Effective Leadership Style for Inner City School Principals in Atlanta

Introduction

The complexity of school and learning environments require good and efficient leadership, not only to achieve set targets established for them, but to ensure that they are run according to stipulated legal guidelines. School leadership has been ranked second from classroom teaching in influencing pupil for learning (Day, Pam, Hopkins, Alma, Leithwood, Qing, Eleanor, Elpida & Alison, 2009). The purpose of this study is to provide a detailed analysis of school leadership and its impacts in learning. Efficient leadership for schools is becoming a very important aspect of learning, without which schools may fail to meet their objectives efficiently. School leaders are increasingly demanded to understand the learning environment, challenges, students’ expectations and perception of learning by the stakeholders, in order to devise school and teaching environments that will deliver progress for students as well as render the expectations (Linn, Baker, & Betebenner, 2002).

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Performance measurement for school leadership has largely been underrated with little exploration on the qualitative means that would be employed in measuring performance of leaders in these environments. School administrators are leaders with a wide range of responsibilities, including the devising of school culture, which will enhance learning and performance (Johnson, 2009). School leadership resembles that of organization because it is all about leveraging of the available resources including students and workforce (for example teachers). In addition, the delegation of duties among administrators is already evident in schools, thus the reason for incorporation of ideas such as those for decentralized leadership to enhance closer supervision as well as gain other advantages (Bond, 2007). The need for decentralized leadership within school environments will lead to consideration of applying of business and other perspectives in the management of schools. Teacher leaders will need to be mentors and administrators at the same time. The current systems of school management (for example school-based management system (SBM) demand leaders who are aware of the exact mechanisms and methods they can use to leverage on the resources available, so as to have excellent performance at school. In this respect, traditional methods of school administration and leadership will be challenged in future, with increased need to applying management and leadership knowledge for school leadership.

Abridged Lit review

There is no contention in theory that leaders and managers have similar roles with each other. Leadership theories have been explored in literature. In particular, Tannenbaum and Schmidt (2008) have explored four theories that can explain leadership in organizational environment. These theories are also applicable for school environments because they capture leaders and managers in any organizational environments. Four leadership styles that have been looked into include the authoritative, democratic, bureaucratic and Leissez-Faire Style (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 2008). Consideration of school as a different environment (because it really is) is an important step towards the analysis of how leadership can be worked upon, for the purpose of improving student learning environments and improving performance. Such views have been held by the likes of Drake and Roe (1994; cited in Huff, 2006) who warned against borrowing findings from business and other areas for the case of school leadership.

However, relationship between school management and business management may be conceptualized with consideration of such findings as those relating school management to business management (Martinko and Gardener, 1990; cited in Huff, 2006). These researchers found that various factors such as socio-economic status and location affected managerial work for school principals, and that this work was similar to that described by Mintzberg (1973; cited in Huff, 2006) earlier on (“brief, varied, fragmented, and interpersonal” (cited in Huff, 2006; 7). There is no doubt that different learning environments and school environments require specific and different models of leadership to handle them. In addition, leadership at school will be affected by many specific factors that are specific to the environment in which leaders exist and operate, such as culture. In this respect, generalization of research regarding impact of leadership on organization is itself a weakness.

There is need to study leadership for schools while taking into account the specific environments within which leaders operate. The impact of leadership and administration on school performance has also been studied and explored, and the role of leadership provided by such people as school principals, is important consideration because it affects performance (Buckner, 2006). In addition, the need for effective leadership in schools has been identified amidst complex, dynamic, challenging school environment for leaders such as principals and the desire for implementing reforms that are beneficial to school performance (Fullan, 2002) noted. Qualitative (e.g. Marzano & McNurthy, 2003; cited in Day, Pam, Hopkins, Alma, Leithwood, Qing, Eleanor, Elpida & Alison, 2009) and quantitative studies (e.g. Silins & Mulford, 2002; cited in Day, et. al, 2009) support the fact that leadership is detrimental to influencing pupil learning and important if the school is facing challenging circumstances (e.g. Gezi, 1990; cited in Day, et. al, 2009).

There are so many aspects in which schools are similar to the business organizations; they are handling finances with an increasing demand from stakeholders to have these finances effectively utilized for the purpose of developing schools, need for more income generation, as well as need for financial accountability and reporting. Nevertheless, school environments are characterized with complexity that needs to be handled and resolved through the application of efficient leadership styles purposely modelled for them. It is clear that methods through which leadership at school can be analyzed and studied, and methods that can be used to quantitatively determine the impact of leadership in learning performance for the purpose of improvement, are needed in a situation where schools and student performance are becoming of great importance.

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Problem Statement

Effective leadership in the learning environment is required, in order for the learning institutions to easily and competitively identify the expectations among stakeholders for these schools, devise learning environments that go hand in hand with these expectations and deliver these expectations. Management of these new systems will require that school administrators be effective managers and leaders for their school, with a clear understanding of what must be done to effectively utilize these systems for excellent performance at school. It is clear that one of the challenges will be to align these new school management systems with goals for performance. The complexity of the school environment no wonder requires teacher leaders to be

“educational visionaries, institutional and curriculum leaders, assessment experts, disciplinarians, community builders, public relations experts, budget analysts, facility managers, special programs administrators, and expert overseers of legal, contractual, and policy mandates and initiatives” (Davis, Linda, Michelle, & Debra, 2005).

Education sectors have always faced challenges to reform, especially in the political domain, with a focus on increased funding, change of curriculum and increased staffing, yet one aspect that needs to be taken care of now is the application of effective leadership in schools, since it affects performance as any other factors.

Even in the context of reforms for schools that have been advocated in the political arena, leading to such formulations as the NCLB acts, effective and competitive leadership such as from principals is required. This is for the purpose of identifying the need for changes/reforms in curriculum and school systems, propose changes in line with the demands on the ground and support the implementation of these changes (Barth, 2001).

Purpose of the Study

Generally, good leadership in the school environment is linked with school performance. Leadership in school is an important aspect of learning. It affects student and generally, the school performance. A more important question is how it affects learning and performance (student and school), and how it can be used to give good results in learning. Another exploration arena is the impact of leadership in schools in the various environments, with a consideration that leadership is itself influenced by many factors. The intention of this paper is to explore the impact of leadership in Inner City schools in Atlanta, with a consideration that different school and learning environments will require different leadership strategies for excellent performance, and that similar leadership strategies in schools will give different results for different school and learning environments.

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This paper concerns itself with school leadership theories and its application in the inner city school environment. It recommends how school leadership can be used to improve school and student learning environment and performance. The paper concerns itself with the analysis of how leadership in the school environments can be measured and determined for the purposes of improvement.

Research Questions

To what extent has performance been affected by leadership in schools and what is currently being done in inner city schools in this respect? With emphasis on school leadership in literature and the need for effective school leadership, how does school leadership affect performance of students and the school itself? What are the methods employed in the determination of performance in the school environment and what are the assessment methods available for school leadership? What are the various specific factors that apply to inner city schools in Atlanta regarding school leadership and administration and which have impact on leadership in these schools and how can they be handled? How has leadership been affected by these factors?

Methodology

This paper will employ both quantities and qualitative methods of study in analyzing leadership in the learning environment. In addition, the paper utilizes a two-phase sequential mixed method. The purpose of this sequential approach is to explore the impact of leadership in Inner City schools in Atlanta learning environment. Qualitative exploration of the impact of leadership in Inner City schools will be carried in the first phase by collecting primary and secondary data from 45 participants (20 students, teachers and 10 parents with children at these schools) at the Inner City schools in various locations (5 schools). This qualitative approach will bring forward some findings which will be used to test the various research questions mentioned previously (To what extent performance in Inner City schools has been influenced by leadership in these schools? With emphasis on school leadership in literature and the need for effective school leadership, how does school leadership affect performance of students and the school itself? What are the methods employed in the determination of performance in the school environment and what are the assessment methods available for school leadership? What are the various specific factors that apply to leadership of inner city schools in Atlanta and which have impact on leadership in these schools and how can they be handled? How has the factors impacted leadership in these schools?). These findings establish a relationship between school leadership and student performance for the 45 participants (20 students, teachers and 10 parents with children at these schools) at the Inner City schools in various locations (5 schools) in Inner City schools of Atlanta.

Qualitative data has been collected for the purpose of gaining evidence for the existing theory regarding impact of leadership on performance, as well as to study the specific impacts of inner city schools in Atlanta. Various data from different schools will be used to address the question whether various environments will require various leadership models and styles for their betterment and that different factors in the various environment will have different impacts on leadership for that area.

References

Barth, R.S. (2001). Teacher leader. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(4).

Bond, B. (2007). Principals and school resource officers: Defining roles. Principal Leadership, 1(8): 52-55.

Buckner, K. (2006). School Principal: The Role of Elementary and Secondary School Principals, Principal Duties and Responsibilities, Principal Qualifications.

Davis, S., Linda, D., Michelle, L., & Debra, M. (2005). School leadership study: Developing successful principals. Web.

Day, C., Pam, S., Hopkins, D., Alma, H., Leithwood, K., Qing, G., Eleanor, B., Elpida, A., & Alison, K. (2009). The impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes. Web.

Drake, T.L., & Roe, W.H. (1994). The principalship. New York: Macmillan College Publishing Company, Inc.

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Johnson, S. (2009). Improving the school environment to reduce school violence. Journal of School Health, 79 (10): 451-465. Web.

Linn, L., Baker, L., & Betebenner, W. (2002). Accountability systems: Implications of requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Educational Researcher, 31(6): 3–16.

Martinko, J. & Gardner, W. (1990). Structured observation of managerial work: A replication and synthesis. Journal of Management Studies, 27(3): 329-357.

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T. and McNulty, A. (2005). School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results, Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Mintzberg, H. (1973). The Nature of Managerial Work. New York: Harper and Row.

Silins, H. and Mulford, B. (2002) Leadership and school results. In K. Leithwood and P.

Tannenbaum, & Schmidt, W. (2008). How to Choose a Leadership Pattern. Harvard Business Review, 733(23): 123-178.

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