Instructional leadership responsibilities of assistant principals in large Texas high schools
iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Page
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii LIST OF TABLES vii
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1
Background 1 Purpose of the Study 4 Problem Statement 6 Research Questions 6 Definition of Terms 7 Significance of the Study 9 Organization of the Study 9 Limitations of the Study 10 Summary 10
CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE 12
Historical Perspective 12 Accountability 13 Traditional Roles of Assistant Principals 15 Instructional Leadership 27 The Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale 33 Summary 38
CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY 40
Purpose of the Study 40 Research Design 41 Independent Variables 44 Participants 45 Sample 46 Instrument 47 Data Analysis Procedures 49 Summary 51 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS 53
v Sample 54 Instrument 56 Data Screening 61 Data Analysis 62 Reliability Analysis 62 Descriptive Statistics 62 Principals 62 Assistant Principals 63 Combined Principals and Assistant Principals 64 Paired Principals and Assistant Principals Subsample 65 Correlations 73 Summary of Findings 82 Research Question 1 82 Finding 1 82 Research Question 2 82 Finding 2 82 Research Question 3 82 Finding 3 83 Research Question 4 83 Finding 4 83
CHAPTER 5 SUMMARY, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND CONCLUSIONS 84
Research Question 1 84 Research Question 2 84 Research Question 3 85 Research Question 4 85 Summary of Findings 85 Discussion of Findings 86 Implications for Practice 87 Recommendations for Further Research 88 Summary 88
APPENDIX A – ONLINE SURVEY 92
APPENDIX B – RECRUITMENT DOCUMENT - PRINCIPALS 118
APPENDIX C – RECRUITMENT DOCUMENT – ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS………………………………………….. 120
APPENDIX D – PRINCIPAL INSTRUCTIONAL MANAGEMENT RATING SCALE SURVEY 122
APPENDIX E – ACCOUNTABILITY TABLE – CAMPUS RATINGS FROM THE TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY 130
APPENDIX F – INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL 132
APPENDIC G – PERMISSION LETTER FROM PHILLIP HALLINGER 134
vii LIST OF TABLES Table Page
1. District Ratings by Rating Category (including Charter Operators) 8 2. Areas and Job Functions of Instructional Leadership 29 3. Principal Sample 55 4. Principal Sample: Campus Ratings 57 5. Assistant Principal Sample: Campus Ratings 58 6. Survey Respondents by Gender 58 7. Survey Respondents by Age 59 8. Survey Respondents by Years of Experience 60 9. Descriptive Statistics for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Variables for Principals 61 10. Descriptive Statistics for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Variables for Assistant Principals 64 11. Descriptive Statistics for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Variables for Combined Sample of Principals and Assistant Principals 65 12. Descriptive Statistics – Combined Sub-sample of Principals and Assistant Principals 66
viii 13. Independent Samples t Test Results for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Subscales as a Function of Role (Combined Sample) 69 14. Paired t Test Results for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Subscales as a Function of Role (Paired Subsample) 71 15. Correlation Matrix for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Subscales (Combined Sample) 73 16. Correlation Matrix for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Subscales (Principal Sample) 74 17. Correlation Matrix for Principal Instructional Management Rating Subscales (Assistant Principal Sample) 75 18. Correlation Matrix for Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale Subscales (Paired Subsample) 76 19. Principals’ Responses Regarding Job Security Related to Campus Rating 78 20. Asst. Principal Responses Regarding Job Security Related to Campus Rating 78 21. Chi Square Results for Principals and Assistant Principals (job in danger if campus does not achieve a ___ rating) 79
ix 22. Chi Square Results for Principals’ and Assistant Principals’ Perceptions Regarding Job Pressure Based on School Ratings 80 23. Chi Square Results for Principals’ and Assistant Principals’ Perceptions (I know a principal or assistant principal forced to change jobs) 81
1 CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION The instructional leadership role of school principals has been widely studied since the 1980s, and research has shown that the principal’s instructional leadership is an important element of effective schools (Ubben, 2007). It has been argued that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school related factors that contribute to student learning, especially in high-need schools (Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). After a generation of educational reform, instructional leadership for principals is an expectation institutionalized through national and state licensure standards. While assistant principals typically are prepared and certified under the same standards as principals (Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.046(c)), little research has been completed regarding the assistant principal as an instructional leader. This study is designed to determine the extent to which assistant principals in large Texas high schools are engaged in instructional leadership. Background Relatively little research has been conducted on the instructional leadership role of the assistant principal. Although no precise, standard list of assistant principal duties exists, Scroggins and Bishop (1993) described duties common to assistant principals. Common duties included discipline, attendance,
2 student activities, athletics, community agencies, master schedules, principal substitute, and building operations. Research in the 1980s by Greenfield and Spady found that the assistant principal could only be an instructional leader in rare circumstances (Greenfield, 1985; Spady, 1985). This conclusion is further documented by Pietro (1999) when he noted that assistant principals assumed a greater role than principals in the areas of student activities and student personnel. The duties that Pietro found most prominent in Pennsylvania assistant principals were discipline, attendance, and hall supervision. O’Prey’s work in 1999 supported Pietro, noting that discipline and other non-instructional tasks characterized most of the time for middle school assistant principals in the Houston area. The majority of the research suggests that high school assistant principals focus primarily on management and student issues, with minimal research documenting instructional leadership responsibilities of high school assistant principals. Previous literature regarding how school leadership influences student achievement focused on the principal’s role as an instructional leader, which emphasized providing guidance to improve teachers’ classroom practice (Leithwood et al., 2004). Ubben, Hughes, and Norris (2001) state that effective instructional leadership requires a complex set of relationships between principals and their beliefs and the surrounding environment of the school (p. 41). They also stress that leadership in instructional and curricular endeavors is not the sole province of the principal (p. 43). According to the Wallace report (2004),
3 Philip Hallinger’s instructional leadership model has been the most actively used for this area of research. Hallinger’s model consists of three sets of leadership dimensions: defining the school’s mission, managing the instructional program, and promoting a positive learning climate. Within these three dimensions 10 specific leadership practices are delineated. The Principal Instructional Management Survey was chosen for this research because of the wide-spread use of the instrument to gauge instructional leadership responsibilities (Appendix A). Hallinger’s 10 instructional leadership dimensions have not been extensively researched with regards to the assistant principal. According to DuFour (2002), “Educators are gradually redefining the role of the principal from instructional leader with a focus on teaching, to leader of a professional community with a focus on learning” (p. 15). Instructional leadership is a key element for successful campus principals; many studies have shown that campuses with high achieving students have principals that concentrate and excel at instructional leadership. The relationship between instructional leadership and student achievement has been studied and debated to a great degree over the past thirty years (Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis, 1996; Hallinger & Murphy, 1985; Heck, Larsen, & Marcoulides, 1990). Hallinger and Heck (1996a, 1996b,1998) reviewed research from 1980-1995 on this topic and found that principals have an indirect yet statistically significant effect on student achievement, supporting the wide-spread belief that educational leadership is a critical component of student success. In particular, research of Hallinger and
4 Heck found the principal’s role in shaping the school’s direction through vision, mission, and goals was “a primary avenue of influence” (p. 229). They promoted the possibility that school leadership that emphasizes the campus vision, mission, and goals may be the avenue to increased student achievement. This study used those same instructional leadership definitions as well as the instrument created by Philip Hallinger to assess the instructional leadership responsibilities of Texas secondary assistant principals. The role of the instructional leader is also suggested by Brewer (2001) as focusing on instruction; building a community of learners; sharing decision making; sustaining the basics; leveraging time; supporting ongoing professional development for all staff members; redirecting resources to support a multifaceted school plan; and creating a climate of integrity, inquiry, and continuous improvement. (p. 30) Research is needed to determine if this role shift includes the assistant principals as well. Assistant principals have the training and the desire to assume instructional leadership responsibilities; it would require a paradigm shift as well as restructuring of managerial responsibilities to allow assistant principals to focus on instructional leadership. Purpose of the Study This study examined the current instructional leadership responsibilities of assistant principals in large Texas high schools. This study used the definition of
5 instructional leadership developed by Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon (2001). Instructional leadership is leadership for the improvement of instruction. Instructional leadership applies to those persons whose titles such as principal, assistant principal, or lead teacher are deeply caught up in supervision through direct assistance to teachers, curriculum development, professional development, group development and action research. (p. 11) Little is known about the instructional leadership duties assistant principals actually engage in on a daily basis. This study will contribute to the research regarding the instructional leadership duties of assistant principals. This survey will make a contribution to the knowledge about the important role of assistant principals. It will also provide a basis for recommendations that will improve practice in current secondary schools. O’Prey (1999) determined that assistant principals are still spending the vast majority of their time on non-instructional tasks. Most of the principals and assistant principals he surveyed indicated that assistant principals should spend more time on instructional supervision and curriculum development. O’Prey did not use the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale. Since the majority of research on instructional leadership has used the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale, it was beneficial to survey the instructional leadership
6 responsibilities of Texas secondary assistant principals using the most widely used instrument. The role of the assistant principal has not formally focused on instructional leadership, and it is imperative that instructional leadership responsibilities be shared with other campus leadership for increased student success. Assistant principals are the next leaders in the traditional hierarchy of schools. Focusing our secondary assistant principals on instructional leadership should influence students success. Hallinger (2003a) suggests,” the integrated view of leadership we propose highlights the synergistic power of leadership shared by individuals throughout the school organization” (p. 329). Problem Statement The problem of this study was to determine the extent to which secondary assistant principals in large Texas high schools are demonstrating behaviors consistent with what the literature describes as instructional leadership. Research Questions 1. Do assistant principals in large Texas high schools perceive themselves as actively demonstrating instructional leadership as measured by the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale: Version 2.0? 2. Do principals in large Texas high schools perceive their assistant principals as actively demonstrating instructional leadership as
7 measured by the Principal Instruction Management Rating Scale: Version 2.0? 3. Is there a relationship between the principal’s perceptions and the assistant principal’s perceptions of the assistant principal’s instructional leadership role? 4. Do principals and assistant principals feel pressured under the campus accountability and rating requirements of No Child Left Behind and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills? Definition of Terms Assistant principal – An administrator who serves under the direction of the principal in a school. Instructional leadership – Leadership for the improvement of instruction. Instructional leadership applies to those persons whose titles such as principal, assistant principal, or lead teacher are deeply caught up in supervision through direct assistance to teachers, curriculum development, professional development, group development and action research (Glickman et al., 2001), Principal – The leader of the school. According to Ubben, Hughes and Norris (2007), “Accountable for the academic progress for all students entrusted to their care” (p. 29). They also believe that the principal must facilitate the social and emotional development of all students, regardless of age, race, creed, or intellectual capacity.
8 Public secondary schools – Texas Middle Schools or High Schools that comprise some combination of grades 6-12. This definition does not include charter schools or private schools. School discipline – Encompasses a variety of strategies used to maintain an educational environment and order within a school. TAKS – The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. Texas students in Grades 3-11 take tests in math, reading, writing, science, and social studies. Students must pass these tests in order to graduate. See Table 1 for the explanation of campus ratings. Table 1 District Ratings by Rating Category (including Charter Schools) Accountability Rating
Note Rated: Other
Significance of the Study
One way for principals to impact student achievement may be to distribute more instructional leadership responsibilities to assistant principals. School reform and accountability requirements have been in place in Texas since 1982, and assessments reports are publicly available online from 1994 (TEA, 2008). Have schools responded to the accountability pressure by giving more instructional leadership responsibilities to assistant principals? Traditional managerial roles of principals and assistant principals may need to be re-defined to focus on instructional leadership. It is up to current principals and assistant principals to prioritize and shift resources to impact student learning. Organization of the Study There are four additional chapters that will assist in exploring the instructional leadership responsibilities of secondary assistant principals. Chapter 2 is a review of related literature Chapter 3 describes the research methodology, participants, procedures and design used for completing this study. Chapter 4 includes the results of the analysis of data and research findings. Chapter 5 gives a summary of findings, research analysis, conclusions, and recommendations for practice and further study.
Limitations of the Study There were some limitations associated with the study: 1. The sample was limited to administrators in large Texas high schools. 2. Respondents self-scored the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale based on their perceptions. Self-reporting can result in perceptions that may or may not be valid. 3. The sub-sample of 71 campuses with results from principals and assistant principals was relatively small. 4. Only large Texas high schools were sampled. Results of the study may not be generalizable to other geographical locations or to smaller campuses. 5. The principal form of the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale was not explicitly designed for assistant principals. Summary Principals are experiencing intense pressure to use every available resource to raise student achievement and campus ratings. Specifically, have these rigorous accountability standards affected the instructional leadership role of the assistant principal at the secondary level in Texas? This study documents the current instructional leadership responsibilities of Texas assistant principals in large high schools. The Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (Appendix A), a validated instructional leadership survey developed by Philip
11 Hallinger (1982, 1983, 1990), measures the current instructional leadership responsibilities of Texas secondary assistant principals through their own observations and the observations of their principals. This study gathered survey data to determine to what extent Texas secondary assistant principals are exhibiting instructional leadership responsibilities. The demand for exemplary campus and district ratings is driving school administrators to examine instructional leadership practices to ensure student success. It has been increasingly apparent that careers hinge on the ability of principals to produce high ratings from both state (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) and federal (No Child Left Behind) accountability systems.
12 CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Historical Perspective Prior to the current accountability systems, tracking school performance was largely based on norm-referenced tests and community perception. Schools were not held accountable based on small groups of students, but the achievement of the majority of the students. Currently schools in Texas are rated based on demographics of groups that may only have 30 students in that sub - population. Preliminary accountability ratings show that Texas schools still have a long way to go before being considered successful in educating ALL students (Texas Education Agency, 2008). Students in at-risk sub-populations significantly impact campus ratings for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and No Child Left Behind, and the entire school cannot earn a rating unless every sub-population meets the criteria. Sub-populations for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills include all students, white students, African-American students, Hispanic students, and economically disadvantaged students (Texas Education Agency, 2007). These sub-populations are factored into the rating if there are 30 or more, or 10% of the student population is represented in that sub-population.
13 Phillip Schlechty (2001) sums up the situation by saying, Today’s demand is that the schools serve a wider range of students than they did in the past and that they cause all, or nearly all, of these students to undertake tasks that result in substantial academic learning. In addition, the standards all students are now expected to meet are standards that just a generation ago only a relatively few students - mainly the college bound - were expected to meet. The business of schools as it was defined in the past cannot meet this demand. (p. xiv) Principals and assistant principals are charged with the expectation that student achievement must improve, and high ratings are anticipated by the community and the school board. This chapter reviews the context of the high-stakes accountability systems, the historical and current responsibilities of secondary assistant principals, the definition of an instructional leader, and describes the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale survey instrument that measures instructional leadership. Accountability High-stakes accountability is defined as testing that requires systematic improvement or schools may be taken over by outside leadership. These accountability systems come from both the state the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (see Appendix E) and the federal level (No Child Left
14 Behind). While they both use the same actual test, there are significant variations in how the data are reported and analyzed by each government entity. Ever since the U.S. legislature adopted the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (PL 107-110, 2002), it has been the rallying cry of every major political office. According to the National Education Agency website (2008), educators were given the charge to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility and choice; so that no child will be left behind (Public Law 107-110, Jan 8, 2002). In Texas, the benchmark accountability system is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Appendix E displays the accountability table. As mandated by the 76th Texas Legislature in 1999, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills was first administered in 2003-04. The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills measures the statewide curriculum in reading at Grades 3-9; in writing at Grades 4 and 7; in English Language Arts at Grades 10 and 11; in mathematics at Grades 3-11; in science at Grades 5, 10, and 11; and social studies at Grades 8, 10, and 11. The Spanish Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is administered at Grades 3 through 6. Satisfactory performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills at Grade 11 is a prerequisite for a high school diploma. These grade-level tests are responsible for many direct and indirect outcomes. Direct outcomes include whether a child goes on to the next grade level and which classes they are required to take based on their scores. Indirect outcomes might include the public’s view of the school district as
15 a whole, affecting property values and impacting the local economy. These high- stakes ratings have increased pressure on the principals and assistant principals in Texas. Instructional leadership is tremendously important to raise student achievement. It is unrealistic to expect one school principal alone to perform the necessary instructional leadership to ensure that student achievement advances to a satisfactory level. It is increasingly apparent that assistant principals, teachers, department heads, and professional staff will need to expand their knowledge and skills to significantly impact student success in today’s secondary schools. High stakes testing requires today’s principal to re-think traditional methods for impacting student achievement. Traditional Roles of Assistant Principals According to Weller and Weller (2002), the assistant principal position is usually the prerequisite to becoming a principal. Assistant principals generally have a background in teaching and plan to advance to a principal’s position. Secondary assistant principals can be characterized as dealing with the front lines, which often involves student discipline, irate parents, and burned-out teachers. Assistant principals deal with the day-to-day work that is essential in any large campus. Often viewed as an entry level position for future administrative roles, the assistant principal has traditionally been responsible for keys, discipline, and textbooks (Marshall, 1992).
16 The literature further shows that the principal largely determines the assistant principal’s job responsibilities. Although no precise, standard list of assistant principal duties exists, Scroggins and Bishop (1993) described duties common to assistant principals. Common duties included discipline, attendance, student activities, athletics, community agencies, master schedules, principal substitute, and building operations. Research in the 1980s by Greenfield (1985) and Spady (1985) found that the assistant principal could only be an instructional leader in rare circumstances. This conclusion is further documented by Pietro (1999) when he noted that assistant principals assumed a greater role than principals in the areas of student activities and student personnel. The duties that Pietro found most prominent in Pennsylvania assistant principals were discipline, attendance, and hall supervision. O’Prey’s work in 1999 mirrored Pietro's findings, noting that discipline and other non-instructional tasks characterized most of the time for middle school assistant principals in the Houston area. Although school accountability has changed drastically in the last 30 years, it does not appear that the core duties of assistant principals have changed as well. Specific assistant principal tasks in Texas are listed in order of most frequently reported (Armstrong, 2004): discipline; campus/building safety; student activities; building maintenance, teacher evaluation; attend admission, review and dismissal or 504 meetings; textbooks; duty schedule; tutorial programs/at- risk programs; new teachers/mentor program; assessment data; staff development; supervise departments; community activities; attendance; public
17 education information management system (PEIMS); graduation; campus decision-making team; lockers; master schedule; curriculum development; hiring; transportation, keys and parking. Armstrong’s survey was conducted with 123 Texas secondary principals. The 1967 Short-Form of the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) was used to identify the duties of the assistant principal and to assess job satisfaction. Armstrong used descriptive, correlation, and inferential statistics. Armstrong’s results identified 25 duties of the Texas secondary assistant principal, and the results indicated that they were satisfied with their jobs. Armstrong also noted that only 1% of the educational research between 1993-1999 focused on the assistant principal. Armstrong’s (2004) data correlated closely with historical data from Austin and Brown (1970) over 30 years ago. They found that the top duties of assistant principals in 1970 were: hall duty, student activities, teacher evaluations, discipline management, clerical and front office duty, building and maintenance, community relations, and attendance. Of all the duties documented, only teacher evaluations directly align with instructional leadership. Weller and Weller (2002) completed a study of 100 assistant principals and stated that 77% of the respondents found that student discipline and student attendance were their primary responsibility. In the Weller and Weller survey, assistant principals also responded to open-ended questions regarding the most important skills necessary to be effective administrators. The assistant principals
18 indicated that “people skills,” “good communication skills,” “knowledge of leadership theory,” “techniques for improving curriculum and instruction,” and “working with teams” were the most essential skills and knowledge areas (p. 26). The assistant principals who were surveyed by Weller and Weller claimed that universities had not prepared them for the real world duties of an assistant principal. It is interesting to note that although assistant principals indicated that they spent 77% of their time on student discipline and attendance, they indicated that they felt that “techniques for improving curriculum and instruction” were the most essential (p. 26). Bartholomew and Fusarelli (2003) stated that assistant principals were “often overlooked as a resource for creating, advancing, and sustaining a compelling vision” (p. 291). The complex nature of schools has helped shape the traditional role of the assistant principal as someone who acts as chief disciplinarian, conflict mediator, and hall patroller. Although assistant principals assume the title of instructional leader, their day-to-day duties primarily support only one dimension of instructional leadership: promoting a safe climate. Research by Todd (2006) examined the instructional leadership roles in high schools. Todd’s study, Instructional Leadership in High Schools: The Effects of Principals, Assistant Principals, and Department Heads on Student Achievement, examined the influence of instructional leadership on student achievement in math. Todd compared the effects of principals, assistant principals, and department heads using the Principal Instructional Management
19 Rating Scale survey for instructional leadership developed by Philip Hallinger (see Appendix A). Questionnaires were distributed to the principal, assistant principal in charge of curriculum, and the math department head in all public high schools in five of the seven largest counties in Florida. Todd’s (2006) research questions were as follows: 1. Can the instructional leadership of principals, assistant principals, and math department heads be described at the high school level? 2. Whose instructional leadership has the greatest relationship to student achievement, principals, assistant principals, or math department heads? 3. Does team alignment in instructional leadership matter to student achievement? 4. Does socioeconomic status moderate the relationship between job function and student achievement? Todd (2006) used the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale to rate the instructional leadership of high school principals, assistant principals, and math department heads in 10 different job functions. The Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale job functions were independent variables. Math student achievement was the dependent variable as measured by the percentage of students scoring three and above on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The antecedent variable was school socioeconomic status, which was used to control for differences.
20 Todd (2006) used the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to run the descriptive statistical analysis for the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale data on the principals, assistant principals, and department heads in the entire sample as well as those that returned all three questionnaires. In the descriptive analysis, each of the scores of the 10 job functions in the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale were described by use of the minimum, maximum, mean, standard deviation, and variance. The variance was given because it showed the amount values vary among themselves. Todd conducted an analysis of variance (ANOVA) with a post hoc Scheffe test for these samples to determine if there was a statistically significant difference among the mean Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale scores for the different leadership job functions. The independent variable was the role (principal, assistant principal, math department head), and the dependent variables were the 10 job functions in the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale. The goal was to determine answers to the research questions about team alignment and which role had the greatest effect on student achievement. Therefore, Todd did not utilize the math achievement score as a dependent variable in the analysis of variance. Todd (2006) ran the ANOVA for all data in the sample as well as the data in the sub-sample of schools that returned all three components of the survey. After the ANOVA was run to determine if any of the means were significantly