A case study in public K-12 education: Hispanic female (Latinas) school administrators' perceptions of their role and experiences as principals within central Florida
Table of Contents List of Tables iv Abstract v Chapter I - Introduction 1 Background of the Problem 1 Principal Shortage 5 Problem 7 Purpose of Study 8 Rationale 8 Research Questions 10 Definition of Terms 10 Method 13 Limitations 16 Assumptions 17 Summary 17 Chapter II - Literature Review 19 Introduction 19 The Meaning of Leadership 19 Historical Perspective on Leadership 23 Demographic Changes 27 Principal Shortage 33 Determining Underrepresentation 35 Women as Educational Leaders 38 Latinas: Educational Leaders 41 Theories 46 Career Paths of Hispanic Women 51 Summary 56 Chapter III - Methods 58 Problem 58 Purpose of Study 59 Research Questions 59 Research Design 60 Case Study 62 Interviews 64 Validity and Reliability 67
ii Role of the Researcher 70 Interview Process 72 Interview one 73 Interview two 73 Interview three 73 Generating Questions 74 Peer Review 76 Selection of Sample 79 Data Collection 82 Time Frame 85 Pilot Study 85 Interview one 87 Interview two 88 Interview three 89 Analyzing Data 91 Interpreting Data 94 Summary 95 Chapter IV - Findings 100 Problem 100 Purpose of Study 101 Research Questions 101 Principal Interviews 102 Interview one 103 Interview two 105 Interview three 106 Pilot Study 106 Data Collection 110 Data Analysis 112 Major and secondary themes charts 112 Peer review for major and secondary themes charts 130 Summary of major and secondary themes 131 Peer Review 136 Central Themes 137 Peer Review of Central Themes 141 Interpretation of the Data 141 Summary 142 Chapter V - Conclusions and Recommendations 147 Introduction 147 Problem 148 Purpose of Study 149 Research Questions 149 Statement of Method 150 Gathering and Organizing the Data 151
iii Findings 153 Interpretation of the Data 153 Themes for research question #1 (interview #1) 153 Themes for research question #2 (interview #2) 160 Themes for research question #3 (interview #3) 167 Conclusions 173 Connections of Findings to Literature Review 176 Implications 179 Theoretical Implications 181 Researcher’s Reflections 184 Limitations of the Study 186 Recommendations for Future Research 188 References 190 Appendices 205 Appendix A – IRB Consent 206 Appendix B – Letter to ESOL Directors 208 Appendix C – Informed Consent 210 Appendix D – Interview Questions 214 Appendix E – Principals’ Interviews 217 Appendix F – Peer Review Notes 399 About the Author End Page
List of Tables
Table 1: Factors Favorably Influenced or Hindered Advancement 44 Table 2: Summary of Major Barriers to, and facilitators of, Women’s Career Development 53 Table 3: Interviewing Structure Continuum 66 Table 4: Major Themes Chart for Research Question #1 (Interview #1) 115 Table 5: Secondary Themes Chart for Research Question #1 (Interview #1) 119 Table 6: Major Themes Chart for Research Question #2 (Interview #2) 122 Table 7: Secondary Themes Chart for Research Question #2 (Interview #2) 124 Table 8: Major Themes Chart for Research Question #3 (Interview #3) 126 Table 9: Secondary Themes Chart for Research Question #3 (Interview #3) 129 Table 10: Major Themes Chart (Summary) 132 Table 11: Secondary Themes Chart (Summary) 135
A Case Study in Public K-12 Education: Hispanic Female (Latinas) School Administrators’ Perceptions of their Role and Experiences as Principals within Central Florida
Martha Santiago ABSTRACT A gradual but significant change in America’s demographic composition has occurred during the last few years. Millions of Hispanic students, many of them immigrants, have been absorbed in the nation’s schools, turning public institutions into multiracial, multicultural, and to some degree, multilingual sites (Tallerico, 2001; Ferrandino, 2001). In light of the demographic changes and the important role of school leaders, how is the Hispanic principal in the K-12 public schools reflecting the growth of the Hispanic school population? This research studies perceptions the Hispanic female principal attached to their role and role expectations as a principal. This qualitative case study interviewed eight female Hispanic principals in Central Florida three times. Seven major themes of perceptions and meanings principals attached to their experiences evolved: strong family support, no pre-conceived self- imposed obstacles, high sense of self-efficacy, token Hispanic, being placed in a high Hispanic population school, no consensus regarding principal roles, had Latina mentors, and utilized parts of Latina culture in their professional practice.
vi Implications included both strong family support for the Latinas entering a professional field and that the principals did not experience self-imposed obstacles. Both need further research, as does the strong sense that these Latina principals perceived they had entered the American mainstream. The strong sense of efficacy needs further research for its causes. Lack of consensus on principal roles has considerable implication for graduate leadership education, needing further research. Of considerable interest is researching what parts of the Latina culture were utilized in their professional practice, and what implication does this have for professional leadership education generally. Further recommendations for research include a need to evaluate which district policies are effective in recruiting and retaining of Latina administrators. This research may lead to implementing best practices in districts’ hiring practices and retention programs that lead to leadership that is more diverse while addressing the underrepresentation of Latinas in counties and institutions selected.
Chapter I - Introduction
Background of the Problem Women and Latinas appear to be absent from the study of educational leadership (Edson, 1987; Wrushen & Sherman, 2008). The few studies of minority female school leaders conducted since the late 1970s usually appeared in larger studies of women. Minority females in educational administration are limited in research. Literature focusing on female minorities usually represented African American women, with very little research focus on the Latina principals. This indicates an underrepresentation of the Hispanic female in school leadership positions, as evident in the literature (Mendez- Morse, 2000). Mendez-Morse (2000) and Spencer and Kochan (2000) identified two possible reasons for the absence of Hispanic females in research studies: • Few researchers investigated the lives of Hispanic females. • Few Hispanic women held administrative positions. Hispanic females were relatively scarce in leadership positions in public schools. Nonetheless, absent from the literature does not mean nonexistent, but may indicate exclusion or neglect, and negates the contributions of Hispanic females (Mendez-Morse, 2000).
2 It was not until the first sign of desegregation in 1954 with the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 74 S Ct 686 (1954) that brought about the possibilities of future changes in the representation of minorities in administrative positions (Arias, 2005). The force behind desegregation was to eliminate dual school systems and to have school facilities that were integrated (Singleton v. Jackson Mun. Separate School District, 419 F. 2d 1211 (5 th Circuit, 1969). Even though those benefiting most from the civil rights movement were mostly African American, Hispanics reaped some of the benefits of the civil rights movement as well. It was during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s that Hispanic American organizations, such as The National Council of La Raza and ASPIRA (which means to aspire in the Spanish language), initiated and gained momentum in seeking civil rights for Hispanics (Allen, 2003). Desegregation as a part of the larger picture of the civil rights movement developed through different phases and expectations. In the 21 st century, desegregation and the civil rights movement have come full circle. This was evident by the decisions from the Federal Courts to renounce their involvement in desegregation, thus giving local school districts the right to determine how to manage student population racially in schools. According to two studies by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, African American and Latino students are now more isolated from their White counterparts than they were three decades ago before the civil rights movement began (Frankenberg & Chungmei, 2002; Orfield & Chungmei, 2007).
3 The national shift was a result of several major contributing factors such as big increases in enrollment by African American, Latino, and Asian students, continuing White flight from the nation’s urban centers, the persistence of housing patterns that isolate racial and ethnic groups, and the termination of dozens of court-ordered desegregation plans (Dayton, 1993; Vasquez, 2007). The changing racial composition in at least three dozen school districts in the last 10 years can be attributed to a court order, Freeman v. Pitts, 112 S. Ct 1430 (1992). The court order states that school districts can be considered successfully desegregated even if student racial imbalances are due entirely to demographic factors, like where children live or continue to exist (Frankenberg & Chungmei, 2002; Frankenberg, Lee & Orfield, 2003). In the absence of desegregation and evidence of less active civil rights organizations, minorities are once more susceptible to the discriminating acts of recruitment for leadership positions (Sanchez & Welsh, 1999). This could pose additional threats to the underrepresentation of the Hispanic female in the administration of public schools. School districts may have to adopt aggressive recruiting efforts to recruit Latina Principals (Beyers, 1997). Although affirmative action is often cited as contributing to the advancement of women, research on affirmative action, according to Ost & Twale (1989), has also shown no substantial increases in the hiring of traditionally underrepresented groups of women and minorities. The literature has been inundated with rhetoric concerning affirmative action; however, in the area of school administration, particularly the principalship, not only are women noticeably lacking, but minorities are grossly underrepresented (Lovelady-Dawson, 1980).
4 A thorough analysis of the history of school administrators clearly indicates the underrepresentation of women and Latina administrators. The Educational Resources of Information Center reveals the following national demographic data on school administrators: • In 1998, 42% of K-8 public school principals were females. • In 1993-94, 84.2% of the nation’s public school principals were White, 10.1% were African American, and 4.1% Hispanic (gender was not differentiated in this demographic data). The 2003-2004 School and Staffing Survey estimated the total distribution of minority principals in public schools was at 17.6 %, even though the number of minority students was estimated at 39.7% and growing (Strizek, Pittsonberger, Riordan, Lyter, & Orlofsky, 2006). Latina principals are undeniably underrepresented compared to White and African American principals (Banks, 2000). However, reasons for this underrepresentation need to be investigated. Banks (2000) recommends further in-depth studies to examine and to explain reasons why Hispanic females continue to be underrepresented. Banks (2000) and Lovelady-Dawson (1980) recognize the potential benefits of diverse leadership. They maintain that for a free society to prosper and to gain strength it must capitalize on the potential of all its members. Schools are often where students generally begin to comprehend their world and how it functions. Diversity in school leadership provides for students the framework needed to begin understanding and accepting issues of equity and equality (Spencer & Kochan, 2000).
5 Diversity in school administration also provides the opportunities for minority students to make connections with leaders of their own race and gender and to see role models within their own people. If meaningful change is to occur in the recruitment of principals for schools, then a thorough analysis of the policies and practices in which gender and race affect the recruitment process must be accomplished to eradicate inequities in the opportunities and the access to administrative positions (Banks, 2000; Spencer & Kochan, 2000; Tallerico, 2001). There is a need for educational systems to focus on policies that reflect diversity, both racial and gender, and the effectiveness of these policies in districts where they are used (Lovelady-Dawson, 1980).
Principal Shortage A national school leadership shortage in the U.S. is evident in the numbers of principals leaving the profession. Retirement, resignation, and teachers not interested in administrative positions are forces at work in this crisis (Cusick, 2003; Gajda & Militello, 2008). In light of this school leadership shortage, school districts need to be proactive in the recruitment of not only educational leaders in general, but Latino/a school leaders in particular. An opportune time exists for a conscious effort by school districts to improve the position of the Hispanic female in educational administration (Esparo & Radar, 2001; Tallerico, 2001). In short, women can be a solution to resolving the declining supply of administrative candidates (Spencer & Kochan, 2000; Tallerico, 2001).
6 During the last few decades a gradual but significant change in America’s demographic composition has occurred. Since the early 1990s, the 2000 census reported a 53% increase in the Hispanic population. It is projected that by the middle of the new century, more than half of the U.S. population will made up of minorities, mainly Hispanics (Ferrandino, 2001). Millions of Hispanic students, many of them immigrants, have been absorbed in the nation’s schools, turning public institutions into multiracial, multicultural, and to some degree, multilingual sites in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Miami (Tallerico, 2001; Ferrandino, 2001). The most recent U.S. Census Bureau News (2008) indicates that the U.S. Hispanic population has already surpassed 45 million Hispanics, hence making it the largest ethnic group in the U.S. By the year 2050, the population is expected to nearly triple from 46 million to 132 million. Yet, the representation of Hispanic female school leaders does not reflect the increase in the Hispanic student population that is projected to be the largest minority group in the schools (NCES, 2006). Hispanic female school leaders can be role models for students attending schools or districts with large numbers of Hispanic students. Similarly, Hispanic female school leaders can also serve as role models for districts with low Hispanic student population, adding to the importance of diversity in all schools not just schools with high numbers of Latino students.
7 The traditional leadership patterns are drastically changing. The infamous structure of the “good ole boy network,” which excludes promoting women and Latinas, needs dismantling and replaced with a progressive and equitable procedure (Gardiner, Enomoto, & Grogan, 2000; Quilantan, 2004).
Problem America is facing demographic changes. The United States has entered the 21 st Case studies may provide insight on the expectations and behaviors of Latinas in educational leadership and may identify myths that create barriers that hinder the advancement of Latinas in school administration (Howard, 2001; Yin, 2003).
century more diverse than ever before (Singer, 2002). It is estimated that by 2025 more than half the population will be made up of minorities, mainly Hispanics (U.S. Census Bureau News, 2008). The Hispanic student population growth is already affecting the nation’s education system. Schools are becoming more diverse. It is a crucial time for school leaders to invest in shaping our nation’s future society. In light of the demographic changes and the important role of school leaders, what is stated in the literature that may provide in-depth information on the role of the Hispanic female principal and possibly increase their numbers in the K-12 public school? Women in general and Hispanic women in particular add a different perspective to the study of leadership. To investigate the cultural accounts and success stories of Hispanic females in leadership may bring new dimensions and challenges to the patterns and theories that once described leadership (Banks, 2000).
8 Purpose of Study The purpose of this study is to explore the role of the Hispanic female (Latina) principals by examining their perceptions of their experiences as principals. Shakeshaft (2006) mentions that historically, case studies usually center on the male principal or superintendent, where as studies of Hispanic females center around the lives of African American females, consequently we know little of the individual lives of the Hispanic women who occupy the position of principalship. Case studies, then, fill a gap in the body of literature that until recently provided a limited understanding of the lived experience of the Hispanic female educational leaders (Smulyan, 2000). Information gleaned from lived experience of Hispanic female educational leaders can offer hope and inspiration to aspiring school leaders (Gardiner et al., 2000; Howard, 2001; Smulyan, 2000). Presenting stories from Hispanic and Latino history can be beneficial, educational, therapeutic, and empowering. It is a means of communicating serious matters and hot topics of concern (Howard, 2001; Scheckelhoff, 2007).
Rationale This study includes Hispanic females who may have experienced rejection, as well as those who quickly reached an administrative position. The use of interviews with Hispanic females who were either rejected several times for an administrative position or who quickly reached their position may provide insights to possible reasons for the underrepresentation of Hispanic females in school administration.
9 Possible perceptions of tacit assumptions and beliefs held by the majority culture that have kept Hispanic females from acquiring administrative positions could surface in the use of the interviews. This information may assist a district in reviewing policies regarding recruitment and retention of the Latina administrators. In addition, perceptions regarding social role theory and role conflict theory may explain the status of Hispanic women in leadership positions. Role theory is based on the idea that perceptions of a role define how individuals are expected to behave, how individuals occupying roles perceive what they are supposed to do, and the perceived behavior of individuals (Shapiro, 2000; Toren, 1973). Such attitudes typically range along a continuum from traditional to nontraditional. The “nontraditional” roles are those that do not reinforce or conform to “expected” differences in roles for gender and ethnicity (Harris, 1998). Social role conflict takes place when one is forced to take on two different and incompatible roles at the same time. Women are taking a more active role outside the home to pursue full time careers in the private and public domains. With this move, women face a new set of challenges involving both family and profession. For example, a female may find conflict between her role as a mother and her role as an employee of a company when her child's demands for time and attention distract her from the needs of her employer. Exploring these theories in light of Hispanic women’s perceptions may provide possible explanations for the underrepresentation of Latinas in educational leadership.
10 Research Questions This study was guided by the following basic research question: What are the perceptions and meanings that Hispanic female administrators attach to their roles and experiences as principals? Three research questions directed the form and content of this study: 1. What are the Hispanic females’ perceptions on how they became a principal? 2. What are the Hispanic females’ perceptions of their role as a principal? 3. What are the Hispanic females’ perceptions of their career path and how it might differ from that of the non-Hispanic females?
Definition of Terms Several terms are discussed and defined here in an effort to provide clear understanding of their use related to this research. 1. Hispanic and Latino/a: A wide range of ethnic cultures are covered by the term “Hispanic” or “Latino”. Both terms can refer to Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans and South/Central Americans (Mendez-Morse, 2000; Suarez-Orozco & Paez, 2002). Researchers do not differentiate among these different cultural groups. However, Sanchez and Welsh (1999) agree on an opposing viewpoint. They refer to the term Hispanic as the persistent effort of the dominant mainstream as an attempt to categorize and lump people in this category. For this study, the term Latina refers to female Hispanics. Latinas and Hispanics are terms used interchangeably (Aponte, 1999; Mullen, 1997).
11 2. Mentor: Closely allied with networking as an important part of building support systems for women aspiring to and those in positions of administration (Gupton & Slick, 1996). 3. Leadership: Northouse (2001) defines leadership as a “transactional event that occurs between the leader and his and her followers” (p.3). Shtogren (1999) stresses that leadership has nothing to do with management and everything to do with change. 4. Underrepresentation: For this study, underrepresentation is defined as when minority women do not have adequate entry into the most prestigious leadership positions in K-12 education, and therefore, are not adequately represented in a group (Gardiner et al., 2000). 5. Role Theory: Role theory is based on the idea that a role defines how individuals are expected to behave, how individuals occupying roles perceive what they are supposed to do, and the actual behavior of individuals (Shapiro, 2000). 6. Role Conflict: Role conflict that takes place when one is forced to take on two different and incompatible roles at the same time. Conflict occurs when the demands of roles compete.
12 7. Status: A position or rank in relation to others as in a social order, community, class, or profession, such as in a school, positions are principal, teacher, student and secretary (Banks, 2000). Gross, Mason, and McEachern (1958) state that “status and role represent a conceptual elaboration of the ‘ideal patterns which control reciprocal behavior’... a status, as distinct from the individual who may occupy it, is simply a collection of rights and duties” (p. 12). A role represents the dynamic aspect of status. When an individual puts the rights and duties that constitute the status into effect, he is performing a role. It is through the occupancy of statuses by individuals and their performance of roles that the business of a society is accomplished. 8. Perception: Gardiner, Enomoto, and Grogan (2000) proclaim that the overriding culture in educational administration is andocentric, meaning it is being dominated with norms defined White and male. Even though women have gained entry into educational administration, they are still viewed differently. Oboler’s (1995) in-depth interviews with various Hispanic women provide examples of their perception on how Hispanics are thought of by the mainstream culture. 9. Career Paths: The way in which your career develops that depends on a variety of factors like your personal capabilities, skills, experience and the opportunities.
13 Method The method selected for this study is a case study with interviews. A case study is a research process that provides an in-depth description of a particular situation or phenomena. It is a form of inquiry that helps us understand and explain the meaning of social phenomena with as little disruption of the natural setting as possible (Merriam, 1998). It relies on extensive data collection usually over time and can be used to capture rich descriptions and explanations of a phenomenon. There is no single way to conduct a case study and a combination of methods, such as structured and unstructured interviewing and direct observation, can be used. Case studies do not represent entire populations. The researcher’s interest should not be so much in generalizing their findings as in telling a story. When theories are associated with a case study, it defines the research problem (Merriam, 1998; Yin, 2003). In case studies, one is generalizing to a theory based on cases selected to represent dimensions of that theory. The level of depth with which each case is studied allows for theory building and not just theory testing. The purpose in selecting a sample was to develop a deeper understanding of the phenomena being studied. The sample size in qualitative studies is typically small, often a single case. It is to achieve an in-depth understanding of the selected individual or small group. The goal is to select a case that is likely to be “information-rich” with respect to the purpose of the study (Gall et al., 1996).
14 For the purpose of this study, eight principals were invited by the researcher to participate in the interviews. Prior to the interviews, contact was made to establish the beginnings of an informal relationship that fosters positive interaction. It was important that each principal view the interviews as a pleasant and not an unpleasant task. For the Latina principals, this is an opportunity to share their stories, their perceptions, and experiences as Latina school administrators. Deference theory calls this type of relationship a ceremonial ritual by which appreciation for the recipient is often conveyed and expects that the recipient will respond out of regard for the person. The response should be spontaneous and not obligatory (Pocock, 1976). Colwell (2007) stated, “Interviews for research purpose may create a social relationship with consequences of importance for the interpretation of data. Such interviews inevitably bring to the surface a relationship between respondent and the researcher, in which the behavior of each is influenced by their perceptions and the appropriate social norms. When an actor perceives that a target actor’s qualities reflect their own valued self-definitions, they impart positive symbolic value to the target. These perceptions evoke sentiments of affinity toward the target actor, which supports the belief that the target deserves respectful treatment” (p. 443). The following represents the three-interview structure that was used for the principals’ interviews: • Interview One (life history) – What are the participants’ perceptions on how they came to be a principal? What do they perceive were the difficulties, blocks, successes? (A review of the participant’s life history up to the time they became a principal).
15 • Interview Two (contemporary experience) – How do they perceive their role as a principal? • Interview Three (reflection on the meaning) – Given what the participant has said in interviews one and two, how do they make sense of their profession as a principal? To work more reliably with the words of the participants, each interview was tape recorded with the interviewees’ permission to ensure and preserve the word of the participants. The researcher transcribed all the tape-recorded interviews. The data collected from each interview was transcribed and organized by the researcher. Names, location of work, county, school, or any leading information was omitted from the transcribed data. Once all interviews are completed, the participants had the opportunity to review transcribed interviews to approve, delete, or make changes to the data. This process was completed via email or telephone. The data were kept confidential and results were reported in aggregated terms. When the interviews are transcribed and feedback from the principals was provided for each interview transcription, the data can then be shaped into a form that can be shared or displayed. The transcribed interviews were coded by labeling passages to identify and determine common themes. As categories emerge, common themes and patterns were identified.
16 To validate the themes and patterns of the study, a team of peer reviewers commented on the findings. Their role was to review the data to ensure that personal bias would not penetrate the categorizing of themes. Peer examination or review enhances the validity of a study.
Limitations This study was designed within parameters of the following limitations: 1. The geographic location for this study is limited to the central part of Florida. 2. Only eight Hispanic women were selected for this study, and these eight do not represent all ethnic subgroups of the term “Hispanic.” 3. Current or former school principals from K-12 public schools were selected. Three of the principals were no longer principals when interviewed. This elapsing of time could have an influence on their reflections. 4. Since the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and analysis, personal and professional biases can influence data gathering and interpretation. 5. Since the sample size for this study is small, precautions should be taken not to generalize the findings to a larger population. 6. Deference Effect – Since the researcher is a Latina, this might influence the relationship between respondent and interviewer in which the behavior of each is influenced by the appropriate social norms.
17 Assumptions 1. Participants are willing and available to participate in the study 2. Participants are truthful in responding to interview questions. 3. Participants are capable of recalling and interpreting their past reactions and experiences.
Summary America’s demographics are changing. The Hispanic population is now considered the largest minority group in the U.S. Millions of Hispanic students, many of them immigrants, have been absorbed into the nation’s schools, turning public institutions into multiracial, multicultural, and to some degree, multilingual sites (Tallerico, 2001; Ferrandino, 2001). A national school leadership shortage in the U.S. is evident in the numbers of principals leaving the profession. Retirement, resignation, and teachers not interested in administrative positions are forces at work in this crisis (Cusick, 2003; Gajda & Militello, 2008). In short, women can be a solution to resolving the declining supply of administrative candidates (Spencer & Kochan, 2000; Tallerico, 2001). Leadership theory and practice are evolving and the traditional leadership paradigm is being challenged by the complexity of the nation’s changing demographics. Scholars are working to broaden the study of leadership to include women and Hispanic women (Banks, 2000).