shift toward shared decision making and
collaborative power, principals remain responsible for the instruction in their building.
Ubben & Hughes (1997) assert that" It is the principal who is in a position to facilitate
staff development, orchestrate time, and schedule factors so that teachers have
opportunities to work together to solve instruction and curricular problems" (p. 2).
Gaps in Instructional Research
Three specific problems become apparent from a review of the effective schools
research. First, Jacobson and Conway (1990) assert that "Reliable measures are
needed to rate instructional leadership skills of principals" (p. 136); second, Jacobson
and Conway found that a clear definition of instructional leadership is needed; finally,
a number of researchers, including Blumberg and Greenfield (1980), Niece (1993), and
Sheppard (1993), have cited the lack of research on effective schools practices at the
secondary leveL Krug (1992) argues "Without a clear understanding of the equations
that link leadership and learning and measures of variables that influence student
learning significantly, the school improvement process and the search for excellence in
the classroom can only proceed serendipitously" (p. 441). Ashby & Krug (1995)
question However, just what vital function the principal performs has been the subject
of vigorous debate: disciplinarian, activity scheduler, central office liaison, records
manager, budget analysis (p. 25)? The answers to these questions will form the basis
for the next wave of effective schools research.
This study focuses on the influence of high school principals on the effectiveness
of their school. The following assumptions are based on a review of the literature:
1. Principals who are instructional leaders have certain identifiable traits
(Edmonds, 1979; Sweeney, 1982; DeBevoise, 1984).
2. Instructional leadership does exist in effective schools (Austin, 1979;
(Lezotte, 1995;NASSP, 1996).
3. Teachers can identify factors that influence a principal's commitment to
instructional leadership (Sergiovanni, 1991; Niece, 1993; Ripley, 1997).
4. Principals can identify factors that influence instructional leadership
(Boyd, 1996; Lemanhieu, Roy, & Foss, 1997).
The principal question of this research, then, was: Do high schools that have been
identified as effective have instructional leadership and an instructional climate?
Therefore, the following questions were also addressed in this study:
1. Does instructional leadership exist in the high schools of focus in this study?
2. In what form does instructional leadership exist?
3. Do principals who are identified as instructional leaders evidence specific
4. Do factors emerge that influence the principal's commitment to instructional
The following sub-questions were formulated to focus this inquiry on instructional
leadership in each schooL These questions were derived from the research on
effective schools as cited in pages 17-34 in Chapter 2.
1. Is the school climate conducive to learning?
2. Do teachers have high expectations for all students to learn?
3. Does a high level of time-on-task exist?
4. Are instructional objectives clearly stated, monitored, and assessed?
5. Does the principal observe classrooms regularly?.
6. Is student achievement on standardized tests high compared to the
7. Is student behavior or discipline an issue in the building?
8. What is the level of absenteeism?
9. What is the drop-out rate?
10. What is the graduation rate?
11. How do SAT/ACT scores measure up to state and national scores?
12. How is staff development provided for the teachers?
Figure 3.1 on the following page describes the research base for each of the above
propositions, as well as the data gathering methods used in this research.
Theoretical ramework and assessment for sub-questions.
Sub-question Authors from literature review who support this question Assessment of this sub- question
Is the school climate conducive to learning? Rutter (1983) Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis (1996) Keefe & Howard (1997) ILI-T survey.
Do teachers have high expectations for all students to leam? Rutter (1983) ILI-T survey.
Are there high levels of time on task? Baron & Uhl (1995) ILI-T survey.
Are instructional objectives clearly stated, monitored, and assessed? Kaplan & Evans (1997) ILI-T survey.
Does the principal observe classrooms regularly? Baron & Uhl (1995) ILI-T survey. Interview.
Is student achievement on standardized tests high as compared with the state and the nation? Newman, Smith, & Wehlage (1983) Rutter (1983) Data Review
Is student behavior or discipline an issue in the building? Lipsitz (1984) Rutter (1983) Borelli (1997) Keefe & Howard (1997) ILI-T survey. Data Review
What is the level of absenteeism? Lipsitz (1984) Rutter (1983) Data Review
What is the drop-out rate? Newman, Smith, & Wehlage (1983) Data Review
What is the graduation rate? Lipsitz (1984) Data Review
How do SAT/ACT scores compare to state and national scores? Lipsitz (1984) Data Review
How is staff development provided for the teachers? Ubben & Hughes (1997) ILI-T survey.
The basis for this study is the body of effective schools research which
emphasizes the importance of the principal as an instructional leader. A case study
design was selected because of the nature of the question and the need for a more in-
depth look at effective high schools.
In order to understand high school principals' perception of their job, it was
necessary to interview them. Listening to principals discuss their views of the job,
paying attention to what they say (Patton, 1990, p. 140), and then comparing their
focus to survey results of their teachers on instructional leadership has helped to
illuminate perceptions of instructional leadership. These data were compared to see if
schools judged effective have teachers who rate their principals as strong instructional
leaders and have principals who are aware of that focus. Because interviews were
used, it was possible to probe such an anomaly further.
Case studies of these high schools made it possible to look, in-depth, at the
principal, teachers, and students to evaluate instructional leadership. Principals were
interviewed to determine their views on instructional leadership. These principals
identified as instructional leaders via reputational samplingwere then interviewed.
These interviews allowed an in-depth response to questions regarding priorities and
values the principal has and how instructional leadership in the building is effected by
these views. Sue broad questions formed the basis of these semi-structured interviews,
(refer to Appendix D for a more detailed description of the following questions)
1. Describe your view of yourself as a principal
2. What is your main focus in the building?
3. What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
4. What are its enjoyable aspects?
5. What do you have to do in order to be a successful principal?
6. What in your training has prepared you for instructional leadership?
A mix of interpretive, descriptive, and evaluative questions were used. Principals were
asked to give their opinion on their preparation as instructional leaders. Interviews
were taped. The answers formed a composite of each principal's involvement in
instructional leadership These results were compared with their teacher's responses to
Teachers in the three high schools of focus were given the ILI-T (See Appendix
A). This questionnaire assessed the level of instructional leadership and the
instructional leadership climate in the building. They were asked to fill out the 108
multiple choice question survey. The survey was then scored by MetriTech, Inc., and
the results were used to report each teachers perceptions of instructional leadership.
Finally, student achievement was assessed through review of student achievement
scores, attendance rates, and discipline records.
On page 40, Figure 3.2 lists each research question, the researchers whose work
supports it, relation of sub-questions, and data gathering tools for each question.
Figure 3.2 METHODOLOGY Development of research questions and data gathering.
Concept Gathering Major Authors Research Question Sub-Questions Data
Characteristics of instructional leaders as defined by effective schools research. Benjamin, R. (1981) Blumberg, A & Greenfield, W. (1980 DeBevoise, W. (1984) Edmonds, R. (1979) Lyons, V.E., Sheathelm, H.H. (1988) Sweeney, J. (1982) Do specific traits emerge in principals who are identified as instructional leaders? Does the principal observe classrooms regularly? How is staff development provided for the teachers? Use ofILI-T and interview. UseofILI-T.
Factors that influence a principals commitment to instructional leadership and the effect on student achievement. Austin, G.R. (1979) Benjamin, R. (1981) Committee for Economic Development (1994) Edmonds, R. (1979, 1981) Lezotte, W. (1995) NASSP (1996) Neumann, F. M. (1992) Sheppard, L.B. (1993) Do factors emerge that influence the principals commitment to instructional leadership? Is the school climate conducive to learning? Are instructional objectives clearly stated, monitored and assessed? Is student behavior or discipline an issue in the building? What is the level of absenteeism? What is the drop out rate? What is the graduation rate? How do SAT/ACT scores measure up to national scores? Use of ILI-T. Use of ILI-T. Data Review Data Review Data Review Data Review Data Review
Behavior description of an instructional leader. Hahn, R. 0., & Bidna, D.B. (1965) NASSP (1996) Niece, R.D. (1993) Ripley, D. (1997) Sergiovanni, T. J. (1991) In what form does instructional leadership exist? Does the principal observe classrooms regularly? How is staff development provided for teachers? Use of ILI-T and interview. Use ofDLI-T.
The research questions are:
1. Does instructional leadership exist in the high schools of focus in this study?
2. In what form does instructional leadership exist?
3. Do principals who are identified as instructional leaders evidence specific
4. Do fectors emerge that influence the principal's commitment to instructional
Deciding subjects of the study is a critical factor in qualitative research. Hitchcock
and Hughes (1995) state, "Representativeness surrounds the extent to which the
situation, individuals, or groups investigated are typical or representative of the
situations, individuals, or groups as a whole" (p. 108). Sample selection for this study
was problematic because the Colorado Department of Education does not require
standardized testing for high schools. This could be why many researchers (Blumberg
& Greenfield, 1980; Lyons & Sheathelm, 1988; Murphy, Hallinger, & Mesa, 1985;
Niece, 1988; Sheppard, 1993) cite the lack of effective schools research at the high
school level. For without standardized achievement data, comparisons of high schools
are impossible. Lyons & Sheathelm (1988) state that:
Given the size, organizational complexity, lack of a common
mission, varied objectives (often conflicting among academic
departments) and the thin data base upon which to establish
performance trends, the task of identifying secondary school
organizational characteristics that positively affect student
performance is a formidable one. (p. 64)
Much of the previous research on effective schools has been based on extreme
examples of effective versus ineffective schools. Some researchers find fault with this
approach. Murphy et al. (1985) caution: Drawing conclusions by comparing highly
effective to highly ineffective schools is questionable because of the large number of
missing samples in the middle and the feet that results may be linear in their
application (p. 623). Therefore, a purposeful sample of data collection was used for
this research. Patton (1990) recommends specifying a minimum sample size based on
expected reasonable coverage of the phenomenon, given the purpose of the study" (p.
63). This study focused on three high schools that were identified as having
characteristics of effective schools: strong administrative leadership, climate of high
expectations, an orderly atmosphere, a belief that all students can learn, and frequent
monitoring. This structure allowed the researcher to assess whether instructional
leadership corresponded with student achievement.
Merriam (1998) states that "Purposeful sampling is based on the assumption that
the investigator wants to discover, understand, and gain insight and therefore must
select a sample from which the most can be learned" (p. 61). Purposeful/snowball
sampling was used to identify the three high schools in this region that were viewed as
those cited most frequently as demonstrating effective schools criteria. The three high
schools studied were chosen by Superintendents, principals, executives of the
Colorado Department of Education, and professors of education who were each asked
to nominate the three area high schools they thought were best matched to the
definition of an effective school that was read to them by the researcher. Three
members of each category were asked to nominate three high schools each and the
three schools nominated most frequently were asked to participate in the study. The
table on the following page, Figure 3.3, shows the process used to select schools from
the purposeful sampling.
Nominations from the Colorado Department of Education, city school districts,
and professors of education were used to focus the search for schools to study. After
a small pool of promising candidates that fit the criteria was found, an exploratory
visit was done to see whether the school would be interested in participating.
The following points were covered in the initial school visits:
1. The need for a study of this nature was outlined.
2. The plan for the case studies and the survey instrument was described.
3. An explanation of the amount of time needed.
4. A discussion of access to documents needed for the study was presented.
5. The ground rules were laid out: no passing on of information received to
anyone else in the she; individual and school identities will be protected.
SCHOOLS NOMINATED AS
Nom. by: CDE Supt. Admin. Prof. Total
Site A 11 11 1 1 6
Site B 11 1 11 1 6
SiteC 11 2
SiteD 1 1 2
Site E r 1 2
Site F l 1
SiteG l 1 1 3
6. Specified time investments were outlined.
7. A reiteration that review participation is voluntary was given.
Triangulation of data occurred through interviews, surveys, observations, and
review of standardized test data, absentee rates, discipline records. Merriam (1998)
asserts, "If you were interested in studying the role of parent involvement in a
neighborhood school, for example, you would look for public record documents like
the following: notices sent home to parents; memos between and among teachers,
staff, and the parents association; formal policy statements regarding parent
involvement; school bulletin boards or other media coverage of activities featuring
parent involvement; and any official records of parent attendance or presence in the
school" (p. 114). In much the same way, evidence of instructional leadership was
assessed by reviewing school newsletters and agenda of meetingssuch as open
houses, faculty meetings, and academic council minutes to see if academics were a
priority item in these publications. As Guba & Lincoln (as cited in Merriam, 1998, p.
253) note, "The &st and most important injunction to anyone looking for official
records is to presume if an event happened some record of it exists.
The Instructional Leadership Evaluation Development Program (ILEAD) was
evaluated through Burrows and determined to be the best instrument to use for this
study. The scores for the ILI-T are scaled scores that compare respondents with the
norm base of Illinois administrators. The scale has a mean of 50 and a standard
deviation of 10. The shaded area represents a band within which 50% of the
administrators in the norm sample scored.. Scores above the shaded area represent the
top 25% of Illinois administrators for that characteristic. Examples of questionnaire
items that helped determine the mean score (for a full report see Appendix C).
A series of three instruments have been designed to assess school climate
resulting from activities and beliefs of the principal
1. The Instructional Leadership Inventory (ILI), is a self assessment for
2. The Instructional Climate Survey for Students (ILI-S) is a 20-item multiple
choice instrument for use with students.
3. The Instructional Climate Inventory (ILI-Form T)see Appendix A for the
complete test formis the third part of the ILEAD and the only form used in
The ILI-T consists of 108 multiple choice questions that teachers use to rate their
school's instructional leadership and instructional climate. The norming groups were
developed from 515 teachers from the Midwest. Fifty-three percent of these teachers
were high school teachers. Administration of this questionnaire is rated by Burrows as
easy and efficient to use. The ILI-Form T requires 20-30 minutes to administer. The
publisher of ILEAD, MetriTech, Inc., offers scoring services to students using then-
products for research projects. Two hundred test booklets and answer sheets were
supplied for this project. Additional test booklets and answer sheets were purchased
(see Appendix B for letter from MetriTech, Inc.).
MetriTech, Inc., supplies an Instructional Climate Report (see Appendix C for
complete report) that explains the meaning of the school's overall rating for each scale.
A comparison of how the responding school compares to data from schools in Ulinois-
-where the instrument was normedis also included.
Krug, (1992) has found that instructional leadership involves the strategic
application of knowledge to solve context specific problems and to achieve the
purposes of school by leading others. He has further identified five broad dimensions
that describe instructional leadership: defining mission, managing curriculum and
instruction, supervising and supporting teaching, monitoring student progress, and
promoting instructional climate.
Teachers were surveyed using the ILI-T by MetriTech, Inc. Survey results
assessed instructional leadership in five broad areas. These areas are: (a) defines
mission, (b) manages curriculum, (c) supervises teaching, (d) monitors student
progress, and (e) promotes instructional climate. Although each of these areas is
addressed in the literature review (Chapter 2), the following synopsis demonstrates
how each area relates to instructional leadership.
Krug (1992) finds effective schools and their leaders are distinguished
by an awareness of purpose and an active commitment to achieving their educational
mission. Kaplan and Evans (1997) state that "Schools with high student achievement
share an organizational culture in which administrators, staff members, and students
agree on a common purpose for educational outcomes and undertake cooperative
team efforts to reach these goals" (p. 3). Principal interviews, staff surveys, and
document analysis were used to determine if all members at each site shared a common
purpose as defined by each school's mission.
Manages Curriculum and Instruction
Krug (1989) finds principals who help teachers plan their work effectively and
have a good knowledge of instructional methods score high in this area. Additionally,
principals score high in this section who align curriculum and assessment and provide
specific support for curriculum development.
High ratings in this area are indicative of principals who spend time working on
teaching skills with teachers, observing classes, coaching, and counseling teachers.
Administrators who score high in this area encourage teachers to set professional
goals. Principals who spend time supervising teaching communicate high expectations
to staff and students, model effective teaching practices, and demand more effort from
Monitors Student Progress
The National Council of Effective Schools defines an instructionally effective
school as one which meets the following criteria: (a) high and sustained overall
achievement when compared to state and national performance, (b) no significant
difference in academic achievement among socio-economic or ethnic groups, and
(c) measurement of achievement in reading, language arts, and math. Ashby & Krug
(1995) find, "Principals can no more easily assume that instruction is having it's
intended purposes than business managers can assume that all their operations are
profitable. They need to evaluate learning outcomes on a regular basis and apply the
results of those evaluations in ways that systematically improve the instructional
Promotes Instructional Climate
Hutto & Criss (1993) suggest principals be enthusiastic toward instructional
matters, use congratulatory remarks for academic achievement, and assure
instructional matters have top hilling from daily announcements to faculty meeting
agendas. Hallinger, et al (1996) state that "...belief that a principal can have an
indirect effect on school effectiveness through actions that shape the school's learning
climate" (p. 527). Ubbens & Hughes (1997) assert that, "It is the principal who is in a
position to facilitate staff development, orchestrate time, and schedule factors so that
teachers have opportunities to work together to solve instruction and curricular
problems" (p. 2).
The ILEAD provides an important tool to increase the understanding of school
leadership, school climate, teacher and student motivation and achievement. The use
of the ILI-T to evaluate high school teachers perceptions of instructional leadership
and instructional climate in their building adds richness to this case study.
Although questionnaires are easy to use, Best & Kahn (1986) caution,
Unless one is dealing with a group of respondents who have a
genuine interest in the problem under investigation, know the
sender, or have some common bond of loyalty to a sponsoring
institution or organization the rate of returns is frequently
disappointing and provides a basis for generalization, (p. 166)
Returns for the ILI-T were high at 2 of the 3 sites because teachers took the
survey and upon completion turned the surveys in to the school secretary. Returns
were further heightened by the support of the principals for each participating site.
Balian (1988) states that"... as a supplement to a larger sample previously
interviewed by more efficient means, in-person interview can add a very meaningful
'human element and qualitative dimensions" (p. 182). Due to time constraints,
interviews were conducted with three principals whose schools were selected as
demonstrating the characteristics of effective schools. The teachers in these buildings
were given the ILI-T to compare their perceptions with the principals. This study used
semi-structured questions with a predetermined order of presentation. Best and Kahn
(1986) state that "Validity is greater when the interview is based upon carefully
designed structure, thus ensuring that the significant information is elicited" (p. 188).
Questions for these interviews were less structured to allow individuals to respond to
new ideas on the topic that had not been previously considered by the researcher.
Merriam (1998) states, "Less structured formats assume that individual respondents
define the world in unique ways" (p. 74). These unique views are what added richness
to the data and allowed the researcher to explore the emerging problem.
Interviews were recorded to allow the interview interaction to be as free as
possible. Best and Kahn (1986) assert, "Recording interviews on tape is preferable
because they are convenient and inexpensive and obviate the necessity of writing
during the interview, which may be distracting to both interviewer and subject" (p.
187). This practice ensured that everything said was preserved for future analysis.
Reliability of a qualitative study can be established by an audit trail. As Merriam
(1998) states, "In order for an audit to take place, the investigator must describe in
detail how data were collected, how categories were derived, and how decisions were
made throughout the inquiry" (p. 207). Therefore, records of this research are
maintained for future use. External validity has been enhanced by the use of rich, thick
description, typicality of the subject studied, and multi-site designs.
A script was used to set the stage for each interview, to help to develop rapport,
and to answer any questions the subject had prior to the actual interview. The script
also provided structure for the interview. This was helpful when coding interview
transcriptions for emerging themes. Although each principal went in a different
direction with their answers, the scripted interview eventually refocused the responses,
so that all interviews had the same overall structure (See Appendix D for the entire
Merriam (1998) describes "The interview guide [as] nothing more than a list of
questions you intend to ask in an interview" (p. 81). This set of questions was piloted
with a high school principal. The questions in Appendix F provided a foundation for
the inquiry. These questions were developed by a review of effective schools research
as cited in the literature review (Chapter 2). They are further based upon Patton's
recommendations to implement the format which is described in the next section.
Sample Case Outline
A case study report using the following format, recommended by Patton (1991),
was developed for each of the three sites studied. The evidence from these three
reports was then compiled into a final report for the study. All aspects of this outline
have been integrated in the final report, although the outline has been eliminated for
the sake of flow.
I. The Context
A. The school: descriptive overview
B. The community
C. The school district.
II. Instructional Leadership
A. As viewed by the principal
B. As viewed by the faculty
C. Researcher Observations.
III. Student Achievement
A. Test scores.
B. Discipline records
C. Attendance records.
A. Level of active Instructional Leadership
B. Level of student achievement. Why these results?
I deliberately chose to look at large suburban high schools, the most difficult
setting from which to determine the effects of instructional leadership. Murphy et al.
(1985) state that "By failing to view school effectiveness within the context of schools
as functioning organizations, the research often presents a single view of effectiveness
that is static in nature (p. 625). This research design used quantitative and qualitative
data. The use of both forms produced reliable research that is interesting and adds
richness to the field. As Louis & Miles (1990) assert, "In many cases, city school
buildings are decaying, equipment is missing, teachers are frustrated and discouraged
with an outmoded curriculum and school structure, administrators are too harried to
think straight, parents are desperate, and children are short-changed out of any
pretense at equal educational opportunity" (p. xii). The importance of instructional
leadership as one component of effective schools research is relevant to all schools.
As educators seek to improve student achievement, research on effective schools
practices and instructional leadership will be of greater importance. If instructional
leadership has a positive effect on student achievement under these circumstances, the
practices could be replicated in less difficult settings.
ANALYSIS OF DATA
Three high schools participated in this study and a profile of each site has
emerged. Each of these case studies was developed from interviews with the
principal, surveys of the faculty, and data review. As the data evolved I analyzed the
results and decided what should be included in each profile.
Transcripts of the interview tapes were printed and coded to determine
similarities, differences, and finally emerging themes. These themes were then color
coded throughout each transcript. This process made it possible to determine which
themes were common for all three sites. Those themes that were common for all three
sites were further assessed to determine in what ways the themes were similar.
Data for the profiles reported in this study were collected over a four-month
period. The following steps were included:
1. In person interviews with each principal were conducted.
2. Transcription were made of interview tapes and field notes.
3. Transcriptions were decoded to interpret themes.
4. Surveys of faculty were conducted.
5. Raw data were evaluated to determine themes.
6. Documents were collected.
7. Evolving profiles of each she were created.
8. Emerging themes and interpreting their significance to the research
questions were sought.
9. Data were reevaluated to form significant conclusions.
Qualitative data analysis requires development of a picture of the subject.
Eisner (1991) states that Qualitative studies of classrooms, teachers, and schools are
usually expressed in stories (p. 189). The following case studies represent my
portrait of each site and include the overall culture and climate of the building, the
principals interpretation of the building via a one-on-one interview, the statistical
analysis of the ILEAD survey of the faculty, and document analysis. Together these
data allowed me to develop a composite profile of each she.
Case Study Site A
This 9-12 comprehensive high school is situated in a semi-rural area of
Colorado. The school is located in the open, with few distractions from neighbors or
local businesses. It acts as an anchor for the community: hs state-of -the-art
auditorium facility is used for both school and community activities. The building has
an open feelingexemplified both by the spectacular views that are available at every
turn and also by the behavior of the faculty and students towards each other. Staff and
students are respectful to one another, and the school portrays a sense of plenty.
The building is not overcrowded, and has an abundance of spaceboth inside and
outside. Although activity in the building seems purposeful and bustling, no sense of
urgency in the movements and interactions pervades inside: people are friendly and
seem genuinely interested in one another. Teachers stop to speak with the secretary,
who seems relaxed and willing to converse with them. This is in contrast to buildings
where lines of students wait to speak with the secretary, and teachers rush in and out
in an effort to have their needs met. The overall atmosphere of this school is positive
The community is a mix of urban commuters and rural dwellers. Residents are
upwardly mobile with many "high end" developments. Hence, students have plenty of
disposable income. One would assume that this affluence comes from well-educated
parents, who expect their children to succeed academically. Indeed, the community
itself has high expectations for its students, and one of this schools goals is to be free
of drugs, alcohol, and weapons. Eighty-five percent of the graduates qualify to attend
post secondary colleges or universities. The demographics for this school of 1,119
students are: Asian 1.8%, Black less than 1%, Hispanic 2%, American Indian less than
1%, and Caucasian 94.4%.
The school district is dedicated to providing a foundation for all students in the
areas of basic skills, cultural knowledge, and personal well being. The district prides
itself on continuing to challenge students with high academic standards, and the results
are among the highest test scores in the state. The mission statement for this district
says that, A graduate of this district will have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes
necessary to be a self-directed learner, an effective communicator, a complex thinker,
a socially responsible citizen, an aesthetically aware individual, and a quality
The principal of Site A was interviewed at the end of the school day. He was
relaxed and anxious to spend time discussing his building. The interview questions
were open ended (see Appendix D) and allowed me to follow up on answers that were
of interest to the study. The following segments are from the transcribed tapes of this
interview. These tapes were coded and evaluated to best demonstrate emerging
themes the researcher tracked throughout this study.
The principal at Site A views his main goal as communication. He states:
I believe if I can bring people to the office and sit them down at the
table, I can solve anything. 1 would really like to head off any issues
or any concerns with a face-to-lace meeting rather than on the phone
or through a letter.
The second critical area for this principal is public relations, and he asserts, "I am
the PR person for the school." As a demonstration, he relates the following:
I do a number of monthly parent meetings both at people's homes
and during the day at the school, to talk about what's happening in
the building, so they dont just think I'm saying this because that's my
Although this principal acknowledged his need to support what is happening in
the classroom, he lamented the difficulty of this task as the school grows in size and
complexity. So much so that he reflected:
I'm much more of a manager than I ever hoped to be. I don't see
that changing, which is unfortunate. A small part of my job is
curriculum and even evaluation, and only because it's the day's problem.
This administrator expressed pride in his ability to encourage a high school faculty
to go on a retreat. He explained how he started this process:
The way that came aboutlast year I asked nine teachers if they
would go to dinner with me one night because I said I would
like to just tell them about my feelings on the school. These
teachers had come to me about school improvement projects.
They had been in the building, so they were invested in what
was happening. I took them to dinner and explained what I
saw in our building and what concerned me. I expressed that
we need to be a lot healthier if we are going to open a new
high school in four years, or there will be a real tough rivalry.
Out of that, we met once a month for dinner through the year
and the retreat idea came out of those meetings.
When asked his main focus for the building, this principal responded, .. my
goal is to try to put the parameters in placenot necessarily be the one that carries
them out because that becomes impossible." He was clear that he wants to create a
culture where kids want to be here. He continued to express this idea:
So my focus is to help that culture piece. I think once we have that,
with the staff too, it will make the staffs life easier and then everything
becomesour standards piece will be easier to look at, assessment
but I don't think, and again I don't see this as, this is the fifth high
school I've worked at in Colorado, and I don't see this as any
different than any other high school But I don't think we worry
about that enough. And so I think a lot of our issues would be
taken care of if kids felt differently about being here all the time
and teachers did too.
When asked what his most enjoyable aspect of the job was, this principal
answered without hesitation: "Working with the kids." However, he went on to
express concerns about his position and how he felt isolated from the students. He
I don't know the number of students I used to know as an AP,
and I don't deal with the kids. I deal with their parents or the
issue. Same complaints that I think most principals have~the
problem of the day, instead of getting with the kids.
He explained further he really likes being in the classroom observing:
Now trying to shift toward a standards-based assessment, I
talk more with the kids in the class than just watch what the
teacher is doing. Those are my best days when I spend
more time in the classroom or with kids in the lunchroom.
I really like when the kids leave me notes and they need to
see me and that we can sit down. We can sit down and say
okay, what's the issue or how can I help you. That's the best
What are the least enjoyable aspects of his job? "The discipline aspects that lead
to expulsion or serious things when the police get involved."
Even this week, I dealt with a student that I had to recommend
expulsion on. He made some really poor choices. He is kind
of a lost soul, a single parent and all the issues. Everything is
stacked against him, and yet being out of school isn't going to
be helpful for him. To me, that's really tough. I feel strongly
that there are certain kids that shouldn't be in the building and
thatso I don't have a problem with the expulsion piece,
but when you get into some of them where you just feel like
we aren't doing what we could be doing for them. Even if we
kept them, we don't have the resources to do some of the
things. That is really a negative aspect.
When asked what he must do to be a successful principal, he responded that
keeping up with research is his main task. He said that he must:
Be a resource for teachers. Not that you know that off the
top of your head. That's impossible, but to use research.
When we have an issue, pick up research articles so that we
are basing some of our decisions on research, which I think we
do none of for the most part.
The final question of the interview concerned the training the principal thinks he
has had to prepare him as an instructional leader. He readily answered that his
classroom experiences in middle school with teaming and interdisciplinary teaching
were his primary background. He elaborated:
So ever since then, I have been trying to incorporate that at the
high school level. Unfortunately high school teachers tend to
think that's a middle school concept instead of good teaching
practices. I think that started me off right at the beginning
of my career working with really great teachers and thinking
more creatively about how to approach things rather that
surviving and get the unit done on a test.
It is interesting to note that this principal felt his graduate course work had little
application to instructional leadership. He noted:
My doctoral work, not necessarily. I had some curriculum
courses, but they in the realm of class work, those courses
were the weakest that I have had. It's really sad. It's the
most important thing, but yet, it's by the wayside.
He went on to explain that, "I am currently teaching a curriculum class at [the local
university] and that's helped a ton because I've gotten into some reading that I
wouldn't have done."
As the interview came to an end, he reflected on his concerns for the school. The
main issue: how the split to two high schools will effect his current building. One
option is for this school to remain as the primary high school, with satellites, or,
perhaps, let the campus grow to 2,800. He explained that an assistant superintendent
shared research that says, "High schools are very efficient up to 1000, very inefficient
up to 1800, they become very efficient again when they get larger." He concluded the
interview with the following perception:
You look at Cherry Creek schools, like Smoky Hill, they have
broken into houses. They have a big school, but a small
environment. But the resources they have because of
having 2700 kids really gives them flexibility, so I'm
almost leaning on changing my view if we can get past
this midsection fast enough. I don't know.
The ILEAD survey of Instructional Leadership was given to the faculty and the
results are listed in Figure 4.1 on page 65. The first five scales measure Instructional
Leadership. This site had a low overall rating on all five of these scales. Thus,
teachers at this site found Instructional Leadership lacking.
The second set of scales measures the instructional climate of the building. This
site had a much higher score in this area. Therefore, teachers at this site rate the
instructional climate of the building both higher than the average and higher than
The results on the ILEAD could be attributed in part to the principal and his focus
for the building, which is as a public relations person. He has worked with a small
group of teachers to form a consensus for change. His training as an instructional
leader is based on experiences in inter-disciplinary teaching at the middle school level.
Standardized test scores for this site showed ACT composite test scores of 24.5,
which are approximately 3.5 points above the national averages of 21. These scores
are particularly relevant, since 74% of the graduating class took the ACT. The PLAN
test provides students and their parents with information they need for educational and
career planning and provides an early indication of readiness for the ACT exam. The
sophomore class takes the PLAN test and scored 2-3 points higher than the national
Graduates of this high school qualified for nearly $3 million in scholarships in
1997-98. Eighty-five percent of the graduates attend post secondary colleges or
universities ranging from the Ivy League schools of the east to the small, private
colleges of the Midwest.
The level of student achievement for this site is high. ACT scores are 3.5 points
above the national average, and sophomores ranked 2-3 points above that same
average. This level of student achievement can be attributed, in part, to the feet that
this is an affluent community where expectations for academic achievement are high
another major factor contributing to the relatively large number of students who go on
Discipline records were reviewed, and it was found that the school had 188
suspensions and 10 expulsions during the 1997-1998 school year. One of this school's
goals for 1998-1999 is to continue to support and maintain a safe and drug- free
environment, where students are comfortable and strive to achieve at their personal
Attendance for the 1997-1998 school year was 95.4%. A goal for the 1998-1999
school year was to promote the maintenance of the attendance rate at 96.5%, while
researching causes of absenteeism. The accountability committee further sought to
determine factors that influence student absenteeism and whether those factors follow
a pattern. Additionally, they sought to evaluate whether the class schedule for each
day influenced attendance, or if opening and dismissal times influenced attendance.
One could assume that this focus on these issues accounts for the strong attendance
The level of instructional leadership for this site is rated low by teachers. This
score indicates that administrators do not discuss school goals, purposes or mission
with staff; and recognition of good teaching is minimal.
This principal has only worked here just two years. This could account for some
of the low scores on Instructional Leadership scales. However, his stated focus for the
building is one of public relations and changeas opposed to Instructional Leadership.
Instructional climate was rated high by the faculty. This school has a rich history,
with many teachers spending their entire careers here. This is the only high school in
the district and so it reflects the pride the community feels toward their young people.
All these factors contribute to the high score achieved on the ILEAD climate scale.
I Figure 4.1 1 | Site A Survey Results |
Scale Mean Score Implications
Defines Mission 46 Administratois provide no clear vision of school Administration not receptive to staff input ,
Manages Curriculum 47 Administrators pay little attention to instructional needs Staff input unsolicited in goal development
Supervises Teaching 4B Administratois do not communicate instructional issues Staff not motivated to do best
Monitors Student Progress 48 Teachers feel evaluation of student progress downplayed Teachers not given feedback to assess results and modify instruction
Promotes Instructional Climate 45 School not innovative High expectations not reinforced
Faculty/StafT Satisfaction 50 Staff satisfied with work, pay, promotion and co-woikeis
Faculty/Staff Commitment 54 High level of loyalty to school Pride and "ownership exist
Strength of Climate 54 Goals and purposes are clear Faculty know what school stands for
Faculty/StafT Accomplishment 54 Excellence and quality emphasized School supportive ofteacher/student innovation Clear focus on excellence
Faculty/Staff Recognition 51 Climate perceived as valuing gtxxl efforts Overall environment viewed positively Well-iefprded reward system in place
Faculty/Staff Power 50 Emphasis on competition Competition regarded positively
Faculty/Staff Affiliation 51 Climate of trust and respect Caring, sharing trusting cooperating describe Site
Case Study Site B
This 9-12 comprehensive high school is located in a suburban area. The
surrounding neighborhood is heavily developed with homes, businesses, and a major
shopping malL This is a community school with a local junior college holding classes
in the building in the evenings. The buildings architecture is dramatic, with sweeping
views of the front range from the western windows.
A significant population of students dress and act in a manner that suggests a
renegade attitude. The attitude of staff and students is less respectful in this building,
as most occupants seem to have an "attitude" to demonstrate. A definite sense of
tension exits in this building; one can feel this tension when school ends or when the
next class begins, or simply when trying to navigate the halls. This can be attributed to
the crowded nature of the building.
This school is in its 17th year and serves a highly mobile community attendance
area: approximately 20% of the students turnover each year. In the fall of 1998, this
school began its first year as a school of choice with the International Baccalaureate
Programme. Since students from other attendance areas were accepted into this
program or came in through choice, the school continues to operate above capacity.
Sixty-three percent of the parent population have a post-secondary degree, with the
largest employer being education, followed by high tech and service industries.
This school was selected as a National School of Excellence in 1991 and is
primarily a college preparatory institution with 87% of the graduates opting for post-
secondary education. Seventeen percent of the student body take honors and
advanced placement courses. Enrollment for this school is 1420. The ethnic
breakdown is: American Indian 1.2%, Asian 2.8%, Hispanic 3.8%, African American
3.8% and Caucasian 88.4%.
Through the association with the local junior college, the school is able to offer
significant opportunities for those students interested in a vocational program as well
as concurrent credit at both the college and high school level. The mission statement
for this district is: "To provide a rich, academically rigorous curriculum as the
foundation upon which students are encouraged to build for future success." This is
an affluent suburban district that embraces the concept of choice for its patrons.
Parents in this district are generally more concerned with education and better
educated than in the surrounding districts.
The principal at Site B was interviewed at the end of a long day. She expressed
regret that her energy was low, having spent the afternoon at central administration to
review the budget. This district had a dire financial picture for the upcoming year, and
the principal expressed her concern for its impact on both her faculty and students
and hence on the survey results. Once the interview started, she became energized,
and a dynamic conversation ensued.
The principal at Site B viewed her personal goals as dedicated, caring, and,
hopefully, competent. She further described herself as "assertive with feeling." She
I think to be a principal, especially right now with the things
going on in education, you have to be really dedicated and
committed to really providing the absolute best educational
program you can for students. It's a people business.
She further reflected that she believes the principal in this day and age no longer can
just be what we used to call the instructional leader and that one has to be a leader
of instructional leadersand has to empower teachers in the building to provide
leadership for the instructional program.
When asked what her main focus for the building was she stated:
Academics is what we're about. That's the focus. I don't believe
that you can, that kids can perform and that teachers can perform,
if they don't see what's in it for them. The focus for the building
really is to create a caring, supportive climate in which people
can excel. So, the focus of the building really is to be a flexible
and dynamic environment in which we can make sure that kids
are getting everything they need to go out in the world.
This principal bases her educational philosophy on what she terms the five "I's,"
not a concept that she invented, but one she adheres to. They are: (1) International, (2)
Interdisciplinary, (3) Integrated, (4) Interactive, and (5) Individualized. These are the
five factors she believes must be present in a quality high school.
When asked the most enjoyable aspects of her job, she answered, "I would have
to say, just people. It's the interactions with the people that make up the school
community." She further reflected:
I like to say that I want to have a school that's effective and
efficient. To me there's a difference. How I define it is:
efficiency is doing things right, but effectiveness is doing
the right thing. The only way that I know whether we are
doing the right things is by interacting with the kids.
As we talked further about the most enjoyable aspects of the job, this principal
Every time I get tired of looking at the budget or staffing or
some of these managerial things, I walk out and get a "kid"
fix. I go visit a classroom or go to a basketball game or
She also discussed how much she enjoys working with the faculty and explained that,
although she does not get to influence the kids as directly as she did in the classroom,
she does think that through influencing the staff she has even more influence on kids.
She summarized the most enjoyable aspects of her job, saying:
So, it really would be the interaction with people. That to me
makes this job worth doing. It also is what makes it probably
very challenging and unpredictable. I like that. I would be
bored, I think, if I went in everyday and knew what the day
When asked the least enjoyable aspects of the job, this principal responded that it's
the part of the job, which is also very important and I do it willinglyalthough it's the
ugly partwhen we have to expeL Because that's not what we are about. She added
I mean, I'm about having the kids be in school. I think the
thing that I feel saddest about is when either a student,
because of their own mistake, and kids do make mistakes,
has to be removed from our educational mainstream here.
The other unpleasant task cited was having to tell people they are not right for the job.
When asked what she needs to do to be a successful principal, she readily
responded "I should exercise and get more sleep." She goes on to explain that you
have to be visible, you have to be willing to work all the time, you have to be a role
model, and you have to set the tone for your whole school. She added:
I think the problem is that you have to always be on as a
principal. If you come in and you're having a bad day,
everybody that you talk to thinks it has something to do
with them when it may not at all. Its scary almost the
power that they give to the leader. So, you really have
to model, you have to model what you want from them.
Also, "If you want them to respect kids, if you want them to be energetic and
passionate about what they do, if you want them to be competent, then you better be
that way, too." When asked what prepared her to be an instructional leader she
responded "Obviously, formal training helps." She thinks her doctoral work in
curriculum and instruction are valuable and explained:
It gave me a sense of really how to look at an instructional
program, how to kind of analyze what's going well, what
maybe needs to be corrected, how to research, how to
really use research to see if you're operating how you ought
to be operating.
Through her doctoral work she also learned to appreciate research and reads
educational research often.
Teachers at this site were given the ILEAD. The results of this survey are shown
in Figure 4.2. Teachers here rate Instructional Leadership low-as indicated by the first
I Figure 4.2 1 | Site B Survey Results |
Scale Mean Score Implications
Defines Mission 46 Administrators do not provide dear vision Administration not receptive to staff input
Manages Curriculum 46 Administrators pay little attention to instructional needs Staff input not solicited in goal development
Supervises Teaching 48 Administrators do not communicate instructional issues Staff not motivated to do best
Monitors Student Progress 50 Student progress top priority Administrators review student performance data with teachers
Promotes Instructional Climate 45 School not innovative High expectations not reinforced
Faculty/Stafif Satisfaction 45 Staff dissatisfaction may arise for variety of reasons
Faculty/Stafif Commitment 51 High level of loyalty Pride and ownership exist
Strength of Climate 52 Goals and purposes are clear Faculty knows what school stands for
Faculty/Stafif Accomplishment 54 School perceived as emphasizing excellence Supportive of teacher/student innovation
Faculty /Staff Recognition 52 Climate perceived as rewarding good efforts Well-regarded reward system in place
Faculty/Stafif Power 52 Emphasis on competition Competition regarded positively
Faculty/ Staff Affiliation 48 Trust and respect lacking Distant, uninvolved, suspicious, uncooperative describe school
five scales of the ILEAD (with the exception of Monitors Student Progress). This
indicates that student progress is a priority for the schooL
Scores on the next seven scales which measure instructional climate were mixed.
The principal of this site sees herself as dedicated, caring, and competent. She also
views herself as the leader of Instructional Leadershipand strives to empower people.
She sees academics as the main focus. Formal training is indicated as the preparation
for Instructional Leadership by this principal, as well as the ability to analyze
instructional programs and the use of research to make operational decisions.
Student achievement for this site is high as measured by standardized tests. ACT
scores for this school are 23.1, as compared with 21.6 for the state and 21.0 for the
nation. The Iowa Test of Educational Development (ITED), a new high school
version of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, showed students at this high school at the
79% level, as compared with a national percentile of 50%.
Discipline records for this site were also evaluated. Students were suspended
120 times for detrimental behavior, 4 for possession of weapons, and 18 for drugs or
controlled substances. Additionally, seven students were expelledfive for drugs or
controlled substances, and two for possession of weapons (BB guns).
This school continues to be concerned with safety and student drug and alcohol
use, and therefore began investigating the School Resource Officer Program. This
projectwith the cooperation of the Colorado Springs Police Departmentis being
implemented in the fell of 1998.
The attendance rate for this school is reported at 96%. A computerized phone
call system is used in addition to a system to reward perfect attendance, known as the
Renaissance Program. Both of these programs act as catalysts to promote good
The principal at this site is confident of her academic focus. She views
Instructional Leadership as a shared responsibility and continually refocuses on
academic issues. The International Baccalaureate Programme and the designation as a
National School of Excellence are indicative of the commitment to academic
excellence. This level of academic achievement would also be expected--due to both
the community demographics and the nature of site selection.
The scores for the instructional climate of this building are mixed. Several
variables could cause this: first, the overcrowding of the building has a significant
impact on its climate and causes tensionand hence dissatisfactionwithin; second, the
financial difficulties the district is feeing add to this level of dissatisfaction.
Case Study Site C
This suburban comprehensive 9-12 high school has approximately 1400 students.
It is in a predominantly working class communityan unincorporated community
which is a suburb of a larger city and the building is exceptionally well maintained.
It is close to several military bases; and the student enrollment reflects this
propinquity, with 30% of the population military or retired military. Industry in this
community consists of a large manufacturing plant. Everywhere one looks, efficiency
exists: halls, grounds, and common areas are immaculatea real task given that this is
a 35-year-old facility. Efficiency is also evident in the movement of faculty and
students. Everyone seems purposeful; few students are in the halls outside of passing
period. A strong sense of ownership and pride is evident in this schooL
Enrollment is 1,435. The make-up of the student body provides an opportunity
for students to experience and profit from those with divergent backgrounds. The
following minorities are represented: Caucasian 67.2%, African American 15%,
Hispanic 11.7%, and other 6.1%.
This school serves a working-class neighborhood. Even so, 55% of its graduates
went to college in 1997,12% to two year colleges, and 11% to vocational or technical
schooL The class of 1997 received scholarships in excess of two million dollars. In
addition to college preparatory classes, this school offers a strong vocational education
program. Courses are offered in electronics, auto mechanics, building trades, and
industrial arts; this is an all-inclusive school.
Nine elementary schools, three junior high schools, two high schools, and one
alternative high school exist in this district. Total enrollment is 8,500 students. The
district offers a comprehensive curriculum for all students. In addition to an
instructional program which emphasizes mastery of skills, district programs include:
bilingual tutoring, computer literacy, gifted programs, outdoor education, Head Start,
preschool for handicapped, Title 1 reading, work study, and career preparation.
The principal of this site was interviewed at the start of the day. He was
energized, enthusiastic, and had just toured the building to meet with staff. When
asked how he views himself he readily answered, "1 view myself as an aggressive
principal." He explained:
One that has to continually feel like he or his staff are on
the "cutting edge." Are always looking to be gaining an
advantage of how we can just one-up our kids in student
achievement and doing better with their test scores and
graduation rates and drop-out rates. I am research based
and an avid reader.
This principal is also very concerned with relationships and feels that, as a
principal, he is successful based on his ability to develop relationships. He added
"Because through relationships you develop trust, honesty, confidence and that's how
you get your staff to move and change." He further stated:
You could be the most knowledgeable person in the world,
but if you lack that ability to develop relationships with
staff with trust and confidence you won't move your staff
and be able to be progressive and on the "cutting edge" and
always giving your students an advantage.
He stated that, without a doubt, instruction, programs and student achievement
are his main focus for the building. He added, No hesitation on that one.
My day and my calendar look like that. So I would say that is an easy one for me.
When asked the most enjoyable aspects of the job he responded:
When we can change, and it makes our organization
successful, and we've made a major accomplishment
or we've moved in an area that we were maybe not as
progressive as we should be.
This principal spoke about what he terms the art of being a principal and attributes
that philosophy to the ability to move people toward change. He is particularly
interested in change that does not interrupt relationships. He further explained:
If you can get people to realty embrace the change and
where we have to be as an organization, to me that's the
greatest accomplishment you can do as a principal.
That's the art of being a principal in my opinioa That's
the art of being a teacher. Everybody has a degree in
science. It's the art of teachingbeing able to communicate
with that kid to make the difference to make them achieve
and do something they never thought they could do.
That's the art of teaching. That's the same thing as the
art of being a principal. It's rare. I realty believe it's
rare in people.
He finds plant management the least enjoyable aspect of his job. Tasks like
battling the budget and legislation. He added:
Because I feel my hands are tied on that. I don't think I
can inpact that or affect that. When you are given your
building budget in May and have to move on, that's the
least appealing part of my job. I feel like I shouldn't
have to battle outside variables that take up my time
from instruction and student achievement.
In response to the question of what he has to do to be a successful principal, he
Well, first of all, I think I have to model what I believe.
Not only for our stafÂ£ but for our Administrative Team.
What is real important for me is relationships. Relationships
to me doesn't mean being liked. It's communicating.
Relationships, I guess, would be communicating. One of
my goals every morning is I see every single staff member
every single day. I have 101 staff members.
He went on to explain they have three goals each year: staff development,
technology and visitation to other schools. Leadership team meetings are conducted
weekly with 16 faculty members. They are each given a job description that school
leaders would need to be progressive and a model of instruction for their department.
Meetings with the entire faculty occur only three times a year. He further explained:
I don't know one principal that's ever been fired for not
knowing curriculum. They get fired because of relationships,
trust and breakdown of communication. That's why
principals get fired.
In response to the final question; his preparation as an instructional leader, his
response was "My coaching background, I think, has made me instructionally focused,
and it has helped in the role of principalship."
I'm not trying to demean the principalship by saying
"You have to be a jock football player." You have
a definite "game plan," direction or vision or mission.
A series of athletic metaphors further defined this principal's philosophy:
We want student achievement, we want the great test
scores, we want the kids to be successful and go on to
college. That's our goal. As a coach, I want to win the
game. That's my goal. I want to win the game. During
the week as a coach, what do 1 do? Practice with my
players to do the things that we think are going to help
us win the game. As a principal, during my meetings,
during my talks, evaluations, we are practicing the
things that are going to help us be successful as an
Teachers at this site were surveyed using the ILEAD. The first five scales
measure Instructional Leadership. They consistently rated Instructional Leadership as
high. This suggests a school climate in which administrators regularly discuss school
goals, purposes, and mission with staff. Administrators make themselves visible in the
building, recognize good teaching at formal ceremonies and communicate an
excitement about the future.
The faculty rated instructional climate as high in six of seven scales. Only
Faculty/Staff Power is rated low. This indicates that little emphasis is placed on
competitiveness, and power struggles are not valued. See Figure 4.3 for a full report
on this report.
The principal of this site views himself as an aggressive leader. He continually
seeks the "cutting edge." A strong focus for him is in relationships, for with
relationships he can develop trust and move toward change to give students the best
advantages. Coaching experience is cited as his primary source of Instructional
Leadership and inspiration.
Student achievement was measured by the Terra Nova achievement test in 1998.
Sophomores scored in the 55%, and freshman scored in the 57%. Composite ACT
scores were 21. These scores were not as high as the other two sites, however
demographics for the site are considerably lower as well.
Discipline records were reviewed and it was determined that six students were
expelled during the 1997-98 school year for controlled substances, weapons
possession, theft, and habitually disruptive behavior. The rate of suspensions was 297
out of 1,397.
The attendance rate for 1997-1998 was 94.7%which is considerably above the
state average. This represented a 1.2% increase over the attendance rate for the
previous year (the schools stated attendance goal is 95%).
The level of active Instructional Leadership is rated high on all scales by the
faculty. This indicates a school climate where administrators regularly discuss school
goals, purposes, and mission with staff. Administrators are visible in the building and
good teaching is recognized in a formal way. Indeed, this is the case for this site since
the principal stresses the importance of relationships. He makes rounds of the building
one hour before it opens and meets informally with faculty members during that time.
I Figure 4J 1 | Site C Survey Results |
Scale Mean Score Implications
Defines Mission 61 Administrators discuss goals, purposes, mission with staff Administrators stay visible in building
Manages Curriculum 65 Administrators insure good fit, re: curriculum objectives and testing Primary emphasis with educational vs. administrative issues
Supervises Teaching 66 Administrators observe classes and work on skills with teachers
Monitors Student Progress 59 Student progress a top priority Teachers provided with timely, easy access to student assessments
Promotes Instructional Climate 53 Teachers encouraged to try new ideas Administrators commend staff routinely; encourage parents to do same
Faculty/Staff Satisfaction 70 Faculty satisfied with work, pay promotions, co-workers
Faculty/Staff Commitment 66 High level of loyalty Pride and ownership exist
Strength of Climate 67 Goals and purposes clear Faculty knows what school stands for
Faculty/Staff Accomplishment 67 Excellence and quality emphasized Supportive of teacher/student innovation
Faculty/Staff Recognition 67 Good efforts are rewarded Well-regarded reward system in place
Faculty/Staff Power 39 Little emphasis on competition; cooperation valued instead Conflicts, power struggles not valued
Faculty/Staff Affiliation 68 Trust and respect abound in school Carina, sharing, trusting, cooperating describe school
Each of the sites studied had a focus on good attendance. This correlates with
research of strong student achievement (Lipitz, 1984; Rutter, 1983). Site A had a
95.4% daily attendance rate. This school had a building goal to improve attendance
further by researching the causes of absenteeism and whether these factors followed a
pattern. Attendance rates for previous years were analyzed and compared to school
calendars to see if changes in the school year affected attendance. Statewide
attendance records were reviewed and five high schools with similar demographics and
attendance rates higher than Site A were chosen from which to gather information.
These data included factors that motivated strong attendance, the impact of class
schedules, and the influence of opening and dismissal times on attendance. Finally,
profiles of students who had a 10% or higher absentee rate were developed. These
profiles were used to study patterns for students at the greatest risk of poor
attendance. All of these efforts to improve attendance demonstrate a strong desire on
the part of the stafÂ£ students, and community to make school a top priority for their
Site B had an attendance rate of 96%. This building focused on a school-wide
attendance and tardy policy. A computerized phone call system was used to report
absences to parents. Perfect attendance awards were implemented as part of the
REACH program, nationally known as the Renaissance Program. Efforts to improve
attendance at this school included both parent involvement and positive rewards.
Site C had a daily attendance rate of 94.7%. This represented a 1.2% increase
over the previous year. This school has a goal to improve attendance to 95%. Parents
are notified of absences and students are disciplined for excessive truancies. The
school and community work together at this site to improve attendance for students.
Student behavior and discipline were not issues at any of the sites studied, as
reflected by suspension and expulsion rates. This finding is consistent with previous
research by Borelli (1997) and Keefe and Howard (1997)-both studies are cited in
Chapter 2. The graduation rate and drop out rates at each site were positive.
Students who graduate from these schools were more likely to attend college as
evidenced by the data review.
Site A had a graduation rate of 92.1 %. This rate has remained stable over the
past five years. In order to improve the graduation rate, this, school focused on
students with a GPA of 1.9 or less. The graduation goal for this building was to
decrease by 10% the number of students who had that average (or less). A student
assistance and mentoring program was implemented specifically for this target group.
Students who improved their grades by one letter were formally recognized. A survey
of students who were leaving before graduation was developed to assist in the
evaluation of interventions that could prevent dropping out of high school. This site
recognized the need to work with the lowest quartile of students in order to improve
the graduation rate.
She B had an overall graduation rate of 87.9%. This represented a decrease of
0.7% from the previous year (the school has a goal of 90%). A formalized exit
interview process has been developed to involve more counseling for students
considering dropping out. The drop-out rate of 1.9% is attributed to the availability of
an alternative high school.
Site C had a graduation rate of 81.3%. Although this rate is lower than the other
two sites studied, h is above the state average of 77.6%. This schools goal is 90%.
Efforts have been made to improve the rate for minority students; black and hispanic
students graduate from this school at a rate higher than the state average for each
group. Efforts to improve the graduation rate include programs to diversify
educational offerings so that more students enter the work force upon graduation.
Student achievement for each of these sites is above average. Students scored
high on standardized tests as well as the ACT and SAT. Given the nature of selection,
it is to be expected that these schools demonstrate strong student achievement.
Site A acknowledged the importance of parental involvement on student
achievement and sought to increase parent participation. Parent newsletters are
published quarterly and a district web page is maintained to keep parents informed of
school activities. College information nights, freshmen parent orientation, and an
eighth-grade parent information night are all offered to better support school and
Site B focused on improving student achievement by analyzing scores from the
Six Trait Writing assessment to remediate weaknesses in specific subpopulations. This
faculty also chose to study and implement better methods of meeting individual
learning styles in the classroom. To improve SAT/ACT scores, this school paid for all
sophomores to take the PLAN (a pre-ACT test). Letters were sent home
encouraging parents of Juniors to have their students take the SAT/ACT. Finally,
reading and writing skills, as well as higher level thinking skills were emphasized in
Site C has expanded educational opportunities for all students in an effort to
improve student achievement. Business, computer, electronic, auto mechanic, building
trade, and industrial arts programs are available at this site. Students can also enroll in
a cooperative vocational program with a local community college. A Navy Junior
ROTC program is also on site. These expanded opportunities help to improve student
achievement for this building.
Data review for these three sites was consistent with the previous research of
Keefe and Howard (1997) that discusses school climate. Research by Ubben and
Hughes (1997) that prioritizes staff development was also supported (see Figure 3.1,
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND IMPLICATIONS
Instructional Leadership is the pivotal role for a school leader. This study has
focused on instructional leadership in high schools. These administrators have impact
on student achievement in any number of ways. Krug (1989) asserts that,
In short, school leaders enter the achievement equation both
directly and indirectly. By exercising certain behaviors that
facilitate learning, they directly control situational factors
in which learning occurs. By shaping the schools instructional
climate, thereby influencing the attitudes of teachers, students,
parents, and the community at large toward education, they
increase both student and teacher motivation and indirectly
impact learning gains, (p. 253)
The main question of this study was: Do high schools that have been identified as
effective schools have instructional leadership and an instructional climate? This study
also identified themes that are common for principals of effective schools. Each of the
principals interviewed shared a commitment for reading educational research and for
basing decisions on that research. They were each strong communicators and
recognized this skill as contributing to their success. Finally, this study-built on
earlier research (Kaplan & Evans, 1997; Kaufman, 1997; Keefe & Howard, 1997;
Hoerr, 1996)found that instructional leadership can be a shared responsibility. The
answer to the main research question was mixedvarying at each site, with the
1. Site A: Although the principal at this site was not viewed as an instructional
leader, the instructional climate of the building was strong. These results could be
affected by the length of time the principal and most teachers had been at this
building. The principal was in his second year at this location and many of the faculty
had been there for ten years or more. Thus, the instructional climate of the building
which as represented by the facultywas rated high and the instructional leadership of
the principal was rated oppositely.
2. Site B: The principal at this site was viewed as more of an instructional
leader and the instructional climate was rated low. These results could be
due to overcrowding in the building and a principal who focuses on instructional
3. Site C: The principal at this site was viewed as an instructional leader and the
instructional climate was rated relatively high. These results were consistent with the
principal interview, document analysis, and observation of the building, although the
researcher has some skepticism due to the low returns on surveys from this site.
Comparison and Contrast of Themes
Each of the principals in this study cited the importance of research, both as a
knowledge base and a foundation for decisions. As the principals shared their visions
and frustrations with their, jobs they frequently lamented the lack of time. Although,
each principal noted the lack of time they had to accomplish their jobs, each made time
to read journals and stay current in the field of educatioa One principal read the
National Association of Secondary School Principals Gold Book Series, which
provided a synopsis of current education research. Another principal referred to his
work as an adjunct professor in curriculum and instruction at a local university as a
source of research review. The third principal interviewed spoke of the books and
authors that most influenced his decisions and vision. Clearly, each of the principals
interviewed found a way in their busy schedules to read, review, and apply current
Strong communication skills was another theme among these principals. Being
able to communicate what their schools are about and how they are achieving their
goals and visions was important to them all. Each principal approached this priority in
a different way. One principal was very involved with the community and saw himself
as a public relations officer of the school. Another felt that interactions with people
were the greatest reward of her job and commented on communication with students,
parents, and staff as a way to energize herself. Finally, one principal argued that no
one is fired for not understanding curriculum, but rather for an inability to develop
relationships. Each of these principals understands the importance of strong
communication skills, and although each one has a different focus for their
communication, all identify the ability to be a good communicator as vital to their
As high schools become larger~in the case of these three high schools each had
student populations of approximately 1400 studentsthe leadership of the schools
needs to be shared. One principal used retreats and small group dinners to gamer
support for change and increased faculty leadership, another spoke of providing an
environment where shared leadership is valued, and, finally, one spoke of aggressively
weeding out staff leaders who were not working toward shared leadership. In each of
these buildings, the leadership of the school is shared in different ways: faculty
meetings are led by staff staff development opportunities are generated by staff and
school improvement goals are provided with staff input.
Staff development is recognized by each of these principals as an important aspect
of their programs. One school used a retreat to determine the staff development
opportunities they needed. Another school sent small groups of teachers to
workshops and then had them present what they had learned to the rest of the staff,
and one school sent teachers to observe other programs they might recommend for
further staff development. Although each school approached staff development
differently, each group was actively involved in its promotion.
The four themes cited in this study are intertwined in each school. All of the
principals value research and refer to it when decisions are made; and each principal is
a strong communicator who motivates their respective staffs to share leadership and to
foster staff development.
Four major themes emerged from this data analysis: (1) principals in this study
shared a commitment to reading educational research and said that they based their
decisions on that research; (2) each of the principals in this study are strong
communicators and stressed public relations, relationships, and their people skills; (3)
instructional leadership can be a shared responsibility; and (4) staff development was a
Theme 1: The principals interviewed for this study frequently referred to research as a
basis for their decisions. Their enthusiasm toward continuous learning modeled a
strong academic foundation of each of them as leaders. Two of the three principals
had doctorates; one felt the doctorate was a basis for instructional leadership, but the
other did not see the advanced degree as preparing him for instructional leadership.
These principals not only keep up with research, but they encourage their faculties
to do the same. When a decision needs to be made, they will readily provide research
to evaluate options. They have a willingness to learn, search out new ideas, and
implement new methods that are based on an appreciation of educational research.
Theme 2. Communication was seen as a key ingredient by each of these principals for
the continued success of their buildings. One principal saw public relations as his main
objective and frequently went to coffees in the community to speak about his school.
A second principal talked about being visible and the amount of power a faculty gives
to their leader-so much so that a principal must always be up and model enthusiasm
and energy, regardless of her personal feelings. The third principal meets with every
staff member informally as he does a daily walk-through before school opens. He
stressed that he would have no ability to lead without his strengths as a communicator
and a builder of relationships.
Theme 3. Instructional leadership can be shared. One principal recognized this and
felt it was her job to encourage faculty to take on instructional leadership roles.
Another readily accepted his role as an instructional leader, yet also worked to develop
a strong team that was focused on instruction. The third site did not manifest
instructional leadership through faculty surveys, however the principal explained his
efforts to establish shared instructional leadership through small focus groups and a
faculty retreat. This discrepancy may be a direct result of the limited tenure of the
principal (about two years).
Theme 4. Staff development opportunities are important to each of the principals in
this study. One principal held a retreat with his staff to develop a focus for the
building and implemented a quality staff development program to support that focus.
Another principal felt that her lack of direct influence on kids was counterbalanced by
her influence with the staff through development opportunitieshence her inpact on
students was greater, though indirect. At another site, the principal works with staff
members as early as February to identify three development projects for the following
year. Each of these principals dedicates a large amount of time to staff development.
This study was designed to examine instructional leadership as defined by
effective schools research and to determine the influence of high school principals as
instructional leaders on school effectiveness. For purposes of this study, effective
schools were identified as those schools with strong administrative leadership, a
climate of high expectations, an orderly environment, a belief that all students can
learn, and frequent monitoring. The main research question was supplemented by four
sub questions. The answers to these questions provide the focus for the conclusions
of this study. Specific traits have emerged that identify principals who are
instructional leaders as having a strong research base, both for curriculum issues and
for decisions that affect their buildings. The principals in this study are strong
communicators who value relationships with people in the school and in the
Instructional leadership exists as a shared function as well as emanating separately
from each principal. Finally, staff development is viewed as an important component
to the success of each of these buildings. Two of the three principals were identified
as instructional leaders, each of them shares instructional leadership roles with their
staff and each are aware of their responsibility to develop those skills in others.
1. A limited amount of time is available for high school principals to focus on
instructional leadership issues. The principals in this study addressed their frustration
over daily problems and budgetaiy and community issues that take time away from any
such focus. Unfortunately, many of those issues are public in nature, and hence
receive greater attention than instructional issues.
2. Training for instructional leadership was inadequate. The principals in this
study did not feel well prepared for their instructional leadership role. One principal
thought past teaching experiences influenced him, another cited coaching experiences,
and the third principal acknowledged the benefit of formal training. None of these
principals referred to a network of support.
1. Three high schools is a small sample size from which to generalize. Schools
were selected via reputational sampling, with the underlying assumption that each site
chosen was representative of an effective school
2. The geographic location of all sites studied was narrow: southern Colorado.
3. Each of the schools selected was nominated based on criteria that describe an
effective school. Therefore, three successful high schools were selected for the study.
4. One school has only three faculty meetings a year. This caused the original
process of proctoring the survey to be changed to one in which the principals