School Structure In A New York City Education Essay
Nature of the Problem
Existing at the forefront of policymakers’ agendas, federal and state lawmakers is an unparalleled sway on student learning throughout the last several decades of education reform. The impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has put more pressure on the public education system to increase student achievement for all students. As it seems unlikely that federal and state legislators’ actions regarding educational reform will change in the near future, it is the responsibility of those at the local level, both those who enact and implement policy, to work within the existing framework to effect positive change. As such, administrators and teachers must work together as instruments of increased school effectiveness.
The NCLB both reflects and reinforces a major shift in thinking about the roles and responsibilities of teachers and principals. As a result, administrators are expected to adjust their leadership focus from a traditional management-orientation to a performance orientation that guarantees high achievement for all students. Although many laud mandates as the road to school improvement, their lack of success through the past three decades clearly requires that a new direction be taken. Scholars in the social sciences propose that the most successful and productive relationships in all avenues of life are built on trust.
Public schools are harried places peopled by teachers who have assumed the responsibility of providing our Owner2009-11-15T20:59:00
Use third person throughout students with those essential skills crucial to future success. Zand, (1997) states that a faculty that exhibits collective trust is more apt to solve problems, clarify goals, exchange accurate information, explore a wider array of possibilities, and demonstrate greater commitment and social cohesion than low-trust groups.
Within some schools, administrators and teachers perform their specialized tasks on their own, without collaborating with one another and ensuring that the school works as a whole. Shared leadership is may be nominal. This system of governance, with its hierarchy, control and division of labor, is highly problematic for several reasons. First, the specialized division of labor means that school administrators and teachers work in isolation from one another. As a result, they do not share vital information with one another, which may be helpful in enabling one another to perform their tasks properly. Risk taking is minimal due to the nature of the school climate. Second, by working on their own, the individual teachers and school administrators are focusing solely on the objectives and goals within their own immediate spheres.
The lack of trust between administrators and faculty results in the inability to collaborate and work as partners to create a highly effective learning environment. The challenge, then, is to transform adversarial relationships to those based on trust, the first step toward effectiveness as well as the foundation of a student-centered learning environment (Palestini,1999).
The purpose of this case study is to understand the experiences that cause impediments to trust between administration and teachers in a New York City high school. At this stage of the research, trust is defined as one party’s willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the confidence that the latter party is (a) benevolent, (b) reliable, (c) competent, (d) honest and (e) open (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 1998; 2000; Hoy & Tarter, 2004).
Background and Significance of the Problem.
There is recent evidence supporting the notion that trust is vital and fundamental to the operation of schools, to the establishment of healthy school climates, to the implementation of reform initiatives, and that it is particularly essential for creating an atmosphere conducive to the education of students (Bryk & Schneider, 2003, Smith, Hoy, & Sweetland, 2001, Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2000). Furthermore, the more enabling the bureaucratic structure of the school, the greater the extent of faculty trust in the principal (Hoy & SweetlandOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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A bureaucratic structure possessing positive collective efficacy beliefs will foster the faculty trust in the administration necessary to enhance and develop increased teacher knowledge and skills. Additionally, another factor in the lack of trust between administrator and teachers is truth spinning. Sweetland andOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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Hoy (2001) hypothesized that the greater the role conflict in a school, the more spinning of the truth in the school. Enabling bureaucracy has been shown to be associated with (a) trust in the principal, absence of role conflict, and truth telling (Hoy & Sweetland, 2001) (b) with teachers’ sense of power, authentic interpersonal relationships among teachers, and (c) open communication between teachers and principal (Sweetland, 2001). Although, teacher honesty is important, it is the major responsibility of administrators to set the stage for trusting relationships. Supportive professional relationships facilitate telling the truth and make it unnecessary, and likely dysfunctional, to spin the truth. (Sweetland & Hoy, 2001).
Deficiencies in the Evidence.
Research has shown that trust among educators lowers the group’s sense of vulnerability as they interact and engage in tasks that are unfamiliar or out of their comfort zone (Hoy & Tarter, 2004). Research on faculty trust within the context of high schools is scant, and studies that explore the factors of perceptions, beliefs and attitudes from teachers and administrators are equally rare. Two high school studies have shown a relationship between academic press and faculty trust in clients that which includesOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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parents and students (Hoy, Smith, & Sweetland, 2002; Smith, Hoy, & Sweetland, 2001). Additionally, there are two high school studies which that investigate and develop enabling bureaucracy into a useful construct and link it with faculty trust in colleagues (Sinden, Hoy, & Sweetland, 2004) and faculty trust in the principal (Hoy & Sweetland, 2001). Particularly lacking is a consideration of a combination of potential predictors such as trust and an enabling bureaucracy on administrators and faculty..
Students, faculty, and others from the outside of the school looking in may see schools in
different ways. In many cases, the school structure will mostly influence what type
of picture, each of these groups of people experience. The different school structure models can be very telling of how well a building functions. It is the leadership within a school that sets up the structures that manage and control the building. How the leadership sets up and controls the structure will greatly influence, if not determine, the building outcomes. The structure of the organization strongly influences the amount of trust in the principal, which results in best teaching practices that result in an effective learning environment.
Trust is a complex concept and its definition has been somewhat illusive. There has been some argument as to whether or not trust can be defined as a psychological or a sociological construct. Lewis and Weigert (1985) stated that, “the primary function of trust is sociological rather than psychological, since individuals would have no occasion or need to trust apart from social relationships. In addition, the “ bases on which trust rests are primarily social as well” (p. 969). On the other hand, Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, and Camerer (1998) state the opposite, in that trust is a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another.
Goddard, Hoy, & Woolfolk (2004) in their groundbreaking study based on the work of Bandura (1981) set out to study a direct link between collective efficacy and student achievement. Building on the body of work by Tschannen-Moran, Wolkfolk-Hoy and Hoy (1998) on teacher efficacy, Goddard et.al. (2004) extrapolate that elements of self-efficacy and teacher efficacy from previous studies can be applied to collective groups at large.
Enabling school structures should be places where professional relations are open (i.e. truthful), collegial, supportive and empowering. Such organizations should have high collective efficacy. Collective efficacy refers to the judgment of teachers in a school that the faculty, as a whole, can organize and execute the courses of action required to have a positive effect on student achievement. Collective efficacy should give teachers purpose, encourage them to plan and take responsibility for student achievement, and foster persistence in teaching in order to overcome temporary setbacks (Bandura, 1993).
This study is grounded in Bandera’s social cognitive theory and self-efficacy which states that a person's belief that he or she can successfully carry "courses of action required to deal with prospective situations containing many ambiguous, unpredictable, and often stressful elements" (Bandura & Schunk, 1981, p.587). Therefore, self-efficacy is a person's belief that they Owner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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have behavioral competence in a particular situation.
Definition of School Structure
Sinden, Hoy, & Sweetland’sOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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(2004) conceptualization of school structure leadOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
Sp to the creation of two types of school structures (a) formalization and (b) centralization. Within these constructs are (a) coercive formalization (b) enabling formalization (c) hindering centralization and (d) enabling centralization.
Formalization. Formalization is the formal system of rules, regulations, procedures, and polices (Sinden et.al, 2004). School principals will demonstrate behaviors and implement policies and procedures that have the effect of establishing a formal decision-making structure within a school.
Coercive formalization. Forces faculties to operate in a hostile environment of top down communication, constant fear of punishment and suspicious mistrusOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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t. Coercive formalization is rules based, hinders two-way communication and punishes subordinates rather than reward productive practices. Hoy and Sweetland (2001) categorize coercive formalization structures as punishing and hindering two-way communication. A coercive structure may erode the faculty’s trust in the principal. If there, is a lack of trust in the principal, this may have a negative impact on teaching performance and may yield a lower level of an effective learning environment (Tschannen-Moran, 2009).
Enabling formalization. There is two way communication, mutual solutions and openness and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities. Enabling formalization also leads the faculty closer to a professional structure. Enabling formalization is flexible, encourages dialogueOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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, and views problems as opportunities to improve. Weick and Sutcliffe (2006) argue that it is the quality, not the quantity, of attention that affects outcomes. Organizational mindfulness is the extent to which teachers and administrators in a school carefully and regularly look for problems, prevent problems from becoming crises, are reluctant to oversimplify events, focus on teaching and learning, are resilient to problems, and defer to expertise (Hoy, Gage III, & Tarter, 2006).
Centralization. Centralization (hierarchy of authority) is the degree to which employees participate in decision-making. In highly centralized organizations, decisions are concentrated at the top and made by a few, whereas organizations with low centralization have the decision- making duties shared by many. High centralization is usually coercive and low centralization enabling (Sinden et.al, 2004; Tschannen-Moran, 2009). What constitutes and promotes shared decision-making is ambiguous. Principals sharing decision-making, has been explored by many authors who have tried to capture its essence (Gronn, 2003; Gronn & Hamilton, 2004; Lyons & Algozzine, 2006; Firestone & Martinez as cited in Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008Owner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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); however, it remains in an era of accountability, that principals are reluctant to share decision-making powers. For example, some research suggests that faculty assuming leadership roles and decision-making abilities produce little results in student achievement (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1999; Marks & Louis, 1997; Smylie, Conley, & Marks, 2002 as cited in Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008).
Enabling centralization. Enabling centralization offers a flexible set of best practices that enables one to deal more effectively with inevitable problems. The more enabling the bureaucratic structure of the school, the greater the extent of faculty trust in the principal (Hoy and Sweetland, 2001). The more enabling the bureaucratic structure of the school, the less the degree of truth spinning in school. Furthermore, Hoy and Sweetland (2001) postulate that better schools are possible and one key ingredient to more effective schools is a school structure that enables participants to do their jobs more creatively, cooperatively and professionally. Additionally, the school structure will influence the degree to which faculty feel empowered. Sweetland and Hoy (2001) conclude by suggesting that faculty empowerment in classroom and institutional decisions can be an important factor enhancing organizational effectiveness and student performance.
Hindering centralization. “Hindering centralization coupled with coercive formalization, are punishment centered, demand conformity and thus are inefficient and ineffective “(Chance & Chance, 2009, p.25). Owner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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Hindering structures makes it difficult for faculty to do their work; it hinders professional activity. Teachers are fearful and do not take risks fearing reprisal and punitive consequences (Daly, 2009; Tschannen-Moran, 2009).
Summary of School Structure
The identification of schools’ primary purpose is essential to understanding how organizational structure supports or inhibits the attainment of fundamental goals. This means that a school’s primary goal is to preserve and reinforce culture. Thus, schools are organizations best suited to the use of normative power, which employs rewards and sanctions related to cultural norms such as honors, praise, and commendations. Such power tends to result in a positive commitment to the organization, which is characterized by a high degree of cooperation between school administrators and teachers.
Definition of Trust
In their seminal article on trust, Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (1999) trace the study and evolution of this concept over the past four decades. Trust is defined as one party’s willingness to be vulnerable to another party based on the confidence that the latter party is (a) benevolent, (b) reliable (c) competent (d) honest and (e) open (Hoy & Tarter, 2004). In addition to these five facets, there are two other components inherent in this definition (a) willingness to risk vulnerability and (b) confidence respectively suggesting that trusting involves an attitude that one chooses in the presence of potential risk and uncertainty (Daly, 2009). Hoy & Tarter (2004) state that, administrator’s foster suspicion when they are unwilling to extend open and forthcoming behavior in their interactions with others. Administrators who attempt repeatedly to create their own reality as fact by truth spinning encounter mistrust from teachers.
Organizational trust. Trust is described as an essential element for organizational health, an element that functions as a lubricant and glue both facilitating and solidifying relationships within organizations (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 1999). Hoy & Tarter (2004) present 10 principals of justice to dissect further the dimensions of justice and their operationalization in a school setting. They found that justice does not exist without trust nor trust without justice. The collegial leadership of the principal is critical in fostering a trusting relationship with the faculty.
Trust in schools. As organizations, some research on the effects of trust in organizations may be applied to schools. Reeves, Emerick & Hirsch (2007) state that, while there are many ways of creating trust in schools, there exist three vital ingredients (a) a shared vision (b) group decision-making and problem solving and (c) school leadership that supports teachers (p.1). A high level of trust improves effectiveness, has consequences for academic outcomes, and significantly effects collaboration among all the parties within schools (Cosner, 2009). Collaboration and trust are reciprocal processes; they depend upon and foster one another (Tschannen Moran, 2009).
Summary on TrustOwner2009-11-15T20:59:00
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What we care about may be things tangible, such as our children or our money, or things intangible such as democracy, or norms of respect and tolerance. Schools reinforce these values for our society, and consequently, the issue of trust is vital in the study of schools. Trust can be seen as a vital resource for school effectiveness. It has been shown that teacher trust in the principal has been linked to school effectiveness (Reeves, Emerick & Hirsch, 2007; Tschannen Moran, 2009). Willingness on the part of leadership to engage in behavior that allows open and honest communication, shared decision-making and consistent concern for the needs and wishes of the faculty and staff can be a key factor in establishing a culture of trust within the school.
With increasing pressure from federal and local mandates, accountability for student achievement is at an all time high. Teachers need to collaborate to optimize both their work and the work of others in order to support high levels of student achievement. The body of research on trust is extensive, but little has been linked to school structure and the effects on teacher efficacy in New York City high schools. The literature reviewed highlights some of the research surrounding trust in schools, school structure and explores studies on teacher efficacy. Findings from the review of the literature provide evidence for the importance of trust and efficacy in the school community. However, some research studies presented in this literature review lacked demographically diverse settings or participants. For example, Cosner (2009) studied 11 principals in the state of Wisconsin and Hoy & Tarter (2004) and Hoy et.al (2006) appear to have used the same samples from the same state. Additionally, in Hoy et.al (2004) random selection of schools did not exist although, there was an attempt to include urban, suburban and rural schools. The authors do not present limitations of their own studies. The strengths include the consistency of the population can be measured over time. Survey instruments used in several studies were tested to address external and internal validity.
Further research in demographic settings that include urban, rural and suburban regions in various states would build on existing research.
1. What do principals perceive to be the greatest impediments to a climate of trust between principal and faculty?
2. What do teachers perceive to be the greatest impediments to a climate of trust between principal and faculty?
3. What do principals perceive to be the best strategies for building a climate of trust between principal and faculty?
4. What do teachers perceive to be the best strategies for building a climate of trust between principal and faculty?
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