• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

Closing the Gap: The Alignment of School Executive Leadership and Student Achievement

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Alma de Torres y Sandoval
Abstract:
The purpose of this mixed methods comparative case study was to examine the impact of instructional and leadership funding (independent variable) on student achievement (dependent variable). The perceptions expressed in work engagement and district-related experiences were explored to discover possible differences related to tenure and to develop a professional development model based on the perceptions communicated by leaders. The study included four research questions, responses to a Work Engagement survey by 31 school executive leaders, and responses to an administrative questionnaire and interview by 15 school executive leaders within a medium-sized district and a large district in central Texas. The findings of the study indicated that the impact of funding on student achievement was not statistically significant. Results indicated that tenure does not significantly influence administrator perceptions of professional development opportunities. The analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the participants' responses supported the development of a baseline leadership model for the professional development of school executive leaders. Analysis of the perceptions explored in the qualitative phase revealed that work engagement does shape professional development choices based on interaction with colleagues and perceived individual needs. Recommendations for future research include the continued research of possible funding and student achievement correlations with a larger sample over a longer period, and the development of guidance for the professional development of school executive leaders.

Table of Contents

List of Tables .................................................................................................................. xvii List of Figures ................................................................................................................ xviii Chapter 1: Introduction ........................................................................................................1 Background of the Problem .....................................................................................2 Statement of the Problem .........................................................................................5 Purpose of the Study ................................................................................................6 Significance of the Problem .....................................................................................8 Significance of the Study .........................................................................................8 Significance of the Study to Leadership ..................................................................9 Nature of the Study ..................................................................................................9 Overview of the Research Method ..........................................................................9 Overview of Design Appropriateness ....................................................................11 Research Questions ................................................................................................11 Quantitative research questions .................................................................11 Hypotheses .................................................................................................12 Initial variables of the quantitative portion of the study ............................12 Qualitative research questions ...................................................................13 Theoretical Framework ..........................................................................................14 Definition of Terms................................................................................................20 Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) ........................................20 Achievement gap .......................................................................................20 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ..............................................................20

viii

Emotional Intelligence ...............................................................................20 Leadership ..................................................................................................21 Professional learning community ..............................................................21 School executive leaders ............................................................................21 Student achievement ..................................................................................21 Student success initiative (SSI) ..................................................................21 Work engagement ......................................................................................22 Assumptions ...........................................................................................................22 Scope, Limitations, and Delimitations ...................................................................23 Summary ................................................................................................................23 Chapter 2: Review of the Literature ...................................................................................25 Title Searches, Articles, Research Documents, and Journals ................................26 Effective Schools Research ....................................................................................26 Leadership Development of CEOs ........................................................................30 Emotional Intelligence ...........................................................................................32 Literature Review...................................................................................................33 Historical Overview ...............................................................................................33 Professional development at the campus level ..........................................34 Professional development at the district level ...........................................35 Conferences and workshops external to the district ..................................36 Professional learning communities ............................................................38 Organizational leadership ..........................................................................40 Teacher learning effect on instruction .......................................................41

ix

Action research and interventions ..............................................................43 Current Findings of Independent and Dependent Variables ..................................45 Public School Funding ...........................................................................................46 Campus Level Student Achievement .....................................................................47 District Level Student Achievement ......................................................................48 Accountability Ratings on the State Level.............................................................49 Accountability Ratings on the Federal Level.........................................................50 Professional Development of School Executive Leaders ......................................51 District Vision for Professional Development .......................................................52 Professional Learning Communities ......................................................................54 Leadership Systemic Supports ...............................................................................56 Change Implementation .........................................................................................57 Conclusions ............................................................................................................57 Summary ................................................................................................................58 Chapter 3: Method .............................................................................................................60 Selection Rationale for the Mixed Methods Research Approach ..........................60 Appropriateness of Mixed Methods and Design ...................................................61 Research Questions ................................................................................................61 Quantitative research questions .................................................................62 Hypotheses .................................................................................................62 Initial variables of the quantitative portion of the study ............................63 Qualitative Research Questions .............................................................................63 Population ..............................................................................................................64

x

Sampling Frame .....................................................................................................70 Informed Consent...................................................................................................71 Confidentiality .......................................................................................................72 Geographic Location ..............................................................................................73 Mixed Methods Research Process .........................................................................73 Data Collection ......................................................................................................74 Qualitative data collection, phase one .......................................................75 Qualitative data collection, phase two .......................................................76 Instrumentation ......................................................................................................77 Qualitative instrument, phase one ..............................................................78 Qualitative instrument, phase two..............................................................78 Additional surveys reviewed......................................................................79 Validity and Reliability ..........................................................................................79 UWES survey instrument, phase one.........................................................80 Internal validity ..........................................................................................80 External validity .........................................................................................81 Reliability ...................................................................................................81 Administrator Questionnaire, phase two....................................................81 Data Analysis .........................................................................................................82 Summary ................................................................................................................85 Chapter 4: Results ..............................................................................................................86 Data Collection Procedures ....................................................................................86 Quantitative data collection .......................................................................87

xi

Qualitative data collection .........................................................................87 Demographics ........................................................................................................88 Gender ........................................................................................................89 Position ......................................................................................................90 Tenure ........................................................................................................91 Years in administration ..............................................................................92 Demographics of interview respondents ....................................................93 Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis ...........................................................93 Quantitative data analysis ..........................................................................94 Qualitative data analysis ............................................................................94 Quantitative Research Questions and Hypotheses .................................................95 Second Quantitative Research Question ..............................................................102 Qualitative Research Questions ...........................................................................105 Rationale for Tests Selected.................................................................................105 Work Engagement survey ........................................................................105 Rank, mean, and standard deviation ........................................................106 Open-ended questions development ........................................................106 Frequency chart ........................................................................................109 Interview Responses ............................................................................................110 Administrative Questionnaire ..................................................................110 Rank, mean, and standard deviation ........................................................111 Eight highest, middle, and lowest rankings .............................................111 Frequency chart ........................................................................................112

xii

Patterns and Themes Based on Responses...........................................................112 Perceptual Themes Charts....................................................................................113 Perceptual Thematic Categories ..........................................................................116 Self-motivation ....................................................................................................117 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................117 Response unique to the large district .......................................................118 District Support ....................................................................................................118 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................118 Response unique to the large district .......................................................119 Communication ....................................................................................................119 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................119 Response unique to the large district .......................................................120 Time Management ...............................................................................................120 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................120 Response unique to the large district .......................................................121 Relationships ........................................................................................................121 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................121 Response unique to the large district .......................................................121 Students ................................................................................................................122 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................122 Response unique to the large district .......................................................122 Standards ..............................................................................................................122 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................123

xiii

Response unique to the large district .......................................................123 Staff Support ........................................................................................................123 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................123 Response unique to the large district .......................................................124 Vision ...................................................................................................................124 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................124 Response unique to the large district .......................................................125 Collaboration........................................................................................................125 Response unique to the medium-sized district .........................................125 Response unique to the large district .......................................................126 Thematic Responses with Commonalities ...........................................................126 First Qualitative Research Question ....................................................................127 Second Qualitative Research Question ................................................................127 Summary ..............................................................................................................128 Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations ..............................................................130 Implications of Findings ......................................................................................131 Quantitative research question # 1 ...........................................................132 Quantitative research question # 2 ...........................................................133 Qualitative research question # 1 .............................................................134 Qualitative research question # 2 .............................................................134 Major Themes from Qualitative Analysis............................................................135 Self-motivation ....................................................................................................135 District Support ....................................................................................................135

xiv

Communication ....................................................................................................136 Time Management ...............................................................................................137 Relationships ........................................................................................................137 Students ................................................................................................................138 Standards ..............................................................................................................138 Staff Support ........................................................................................................139 Vision ...................................................................................................................139 Collaboration........................................................................................................140 Limitations and Data Interpretations ...................................................................140 Assumptions .........................................................................................................142 Recommendations for School Executive Leaders ...............................................143 Recommendation # 1 ...............................................................................144 Recommendation # 2 ...............................................................................144 Recommendation # 3 ...............................................................................144 Recommendation # 4 ...............................................................................144 Recommendation # 5 ...............................................................................145 Recommendation # 6 ...............................................................................145 Recommendation # 7 ...............................................................................145 Recommendation # 8 ...............................................................................145 Recommendation # 9 ...............................................................................145 Recommendation # 10 .............................................................................146 Recommendation # 11 .............................................................................146 School Executive Leadership PD Model .............................................................146

xv

Importance of District Support ............................................................................149 Common Components among All Constructs .....................................................149 Common Components between Focus and Flexibility ........................................150 Common Components between Focus and Fidelity ............................................150 Common Components between Flexibility and Fidelity .....................................150 Components Unique to Focus ..............................................................................150 Components Unique to Flexibility .......................................................................151 Fidelity Components ............................................................................................151 Application of Focus, Flexibility, and Fidelity ....................................................151 Recommendations for Future Research ...............................................................152 Summary and Conclusion ....................................................................................154 Findings and Interpretations ................................................................................158 References ........................................................................................................................160 Appendix A: Work & Well-being Survey: UWES © ......................................................179 Appendix B: School Administrator Questionnaire ..........................................................180 Appendix C: Permission to Use Existing Survey ............................................................183 Appendix D: Attendance in 2-Year and 4-Year Colleges – 2007-2008 ..........................184 Appendix E: Signed Informed Consent Permission to Use Premises and/or Subjects: Medium-Sized District .....................................................................................................185 Appendix F: Signed Informed Consent Permission to Use Premises and/or Subjects: Large District ...................................................................................................................186 Appendix G: University of Phoenix Informed Consent: Participants 18 Years of Age and Older ................................................................................................................................187

xvi

Appendix H: Administrator Perceptions from Work Engagement Survey: Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation ....................................................................................................189 Appendix I: Work Engagement Frequency Chart .......................................................... 190 Appendix J: Administrator Questionnaire: Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from Medium-Sized and Large Districts ..............................191 Appendix K: Administrator Questionnaire: Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from the Medium-Sized District ...........................................192 Appendix L: Administrator Questionnaire: Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from the Large District .........................................................193 Appendix M: Administrator Questionnaire: Frequency Chart from the Medium-Sized and Large Districts ..................................................................................................................194 Appendix N: Administrator Questionnaire: Frequency Chart from the Medium-Sized District..............................................................................................................................196 Appendix O: Administrator Questionnaire: Frequency Chart from the Large District ...198 Appendix P: Thematic Responses with Commonalities ..................................................200

xvii

List of Tables Table 1 District and State AEIS Reported Demographics 2008-2009 ..............................66 Table 2 District Financial, Attendance, and Median Family Income Data ......................67 Table 3 2008-2009 District and State AEIS Reported TAKS Test Scores for SSI Grades and Subjects .......................................................................................................................68 Table 4 District State and Federal Accountability Ratings for 2008-2009 .......................69 Table 5 Gender ..................................................................................................................89 Table 6 Administrator Positions ........................................................................................90 Table 7 Tenure: Years in Current Position........................................................................91 Table 8 Total Years in Administration ...............................................................................92 Table 9 Function Codes Reported in Texas Financial Audit Detail Reports ....................97 Table 10 Comparison of Per Pupil Expenditures by Program and Fund Code 2004-2009.. ............................................................................................................................................98 Table 11 District Accountability Ratings for Graduation Rates, AEIS, and AYP 2004- 2009....................................................................................................................................99 Table 12 Funding and Academic Achievement Correlations ..........................................102 Table 13 Chi-square Test Applied to Questionnaire Items for Tenure Evaluation .........104 Table 14 Vigor – Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from Work Engagement Survey .......................................................................................107 Table 15 Dedication – Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from Work Engagement Survey ...................................................................108 Table 16 Absorption – Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Administrator Perceptions from Work Engagement Survey ...................................................................109

xviii

List of Figures Figure 1. Characteristics of a professional learning community .......................................38 Figure 2. First phase of the quantitative part of the mixed methods research process ......74 Figure 3. Second phase of the qualitative part of the mixed methods research process ....... ............................................................................................................................................76 Figure 4. Per pupil funding expenditures scatter-plot graph ...........................................100 Figure 5. Academic achievement scatter-plot graph .......................................................101 Figure 6. Chart of perceptual themes – both districts ......................................................114 Figure 7. Chart of perceptual themes – medium-sized district ........................................115 Figure 8. Chart of perceptual themes – large district ......................................................116 Figure 9. School executive leadership professional development model ........................148

1

Chapter 1: Introduction Independent school districts and school executive leaders must not lose sight of children’s needs and the importance of protecting their best interests, while also meeting the challenges and demands of professional and social changes (Normore, 2006). Research illuminated the problem of how school executive leaders guide campus-level leaders in charge of student achievement, noting that such leaders at times lack ongoing, professional development to provide adequate leadership and a vision for the district. Effective Schools Research, as introduced by Lezotte (1993), involves examination of correlates, including concepts related to the professional development of district administrators. Evaluation of the correlates provides insight into how researchers can determine the extent to which district professional development aligns with these correlates. Such research informed the present evaluation, which focused on the professional development of school executive leaders and their impact on student achievement. To evaluate the relationships of variables involved in the dynamics of leaders and achievement, the initial variable centered on funding expenditures and the data that record student achievement in school campuses of two districts. The research method, a mixed method comparative case study, involved surveying and interviewing school executive leaders and analyzing financial and student achievement data from the two selected districts. As Chapter 1 outlines, the significance of this approach resides in its provision of data that district decision-makers can use to plan professional development in independent school districts, promoting the improvement of student achievement in the

2

districts studied and enabling further research that may influence the field of Education. The purpose of this mixed method comparative case study was to examine whether a relationship exists between the instructional and leadership funding and student achievement. Standardized test scores available through Texas Education Agency (TEA) provided information for evaluating the dependent variable for the investigation, student achievement. Evaluation of professional development perceptions, as perceived in work engagement, ensued using a validated survey instrument and information gathered through interviews. Containing an overview of the methods adopted to treat the topic, Chapter 1 also provides discussion of the scope, limitations, and delimitations of the approach. Background of the Problem Leadership training literature, which includes descriptions of professional development designed for chief executive officers in the business realm, is relevant to the professional development of school executive leaders. Research in leadership theory also provides a foundation for the present investigation. Areas of salience in this literature include the relationship between leader character traits and organizational factors in successful management, ethical responsibility in leadership, and the ability of leaders to adapt and innovate in changing or adverse situations. At the core of corporate responsibility is the development of effective leadership behaviors that facilitate organizational management (Hind, Wilson, & Lenssen, 2009). Theorists agree about the definition of executive leadership only to a limited degree. Models that involve charismatic and transformational leadership center on personality characteristics, minimizing the complex facets of organizations. The research of Hind et

3

al. (2009) suggested the existence of five reflexive abilities: thinking systemically, developing tolerance for diversity and mitigating risk, balancing local and global paradigms, engaging in relevant conversations and developing an innovative language, and demonstrating emotional awareness. Changes in organizations require leaders to adapt their roles to embrace ethical responsibilities. Hind et al. (2009) discussed the difficulties leaders experience when developing competency and change, noting the deeply ingrained personality traits necessary to ensure that long-term changes may endure under organizational tension. Leadership development that incorporates ethical responsibility provides opportunity to incorporate individual worldviews and value clarification for corporate and management decisions (Hind et al., 2009). Training that strengthens skills and knowledge requires information that adds texture to values and individual worldviews. Opportunity for exploration, questioning, and developing meaning of assumptions and values, all of which enhance decision-making, require reflection and analysis. Management training and development present challenges because newer approaches that transcend traditional methods need further development. Strategies for increased training effectiveness include ongoing implementation of action learning, longitudinal conceptualization, which reflects long-term consultation, increased peer-assisted training, reflection in training groups, and data-driven training with intense feedback. These strategies provide goals for implementing best practices characteristic of ethical leadership, allowing training in ambiguous and complex contexts. Relevance of the strategies increases during times of change that deeply affect the organization.

4

Effective changes implemented in organizations target future trends in the selected field, such as focus on global awareness, technological advances, growth, and staff retention, innovative strategies, and training to create a futures paradigm for incoming executives (Buchen, 2005). Buchen (2005) suggested that the role of the chief executive officer (CEO) warrants reinvention to advance hybrid skills. In the process of reinventing business practices to design and implement a culture of innovation, leaders develop skills that encompass strategies used in a variety of disciplines. Traditional views of CEOs placed them in positions of infallible isolation, which caused significant damage to organizations when they failed to anticipate future needs based on change. Business forecasting requires analysis of trends, using scenarios and database analysis. A futurist may be hired as the CAO (chief anticipatory officer), who serves as a consultant to guide organizational changes. Another vital role of the CEO involves ensuring quality learning and unlearning. The learning guided by the CLO (chief learning officer) shifts the organizational focus from levels of intelligence to ways staff demonstrate intelligence. Using this approach, the organization focuses on targeted training, reducing time spent away from assigned tasks by blending face-to-face learning with online training to balance cost and diversity. Lezotte (1993) emphasized research-based effective training to impact professional practices and empower leaders to effect improvements and changes in schools. Continuous acquisition and implementation of knowledge by all employees provides opportunity to improve the knowledge base and skills necessary for commanding changes in the work environment. Expectations of school executive leaders include effectiveness through visionary leadership and effective management strategies.

5

For continuous improvement in schools to occur, school executive leaders must initiate and sustain change processes. The comparison of research on effective schools with general leadership theories shows that school executive leaders must master an informational base and competency set to manage an organization with a strong vision. These leadership skills include effective use of funding expenditures. Implications for ensuring competent leaders involve providing effective professional development, enabling the leaders to move the organization through the process of continuous improvement. Professional development initiated by the leader requires self-awareness of work engagement. Schaufeli and Bakker (2003) stated that engaged employees demonstrate energy and effectiveness while performing work duties and view themselves as capable of meeting job demands. Statement of the Problem In the state of Texas, 11% of school districts failed to meet annual yearly progress (TEA, 2007). Johnson and Uline (2005), who discussed the importance of closing the achievement gap in U.S. schools, articulated the general problem. Their research showed that, to facilitate this process of closing the achievement gap, leaders must be skilled in appropriate knowledge and understanding. If leaders are informed and skilled, they empower staff to assist students in increasing student achievement. A lack of standardized processes for developing the professional growth of school executive leaders negatively impacts student achievement. The specific problem is that the impact of professional development experiences of school executive leaders on student achievement remains to be discovered, especially as explored through leaders’ expressed perceptions of work engagement, the use of

6

available funding, and the influence of tenure on leaders’ perceptions. Further research is needed to discover how the professional development of school executive leaders influences student achievement. School executive leaders bear the responsibility of establishing practices and policies to support and encourage campus efforts. Their support and encouragement assists in overcoming the challenges involved with ensuring opportunity for student achievement. The mixed methods comparative case study examined whether the use of funding for instruction and leadership impacts student achievement. This approach allowed specific exploration of leader perceptions regarding work engagement and district involvement in their professional growth. The funding and student achievement data of a sampling of two central Texas school districts, which include 40 schools, 114 administrators, and 17,900 students, were examined to determine the impact of the practices found in each district. These discoveries may lead to insights for best practices in professional development for school executive leaders, thus positively impacting student achievement. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this mixed methods comparative case study was to examine the relationship of instructional and leadership funding (independent variable) and student achievement (dependent variable). Research and analysis involved exploration of the perceptions expressed in work engagement and district related experiences to discover possible differences related to tenure and to develop a professional development model based on the perceptions communicated by leaders. Examination of instructional and leadership funding included consideration for per pupil expenditures as reported by Texas Education Agency through a public website.

7

Measurement of student achievement occurred using archival data on student achievement indicators available through the Texas Education Agency. Specific student achievement measurements examined included Student Success Initiative tested subjects and grades (TEA, 2009a). The student achievement measurements involved fifth and eighth grade Reading and Mathematics achievement test scores, individual district graduation rates, and attendance in 2- and 4-year colleges. The quantitative research method involves addressing the investigation of problems and requires a researcher to explain relationships between variables or describe a trend (Creswell, 2005). “In quantitative research, describing a trend means that the research problem can be answered best by a study in which the researcher seeks to establish the overall tendency of responses from individuals to note how this tendency varies among people” (Creswell, 2005, p. 51). The general purpose of the mixed methods, comparative case study design was to use the strengths of the individual forms of data to develop a model for guiding school executive leaders in making effective professional development decisions. According to Creswell (2005) generalization of results occurs through the analysis of quantitative data, whereas contextual information analysis occurs through the analysis of qualitative data. The mixed methods design provides opportunity for the researcher to collect data using the most appropriate characteristics of both qualitative and quantitative data gathering. A mixed methods design is appropriate for this study because it provides an opportunity to conduct investigations and analyze financial and student data using statistics objectively, as well as to consider subjective insights provided by school executive leaders. Examining the financial records and student achievement data of students from each of

8

the schools in the sampling of two central Texas school districts provided opportunity to analyze the relevant data particular to each district. The districts investigated included a medium-sized district composed of 2,500 students, eight total schools, 19 school executive leaders, and a large district composed of 15,400 students, 32 total schools, and 95 school executive leaders. Significance of the Problem The lack of standardized processes for developing the professional growth of school executive leaders negatively predetermines student achievement (Johnson & Uline, 2005), signaling a deficit in the systems and processes that should provide educational opportunities and increased quality of life for students. Conversely, when school executive leaders use funding effectively and avail themselves of professional development, student opportunities for quality learning may increase. Successful school executive leaders demonstrate flexibility in the strategies used in managing people and systems (Mulford, Kendall, Ewington, Kendall, & Silins, 2008). These leaders view themselves as leading learners, exercising increased self-awareness and self-confidence. Significance of the Study The significance of the investigation is that it may lead to discoveries useful to the district decision-makers who guide professional development experiences in independent school districts, thus improving student achievement. Implementing the knowledge found in the investigation, individual districts could develop unified mission and vision statements. Such unity of focus may provide opportunities for improvement in the professional development of school executive leaders.

9

Significance of the Study to Leadership Implementation of professional development of the school executive leaders through systemic procedures, such as creating learning communities, increases the potential for improvement in student achievement. The discoveries of this research may provide beneficial insights for professionals in the field of Education, including school executive leaders, principals, and teachers. These insights involve the effects of funding on student achievement and the effect of the training of school executive leaders on student learning. Nature of the Study The research conducted in this investigation centered upon quantifiable data and the perceptions of school executive leaders. Mixed methods research involves method and methodology, and includes combining quantitative and qualitative approaches for the collection, analysis, and evaluation of an individual study or multiple studies (Creswell, Shope, Clark, & Green, 2006). Creswell et al. (2006) cited research that gave priority to qualitative and mixed methods investigation involving critical interpretation of results. Qualitative data expand and elaborate quantitative findings, enhancing depth of learning, as opposed to compromising research quality. When viewed in this manner, mixed methods research lends the researcher a method with compatibility and value, which is applicable in the human science, social, and behavioral research fields. Overview of the Research Method The mixed method comparative case study design was well suited because it provided opportunity to gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data (Creswell, 2005). The quantitative method would not be appropriate in isolation because it

10

precludes opportunity to pose exploratory questions that provide in-depth perspectives regarding professional development. The qualitative method alone would not provide sufficient information. The perceptual data collected using a Work Engagement survey and administrative questionnaire provided insights into administrators’ practices used in the development of interview questions. Interview responses explored and evaluated led to the discovery of strengths and areas in need of improvement regarding the professional development of school executive leaders. The comparative case study design provided opportunity to compare the use of funding and professional development practices of school executive leaders in a medium and large district, allowing examination of the impact this may have on student achievement. According to Johnson (2009), research in Education requires diverse perspectives. “Mixed methods research provides an anti-dualistic and syncretic philosophy and set of approaches or possibilities for merging insights from diverse perspectives; its working goal is to provide pragmatic, ethical solutions to local and societal problems” (Johnson, 2009, p. 449). Johnson (2009) described frequently ignored characteristics of educational research, which include participant choices and circumstantial factors. The reason for ignoring these factors traditional evaluations stems from the perception that such characteristics involve subjectivity, unpredictability, and idiosyncrasy. Researchers may integrate methods to take into consideration dynamic, historical, and localized complexities. According to Johnson (2009), stakeholders often inquire exclusively about effective methods when they should investigate effective methods within a given context, including inquiry about how the method works and how the method evolves to adapt to change in an effective and improved manner.

11

Overview of the Design Appropriateness The integration of methods creates a balance for increasing the knowledge base of diverse educational issues and topics (Johnson, 2009). Even though the procedural requirements of a mixed method investigation are rigorous, this method provides opportunity for synergistic learning that continues to be unparalleled by any method used in isolation (Padgett, 2009). The body of educational research continues to grow dynamically, and continued quality requires that contributing researchers implement varied methodologies. Researchers that demonstrate a shared commitment to rigor and transparency unite qualitative and quantitative methods by ensuring fidelity to their respective strengths, which are both complementary and unique. The quantitative method occurred in this investigation through the analysis of financial and student data. Research Questions This mixed methods comparative case study was conducted to evaluate the impact of instructional and leadership funding on student achievement. Quantitative and qualitative questions provided a structure for the investigation. The following questions were posed in response to the problem statement because the need for improving student achievement is at a critical stage. Quantitative research questions. The following question guided the investigation: 1. What is the relationship between funding expenditures per pupil, for instruction and leadership, and student achievement? 2. What is the relationship between average years of tenure and administrators’ perceptions of professional development opportunities?

12

As the purpose statement describes, this first question addresses the isolation of variables to evaluate the relationship of funding and student achievement. Corresponding financial data under examination included information helpful for garnering insight about potential correlations with student achievement. The second question addresses whether a relationship between tenure and the perceptions administrators with regard to professional development exists. Hypotheses. H 1 0: There is no significant relationship between per pupil funding expenditures, for instruction and leadership, and student achievement. H 1 A: There is a significant relationship between funding expenditures per pupil, for instruction and leadership, and student achievement. H 2 0: There is no significant relationship between

average years of tenure and administrators’ perceptions of professional development opportunities. H 2 A: There is a significant relationship between

average years of tenure and administrators’ perceptions of professional development opportunities. Initial variables of the quantitative portion of the study. The initial variable of this investigation involved per pupil instructional and leadership funding. Sources of information considered for examination included archival data that reflect district funding, student achievement, graduation rates, and attendance in 2- and 4-year colleges of the two districts. Funding and student achievement data provided by the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), college attendance data provided by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and financial data provided by AEIS and the

13

United States Census are the quantitative sources of data reviewed. Administrator perceptions and demographic data were gathered and analyzed to examine the relationship of tenure and administrator perceptions regarding professional development. Qualitative research questions. The qualitative method necessitated the distribution of a Work Engagement survey to principals, central office directors and coordinators, and superintendents in two districts. Appendix A includes the survey, the Work & Well-being Survey (UWES) ©, Utrecht Work Engagement Scale. All researchers granted permission to use the survey conduct noncommercial, scientific research (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003). Because this research is noncommercial and scientific additional permission was not required (B. J. Geise, personal communication, March 19, 2010). Thirty-one participants contributed responses to this survey. The development of reflective questions used in interviews with 15 participants occurred using the data generated from the Work Engagement survey. In addition to the questions generated from this survey, the use of the Administrator Questionnaire, included in Appendix B, provided qualitative data. Victoria Bernhardt granted permission to use the Administrators Questionnaire (see Appendix C). Examination of the demographic information generated through the questionnaire involved the analysis of relevance to professional development experiences. Analysis of interview responses revealed themes yielded a baseline model for guiding the professional development of school executive leaders. The following questions guided the qualitative portion of the investigation: 1. How do individual school executive leaders’ perceptions, expressed through work engagement, influence their professional development choices?

Full document contains 223 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this mixed methods comparative case study was to examine the impact of instructional and leadership funding (independent variable) on student achievement (dependent variable). The perceptions expressed in work engagement and district-related experiences were explored to discover possible differences related to tenure and to develop a professional development model based on the perceptions communicated by leaders. The study included four research questions, responses to a Work Engagement survey by 31 school executive leaders, and responses to an administrative questionnaire and interview by 15 school executive leaders within a medium-sized district and a large district in central Texas. The findings of the study indicated that the impact of funding on student achievement was not statistically significant. Results indicated that tenure does not significantly influence administrator perceptions of professional development opportunities. The analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the participants' responses supported the development of a baseline leadership model for the professional development of school executive leaders. Analysis of the perceptions explored in the qualitative phase revealed that work engagement does shape professional development choices based on interaction with colleagues and perceived individual needs. Recommendations for future research include the continued research of possible funding and student achievement correlations with a larger sample over a longer period, and the development of guidance for the professional development of school executive leaders.