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Teachers' perceptions of principals' leadership practices in public elementary schools

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Angela D Coleman
Abstract:
  The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which principals' leadership practices affected teachers' perceptions in public elementary schools. The participants in this study included 101 certified elementary teachers from a large urban school system in North Georgia. The instruments used to collect data included: a demographic survey, the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), and the Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO). A demographic survey was used to obtain teacher demographic characteristics. The LPI was used to record teachers' perceptions of their principals' leadership practices within the school setting. The PTO was used to record teachers overall satisfaction with teaching. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential procedures. The results of this study indicated for the eight PTO scores, Cronbach alpha reliability coefficients ranged from r = .50 to r = .82 with a median alpha being α = .69, which suggested that all but one of the scales (PTO School Facilities and Services) had adequate levels of internal reliability. Furthermore, for all five t test, the LPI Norms sample had significantly higher ratings than the current sample. In addition, the Pearson product-moment correlations for leadership practices with the PTO factor scores found significant positive correlations for seven of eight correlations. Partial correlations for the LPI total score with each of the eight PTO scores after controlling for seven teacher demographic characteristics (age, gender, education level, total teaching experience, years with current principal, whether the teacher left a position due to the principal and race) indicated all eight partial correlations were statistically significant.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables viii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 2 Statement of the Problem 9 Purpose of the Study 9 Rationale 11 Research Hypotheses 12 Significance of the Study 13 Definition of Terms 14 Assumptions 16 Limitations 17 Nature of the Study 17 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 18 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction 20 Leadership Theories and Application 21 Application of Different Leadership Styles 26 Factors to Improving Teacher Satisfaction 39 Factors that Contribute to Improving Teacher Retention 45 No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 48

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Student Learning 53 Conclusion 56 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY Introduction 59 Statement of the Problem 60 Research Hypotheses 60 Research Methodology 61 Research Design 63 Population and Sampling Procedure 64 Instrumentation 65 Validity 73 Reliability 74 Data Collection Procedures 75 Data Analysis 77 Ethical Considerations 78 Summary 78 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS Introduction 80 Descriptive Data 82 Data Analysis 85 Results 86 Summary 91

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CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Introduction 93 Summary of Study 93 Summary of Findings and Conclusion 95 Recommendations 99 Implications 103 REFERENCES 106 APPENDIX A. Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI)-Observer 113 APPENDIX B. The Adapted Purdue Teacher Opnionaire (PTO)-Self 115

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List of Tables

Table 1. Major Leadership Theories Connection to Leadership Styles 22 Table 2. Summary of Leadership Styles 39 Table 3. Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) Dimensions and Related Statements 68 Table 4. Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO) Dimensions and Related Statements 71 Table 5. Six Public Elementary Schools 82 Table 6. Frequency Counts for Selected Variables (N = 101) 83

Table 7. Psychometric Characteristics for Summated Scale Scores (N = 101) 87

Table 8. t Test Comparisons of LPI Subscale Scores Between Current Sample and National Sample 89

Table 9. Pearson Correlations and Partial Correlations Between the LPI Total Score and the PTO Scale Scores (N = 101) 90

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem Today, there are many issues impacting education in the United States; such as job security, teacher turnover, teacher salary, working conditions, and principal leadership. There are several factors which should be considered when examining the condition of schools, such as teachers‟ perceptions and principals‟ leadership practices. Education sets the foundation for students‟ success rate; therefore education should be a priority for this nation. Furthermore, there have been many changes, movements, and acts in education throughout the years, which include the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. Since the induction of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, many of the nation‟s principals and teachers are struggling to meet the requirements set forth in the act. NCLB is based on schools ensuring that each student is afforded the opportunity to learn. NCLB goals include closing the achievement gap and ensuring that highly qualified teachers are employed. According to Johnson and Maloney (2006), a highly qualified teacher has “earned a bachelor‟s degree, holds full state certification, and has demonstrated subject matter knowledge and teaching skill in each core academic subject in which the teacher is assigned to teach” (p. 1). In addition, schools are held accountable for student achievement (Owens & Valesky, 2007). If principals wish to close the achievement gap, highly qualified teachers should feel satisfied, appreciated, and want to remain within those educational settings. Schools where there are high teacher dissatisfaction rates can ultimately have concerns in many areas; such as teacher morale, teacher turnover, and student achievement.

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Teachers‟ perceptions are related to one of the growing concerns principals are faced with today in the specialization Leadership in Educational Administration. Fullan (2008) contends, “Effective leadership inspires more than it empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than it decides” (p. 16). An effective principal can assist in creating an environment which promotes positive teacher perceptions and a positive learning environment for all students. According to the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) (1996), “Standard 2: A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth” (p. 13). Thus, teachers‟ perceptions are relevant to the success of schools, so therefore, one must understand how their leadership practices can affect the teachers they lead.

Background of the Study During recent years, the implementation of NCLB has held educators accountable for the academic achievement of students in many areas; such as standards, testing, teacher qualifications, student attendance, as well as leadership. Park and Datnow (2009) expressed, “Educational leaders are now required to analyze, interpret and use data to make informed decisions in all areas of education, ranging from professional development to student learning” (p. 477). Educational organizations can begin to examine principal leadership in their organization as a means to making positive improvements to teachers‟ perceptions that may contribute to building successful learning environments. Gorton, Alston, and Snowden (2007) expressed, “Stogdill‟s definition

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emphasizes that leadership need not be limited to one individual, such as the school administrator, and that the focus of leadership activities should be on increasing the performance effectiveness of the group” (p. 5). In fact, all stakeholders have a role in the success of an educational organization; however it begins with the principal. The foundation for principal leaders begins with the principal‟s beliefs in particular leadership theories. As cited in Wagner (2009), during Lewin‟s study, he identified leadership styles as authoritarian (autocratic), participative (democratic), and delegative (laissez-fair). Throughout the years, researchers added on additional theories that are linked to leadership styles, which include: (a) Great Man theory, (b) Trait theory, (c) Contingency theory, (d) Situational theory, (e) Behavioral theory, (f) Participative theory, (g) Management theory, and (h) Relationship theory (Wagner, 2009). Principals‟ leadership practices may relate to one or more of the identified leadership theories. Furthermore, through an examination of leadership theories, several theories has been identified which affect the overall perception of leadership practices. According to Fullan (2008), “The Theory of Action envisioned principals as the most critical resources in the professional guidance and instruction direction of the school” (p. 7). The Theory of Action consist of the following areas: (a) participation of low achieving schools, (b) networking of schools, (c) mentoring programs, (d) conferences, (e) strategy building, and (f) funding (Fullan, 2008). Each of the focus areas allow the school an opportunity to collaborate within their own school as well as collaborate with other area schools in order to make school improvements. Principals have very challenging positions, which include being a communicator, negotiator, mediator, administrator, and manager. “One major source of influence on the

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internal content and on the work circumstances that individuals experience in an organizational setting is the manager‟s leadership style” (Nir & Kranot, 2006, p. 207). Principals are obligated to examine their particular leadership style and how specific practices may affect their followers. Past research on principals‟ leadership styles were categorized as initiators, managers, or responders (Gorton et al., 2007). According to Gorton et al. (2007), “The initiator‟s style was most successful, followed by the manager‟s, while the responder‟s style was least successful” (p. 180). The main principal leadership styles explored within this study consist of the transactional, transformational, instructional, and situational leadership styles. Each leadership style can have a different effect on teachers within educational organizations. According to Owens and Valesky (2007), “Transactional educational leaders can and do offer jobs, security, tenure, favorable ratings, and more in exchange for the support, cooperation, and compliance of followers” (p. 281). Further, Owens and Valesky (2007) indicated, “the transformational leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower” (p. 281). Principals who follow the transformational leadership style wish to ensure a high level of morale for their followers, which is a very important element in a school setting. Further, the instructional leadership style will be explored, which is based on classroom instruction. Hallinger (2003) concluded, “Instructional leadership focuses predominantly on the role of the school principal coordinating, controlling, supervising, and developing curriculum and instruction in the school” (p. 331). The final leadership theory to be explored is the situational leader. The situational leadership model is incorporated by four leadership styles (Kelley, Thornton, & Daugherty, 2005). These leadership styles include:

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“autocratic (telling), democratic (selling), encouraging and social (participating), and the laissez-faire style (delegating)” (Kelley et al., 2005, p. 18). The situational leader serves many roles and must have a high level of flexibility with their followers. One of the most challenging roles of a principal is learning to find ways to understand teachers‟ perceptions as well as keep those highly qualified teachers satisfied within their educational organization. In addition to teacher satisfaction, teacher retention also affects the school as a whole, especially for students who seek stability in learning. Hirsch and Emerick (2006) contended, “Unfortunately, many schools across the country, face persistent teacher working condition challenges that are closely related to high teacher turnover rates and chronic difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers” (p. 1). Principals may need to maintain an environment where teachers have positive perceptions of their principal and want to remain in those organizations. Moreover, classroom instruction is also a factor which may be affected by the perceptions of those teachers and should be examined with its connection to principal leadership. “If anyone can influence teachers on a day-to-day basis, it is the principal, both directly and indirectly” (Fullan, 2008, p. 25). It appears that a leader can affect a teacher‟s ability to perform, which in turn, affects a student‟s ability to learn. Kelley et al. (2005) referred to research conducted by Blake and Mouton (1985) which indicated, “Leaders who fully understand leadership theory can improve their ability to lead are able to reduce employee frustration and negative attitudes in the work environment” (p. 18). When principals openly acknowledge the impact of positive teacher perceptions, both the principal and teachers will benefit and as a result, students will benefit.

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Further, teachers could benefit from having comfortable, positive, and trusting work environments and effective leaders have the ability to provide this for them. “An essential priority for an administrator in working with most groups, especially newly formed ones, is the development of cohesiveness and trust” (Gorton et al., 2007, p. 17). The formation of trust among principals and teachers can build positive, lasting relationships. In fact, trust can build mutual respect among individuals in the educational setting. Although principals‟ leadership practices and teachers‟ perceptions are the focus of this study, it is very important to understand the impact of NCLB with respect to overall school improvements. Reaching the goals as outlined in NCLB has been very challenging for many schools across the United States. Principals and teachers must continue to work together, which may include building better working relationships. In addition, those working relationship could begin to improve the quality of education provided to this nation‟s children. Moreover, Hoff (2008b) stated with respect to NCLB, “The laws goal is all students will be proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year” (p. 5). There are less than three years left in which to meet those requirements. Many schools are still considered “needs improvement” schools and many students are still not meeting standards as required by the act. As a result of students not meeting standards, principals and teachers are being held accountable. “NCLB has significantly increased the pressure to improve student achievement” (Kelley et al., 2005, p. 18). In order to attempt to meet standards, principals must analyze their schools data, teachers‟ abilities, instructional practices, students‟ needs, as well as their own leadership practices.

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Furthermore, one must understand all factors that directly and indirectly affect teachers within educational organizations. According to A. Harris (2002), “Effective leadership is widely accepted as being a key constituent in achieving school improvements” (p. 15). If the school environment fosters support and cooperation, it is possible that teachers can do their best to provide a meaningful learning environment for their students. School environment, classroom instruction, teacher morale, and leadership practices are examples of factors that may affect student learning, which could possibly stem from a teacher‟s perception of their leader. Principals affect how well the overall environment is conducive to teaching and learning. In addition, Ouyang and Paprock (2006) expressed, “Teacher job satisfaction contributes not only to teachers‟ motivation and improvement, but also to students‟ learning and development” (p. 341). Further, if educational organizations are able to improve teacher perceptions, then it is possible that other areas will improve as well. For instance, there could be significant improvements to students learning to enjoy school and respond positively to instructional practices as a result of positive teacher perceptions in schools. Consequently, there are many issues facing the United States today, however, one of the most important issues that must be addressed is the need to improve factors affecting education. Education is a critical factor in this nation, due to the impact it will have on an individual‟s future. Further, poverty is a factor and a major concern for this nation, which can be directly linked to education. Wells (2007) concluded: In schools with 25% of the student body living in poverty, all students, whether poor, affluent, or in between, tend to achieve less than students

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from schools in affluent communities. Furthermore, even after a family has achieved higher income levels, the effects of poverty can linger. (p. 4) In fact, poverty concerns suggest a possibility of a higher need for government assistance in the area of education. According to Lip (2008), “Each year, the United States spends more than $550 billion on K-12 public schools-more than 4 percent of the nation‟s gross domestic product” (p. 1). The greater the achievement gap is among students, the greater the need to provide services to those students and schools with the goal of closing the achievement gap. Education is no longer an isolated issue for the poor. Communities will ultimately have to deal with issues surrounding education and the achievement gap by paying more taxes to support education. As indicated by Lip (2008): Many Americans‟ lives are affected by their lack of a quality education. Moreover, taxpayers must shoulder the burden of costs caused by the uneducated population. Widespread failure in America‟s public schools imposes great personal and societal costs. (p. 1) The future of the nation depends greatly on the quality of education which is provided to students. A good quality education can lead students to become productive citizens within this nation. Along with becoming productive citizens, the quality of education will also lesson the burden on this nation as it applies to the government. “The commission reported that American students were at risk of falling behind students from around the world and that this imperiled out national security and future prosperity” (Lips, 2008, p. 1). In fact, if more and more students continue to fail, this nation will have a harder time recovering from the many issues arising from the lack of and/or

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improper education. If this nation is unable to improve the educational system, then ongoing support and services for failing schools must continue. Perhaps, there will be more individuals requiring government assistance in the future. In addition, this means more funds will be needed to supplement the cost of additional resources needed for educating students who are not achieving in school.

Statement of the Problem It is not known to what extent principals‟ leadership practices affect teachers‟ perceptions in public elementary schools. The problem in this study addressed factors that affected teacher perceptions, that is, their satisfaction, morale, and principals‟ leadership practices in the workplace. In addition to principals‟ leadership practices affecting the overall perceptions of teachers, it could also affect highly qualified teachers staying within an educational organization. Researchers have expressed that leaders and followers relate in ways that allow the leader to trigger motivation, obtain individual commitment, establish a functional working environment, and facilitate the necessary work needed at the workplace (Owens & Valesky, 2007). Teachers‟ perceptions continue to be a concern that should be addressed by principals as a way of improving the success of teachers and ultimately the learning environment for students in their educational organization.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this research study was to examine the extent to which principals‟ leadership practices affected teachers‟ perceptions in public elementary schools.

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Principals could benefit by examining their leadership practices in order to address these pertinent issues affecting schools today. Further, this study explored the attitudes, practices, and barriers of the following leadership styles: transactional, transformational, instructional, and situational. The attitudes of principals could affect the overall perceptions of their teachers. In fact, depending on whether the principal is perceived as a positive and supportive influence could determine how teachers feel in that particular work setting. Therefore, this study was designed to examine principals‟ leadership practices and teachers‟ perceptions in the public elementary school setting. As indicated by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) (2005), “Research indicates that administrative leadership is the most important factor in determining the climate of a school, and there are specific leader activities that allow all teachers to feel supported in their work” (p. 6). The practices of the transactional, transformational, instructional, and situational leaders are different and each will have a different effect on teachers and school climate. Each principal has very specific ways of interacting with teachers in their individual schools. According to The National Commission on Teaching and America‟s Future (NCTAF) (2007), “The problem is not finding enough teachers to do the job; the problem is keeping them in our schools” (p. 2). Principals may want to become more aware of possible barriers affecting highly qualified teachers in classrooms, which may include making adjustments to their specific leadership practices.

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Rationale The condition of teachers‟ perceptions in education is an imperative topic that educators must address. “Research has consistently demonstrated that teachers make a greater difference in student achievement than any other single school factor” (Hirsh & Emerick, 2006, p. 5). The importance of conducting such a study was to improve teachers‟ perceptions of their leaders in the public elementary school setting. Elementary schools are the foundation for successful middle schools and high schools; therefore, having a strong elementary foundation could ultimately benefit educational organizations. Furthermore, Hirsh and Emerick (2006) concluded, “One of the most extensive examinations of working conditions data revealed a clear lesson: if we want to improve the quality of our teachers and schools, we need to improve the quality of the teaching jobs” (p. 1). Although, there are current studies on teacher perceptions, however there are limited studies conducted on how leadership practices affect teachers‟ perceptions, specifically devoted to public elementary schools in North Georgia. Perhaps one way to improve education and teaching positions in a large urban school system is to examine the effects of principals‟ leadership practices on teachers‟ perceptions within this school system. The NCLB Act indicated that highly qualified teachers must be employed (Owens & Valesky, 2007). Principals could begin to understand their role in meeting the requirements of the NCLB Act, which include keeping highly qualified teachers in the classroom by examining their leadership practices as well as specific work conditions impacting teacher perceptions and overall teacher morale. Schools as well as the school

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districts must address those conditions and the reasons behind those conditions with relation to keeping highly qualified teachers in those schools. Principals‟ leadership practices effect on teachers‟ perceptions is a significant topic worth investigating, due to the vital need in securing stable school communities, especially in low-income areas. The previous research conducted by Hirsch and Emerick (2006) identified a connection between leadership, teachers‟ perceptions, teacher satisfaction, as well as teacher retention. “When asked to select which of the working conditions most influenced retention decisions, leader was the most important” (Hirsch & Emerick, 2006, p. 9). The significance of this study was to understand principals‟ leadership practices as well as assist with building stable school communities, which can lead to improvements in teachers‟ perceptions, teacher satisfaction, teacher morale, and teacher retention within North Georgia school systems. In fact, these factors are directly related to a common goal, which is working towards making improvements to the overall learning environment for students.

Research Hypotheses The following research hypotheses guided this study: H 1 There will be a high correlation between teachers‟ perceptions of their principals‟ leadership in their public elementary school compared to the national sample provided by Posner (2010). H 01 There will be no correlation between teachers‟ perceptions of their principals‟ leadership in their public elementary school compared to the national sample provided by Posner (2010).

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H 2 There will be a significant relationship between the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) total score and the eight Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO) factor scores. H 02 There will not be a significant relationship between the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) total score and the eight Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO) factor scores. H 3 After controlling for teacher demographic characteristics, there will be at least one statistically significant correlation between the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) total score and the eight Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO) factor scores. H 03 After controlling for teacher demographic characteristics, there will be no statistical correlation between the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) total score and the eight Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO) factor scores.

Significance of the Study This study examined the attitudes, practices, and barriers of principals‟ leadership practices on teachers‟ perceptions in public elementary schools. The data presented in this study could assist principals in making positive improvements regarding teachers‟ perceptions in their schools. ISLLC (1996) Standard 2 identified one of the major duties of a principal is to maintain the school‟s learning environment. Therefore, under Standard 2, the leader is obligated to ensure that there is a positive instructional learning environment for not only the students, but for teachers as well. In addition, ISLLC (1996) Standard 3 stated, “A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes

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the success of all students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner” (1996). Furthermore, educational organizations are being impacted with the manner in which teachers perceive their leaders, which will ultimately have a significant impact on student academic success. Prominent researchers found, “A report from the Wallace Foundation (2004) revealed that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school -related factors that contribute to what students learn at school and that leadership effects are usually largest where and when they are needed most” (Hirsch & Emerick, 2006, p. 17). Each factor can directly affect teacher retention, and in turn these factors may ultimately affect student achievement. Furthermore, this study provided data that will influence faculty and staff morale, shared decision making, team building, and ultimately promote student achievement. Finally, this study could assist principals in acknowledging the status of their school climate, whether positive or negative. Further, principals may become more aware of leadership practices that can improve overall teachers‟ perceptions in public elementary schools.

Definition of Terms The following terms are used operationally in this study. Effective school leaders. “Effective school leaders are strong educators, anchoring their work on central issues of learning and teaching and school improvements” (ISLLC, 1996, p. 5). Empowerment. The ability to give followers the opportunity to share thoughts and feel a since of involvement without giving up authority (Allen & Cosby, 2000).

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Highly qualified teachers. "Under the law, “highly qualified” refers to school teachers who passed a test covering reading, math, and other areas of the curriculum” (Berry, 2002, p. 1). Influence. “Influence can be defined as the ability of an {administrator} without recourse to force or legitimation, to affect another‟s behavior”(Gorton et al., 2007, p. 76). Initiators. A leader who takes a proactive approach to ensuring that the expectations and goals of the school are being met (Gorton et al., 2007). Instructional leadership. A leadership style which focuses on the principal as highly involved in the instructional and curriculum practices in a school (Hallinger, 2003). Leader. Gorton et al. (2007) cites Cowley (1920), “The leader is the one who succeeds in getting others to follow him or her” (p. 5). Leadership. The role of an individual that ensures duties are carried out by the followers as well as make the necessary decisions of what must take place in a school (Kowalski, 2008). Management. The facilitation and overseeing of how the duties of followers should be carried out by the followers (Kowalski, 2008). Managers. This individual is a combination between an initiator and a responder (Gorton et al., 2007) “They may initiate action in support of change but also demonstrate responsive behavior” (Gorton et al., 2007, p. 180). No child left behind Act (NCLB). “Requires schools must demonstrate that all children are on the route to proficiency in the core subjects by 2014” (Wells, 2007, p. 1). The No Child Left Behind goals include closing the achievement gap, ensuring that

Full document contains 127 pages
Abstract:   The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which principals' leadership practices affected teachers' perceptions in public elementary schools. The participants in this study included 101 certified elementary teachers from a large urban school system in North Georgia. The instruments used to collect data included: a demographic survey, the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), and the Purdue Teacher Opinionaire (PTO). A demographic survey was used to obtain teacher demographic characteristics. The LPI was used to record teachers' perceptions of their principals' leadership practices within the school setting. The PTO was used to record teachers overall satisfaction with teaching. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential procedures. The results of this study indicated for the eight PTO scores, Cronbach alpha reliability coefficients ranged from r = .50 to r = .82 with a median alpha being α = .69, which suggested that all but one of the scales (PTO School Facilities and Services) had adequate levels of internal reliability. Furthermore, for all five t test, the LPI Norms sample had significantly higher ratings than the current sample. In addition, the Pearson product-moment correlations for leadership practices with the PTO factor scores found significant positive correlations for seven of eight correlations. Partial correlations for the LPI total score with each of the eight PTO scores after controlling for seven teacher demographic characteristics (age, gender, education level, total teaching experience, years with current principal, whether the teacher left a position due to the principal and race) indicated all eight partial correlations were statistically significant.