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"The most effective schools are led by principals who are equipped with the skills and possess the attitudes required to be exceptional school leaders" (Cheney & Davis, 2011, p. 1).
The principal shortage in the United States has been a major area of concern for the Department of Education for years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (United States Department of Labor, 2007), turnover of principal and assistant principal positions has reached as much as 40% and the retirement rate nearly 66% (National Association of Elementary School Principals [NAESP], 2012). The declining number of principals is paired with the reality of an increasing population growth. This makes the need for qualified principal replacements critical for schools in the US today.
Unfortunately, principal preparation programs are perceived to be inadequate in equipping modern educators with the skills and training needed to be effective administrators (Aarons, 2010). Due to the need to attract more qualified educational leaders and the declining number of potential administrators, district leaders are challenged to come up with principal preparation programs that can develop administrators able to meet the demands of educational leadership. Today's educational landscape requires more accountability from administrators. With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, principals are challenged to practice more accountability through the evidence-based decision-making, innovativeness, teamwork, motivation, and excellent human resource management skills. However, traditional preparation programs have been found wanting in terms of preparing prospective administrators in meeting the challenges of 21st century leadership. As principals are considered to be gatekeepers of student success, principal preparation is a concern that has received wide attention recently. Currently, principal preparation programs can either be traditional or alternative. Traditional principal preparation programs have been derided as too theoretical and disconnected from the realities of today's schools (Hall, 2006). Much of what has been written on principal preparation outline best practices and assessments of existing principal preparation programs and offer prescriptive recommendations on how to improve them, among them strong support for alternative or non-traditional principal preparation programs (Adkins, 2006). There has been little research that compared the effectiveness of traditional preparation programs vis a vis alternative preparation programs and how this has impacted actual principal practices. The purpose of this study is to assess the level of satisfaction that practicing principals perceive of their preparation program and how their traditional or alternative state certification has helped them handle their main administrative responsibilities.
Statement of the Problem
The problem addressed by this paper is the lack of clear understanding on how the type of principal preparation program impacts school leader effectiveness of practicing principals. Principalship brings with it complexities that need to be addressed through the development of innovative and effective preparation programs. Unfortunately, there is little research that demonstrates how type of principal preparation programs lead to effective instructional leadership practice. The disparity between the significant need to pursue successful principal preparation program designs and the lack of academic attention on this subject provide strong rationale for the conduct of this research.
Background and Justification
The significance of the study involves providing information about the perceived level of satisfaction on preparation programs and preparedness of practicing principals in performing administrative work as a result. First, data arising from this research is significant for program directors responsible for designing educational leadership programs that are geared towards producing well-equipped school administrators. The data may be helpful in the assessment and evaluation of principal preparation programs. Second, district leaders may also find assistance from this research when determining what focus areas in professional development need priority. Third, results from this research can inform prospective principals on the most suitable type of preparation program that can help them transition towards successful principalship.
Deficiencies in the Evidence
There is little empirical evidence on the effectiveness of traditional and alternative principal preparation programs in terms of facilitating the effective transition of modern educators towards principalship. Related literature on principal preparation has focused on the weaknesses of traditional preparation programs and has not been able to compare it to non-traditional preparation designs leading to principalship. In light of this visible research gap, this study intends to examine how and whether traditional and alternative preparation programs differ significantly in terms of level of satisfaction of practicing principals who completed state certification from either of these programs.
This research will be beneficial to school administrations, instructional leaders, program directors, and members of the education profession. It is hoped that the study's finding can inform practice and theory in relation to the experiences of the aforementioned audience.
Definition of Terms
The following terms are operationally defined as:
Principalship. This refers to the position occupied by a principal. In this study, the word principal refers to a practicing principal at the time of the study.
Principal Preparation. This refers to a program completed by an aspiring principal towards obtaining a principal licensure. Principal preparation is classified in terms of program type: traditional or alternative principal preparation.
Traditional Preparation Programs. This refers to the customary method of principal licensure including the successful completion of sequenced courses found within a university degree program in addition to an existing master's degree from an accredited institution.
Alternative Preparation Programs. This refers to non-traditional method of obtaining principal licensure which includes completion of courses offered by districts, nonprofits or third-party providers that allow prospective principals to work while they receive their training. These programs may be district-based programs, third-party professional development programs, or partnership programs.
Review of Related Literature
This section reviews relevant literature on principal preparation programs and their effectiveness in helping educators transition towards principalship.
Traditionally, the responsibilities of the school principal were maintaining student safety, managing resources, and performing ceremonial duties (Herrington & Wills, 2005). As the role of the principal has evolved, it has also increased in complexity. The role of the principal has expanded to being an instructional leader, problem solver, resource provider, visionary, and change agent. The evolving role and increasing complexity of responsibilities of the school principal have placed pressure on principal preparatory programs. The inherent need for consistency and improvement in principal preparation led to the development of national standards including the ISSLC and ELCC Standards. These standards are based on the same fundamental principles of educational leadership including vision, culture, management, collaboration, integrity, and context (The State Consortium on Education Leadership, 2008). Education and business leaders are well aware that administrators play a pivotal role in school improvement and must be supported through comprehensive training and development opportunities. However, the current challenges faced by administrators on a day-to-day basis are not easily addressed in preparation and professional development courses alone.
The critical publications and transformation of the principalship led to a call for national standards. The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium formed in 1994 also indicated a need for improvement and consistency within the knowledge base. This need led to the development of the ISLLC Standards in 1996 and revised in 2008, for educational leadership preparation programs. These standards focused on the six key areas for principal certification and evaluation including vision, culture, management, collaboration, integrity, and context (The State Consortium on Education Leadership, 2008). Harris, Ballenger, and Leonard (2004) reported the standards-based movement has led to identification of these specific components of leadership to serve as benchmarks for accountability. This movement has also increased pressure on leadership preparation programs to become more practitioner oriented.
Around 43 states have either adopted or framed for principal licensure requirements the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) (CCSSO, 2008). These standards purport to outline what principals need to know and be able to do (Cray & Miller, 2008). The standards were "designed to serve as a broad set of national guidelies that stats can use as a model for developing or updating their own standards" (CCSSO, 2008, p. 5). The six standards refer to:
Set a widely shared vision of learning;
Develop a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth;
Ensure effective management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment;
Collaborate with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources;
Act with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner; and
Understand, respond to and influence the political, social, legal and cultural contexts (p. 6).
According to an article published by the Levine, the principal preparation programs lack power regardless of the institution offering such programs. The programs were described as too theoretical to prepare the principals for the involving roles at the school. The programs cannot meet the leadership needs for the principals. Hess (2005) wonders how such ineffective programs remain in the curriculum of the learning institutions despite the open criticism on their effectiveness to the leadership of the school heads. He says that it is not logical for the programs to be patched by adding new topics to cater for the changing needs while the program's structures remain the same. The structures can hardly contain the need for new knowledge and skills.
According to Wakeman (2006), learning institutions have conceptualized the deficiencies in the leadership training programs, and there is an attempt to shift the program from the theoretical approach to a more practical approach. This is a result from continuous feedbacks from the school heads on the challenges that the training did not prepare them adequately for the leadership responsibilities. The feedbacks supported greater efforts in the process of integrating the theories and practice. Their suggestions were to connect the theory through expanding the role of the principal and more field experiences.
Within the USA, where principal preparation programs have been in place for decades, there are concerns about their quality. For instance, Kelley and Peterson (2007) argued that the quality and improvement of American public schools are threatened by a crisis in school leadership. They stated that for some time, critics of principal preparation programs have expressed concern about the inadequacies of systems of recruitment, screening, selection, and training of candidates for the principalship. They further found that within the next three to five years a large proportion of principals are expected to retire and the number of quality candidates for those positions appears to be dwindling (Kelley & Peterson, 2007), underscoring the urgency of preparing the next generation of school leaders.
Program Types: Traditional and Alternative
Traditional preparation programs. Data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics indicated that of the average public school principals who were newly hired, 83.5% participated in traditional preparation programs leading to full standard state administrative certification. Approximately 450-500 university programs currently offer principal leadership preparation programs including Master's (472 learning institutions), Specialist's (162 institutions) and Doctoral (472 institutions) degrees. University graduate schools are the primary means for preparing principals and administrators for school and district leadership positions around the nation (Young & Brewer, 2008).
As indicated by data provided by me United States Department of Education (2003), traditional preparation programs lack vision, purpose, and cohesion. The United States Department of Education also reported university students were often required to take classes that were out of synch with actual practice and me needs of a particular school. Hess and Kelley (2005) asserted graduate schools of education lacked the capacity necessary to make anything more than superficial changes to their existing programs and were in no hurry to change their programs. Graduate schools usually do nothing more than hope aspiring principals are prepared for their role in improving curriculum, instruction, and student achievement.
Levine (2005) contended the majority of principal preparation programs range from inadequate to appalling. University programs are "engaged in a counterproductive race to the bottom in which they compete for students by lowering admission standards, watering down coursework and offering faster and less demanding degrees" (p. 1). While not necessarily an advocate of alternative preparation programs, he painted a bleak picture of traditional preparation programs found at universities as they were pressured to increase enrollment and become dependent on leadership preparation programs as a major source of revenue. Consequently, universities have diminished me quality of their programs to increase student enrollment.
Hess and Kelley (2007) examined course units and required readings contained in 210 syllabi collected from a sample of 31 principal preparation programs. Results from their study showed that aspiring principals in today's preparation programs were poorly prepared for the problems facing 21st century schools. In me age of No Child Left Behind, there must be programmatic changes to include courses aimed at improving student achievement. Additionally, tradition programs must include a sound internship with site-based mentoring (Southern Regional Education Board, 2007).
As a rule, university courses found within principal preparation programs have little connection to each other or relevance to the demands and expectations of modern-day administrators. Admission standards are set low and scholarship is poor, mus encouraging those interested in receiving an advanced degree the opportunity to do so with minimal credentials and effort. There is an over-reliance on adjunct faculty, many full-time professors have little or no administrative experience, and those who do tend to have dated experience (Levin, 2005).
Alternative preparation programs. While alternative principal preparation programs vary widely from state to state, six innovative alternative principal preparation programs across me country have been identified by me United States Department of Education and published in me Innovation in Education Series as models (United States Department of Education, 2004). They include the New Jersey Study, me Boston Principal Fellowship Program, the First Ring Leadership Academy, the Leadership Academy and Urban Network for Chicago, the New Leaders for New Schools, and the Principals Excellence Program. As such, they are included in this work to help delineate the framework of alternative programs.
The following research questions will guide this investigation:
What is the level of satisfaction on principal preparation programs from the perspective of practicing principals?
Is there a difference in the level of satisfaction among those who obtained traditional and alternative state certification for principalship?
In light of research questions posed and the reviewed literature, the following are posited:
H1: Practicing principals who completed their licensure through an alternative principal preparation program are more satisfied than those who obtained certification from traditional preparation programs.
In order to answer the research questions and test the proposed hypotheses of the study, a quantitative research design is selected. The quantitative framework is selected due to the nature of the research aim which is to establish the relationship of constructive criticism and employee motivation in an organization. In particular, a survey method is chosen using a modified questionnaire to be administered electronically through SurveyMonkey.com.
A purposive sample of 30 male and female practicing principals in the South Florida school district will be recruited as participants of the study. They will be invited through email and will be sent an explanatory letter to introduce the aims and significance of the study. An informed consent form will also be attached via e-mail. Those who return the e-mail with an approved consent form will be considered final participants of the study.
The instrument used for this study will be a self-constructed survey questionnaire that will be derived from related literature. The instrument will have two parts: the demographic part of the survey and the questionnaire on level of satisfaction. A Likert-type survey will be used, with answers ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
The research will be conducted in a systematic manner and will proceed as follows. Data gathering is scheduled for four weeks. For the first week,sampling will be done in order to come up with a preliminary roster of participants for the survey. E-mails will be sent out to selected prospective participants soliciting their participation and inviting them to approve the informed consent form should they wish to participate. During the second week, returned emails with approved consent forms will make up the final pool of participants. Each participant will be sent an email with an attached link to the online survey via SurveyMonkey.com. For the second and third week, the participants will be given enough time to complete the survey in order to guarantee a high response rate. A follow-up email will be sent out at the beginning of the third week in order to remind the participants to complete the survey. At the end of the third week, all completed surveys will be downloaded from the site and raw data extracted for data analysis. For the fourth week, data analysis and interpretation will begin.
In order to process the data gathered from the electronic survey, the research will use descriptive statistics, a t-test, and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) in order to determine whether a positive association exists between constructive criticism and motivation and to verify whether demographic variables account for association. The SPSS Software version 16 will be used for data analysis.
The strength of this proposed research is on its ability to empirically establish the relationship between constructive criticism reported by subordinates from their managers and the motivation this results to in terms of performance. However, it is also has methodological limitations with respect to the relatively small sample size, the concentration on just one company, and the choice of measures. While quantitative studies can pinpoint associations between variables numerically, they cannot provide an in-depth or complete picture of the phenomenon being investigated.
An approximate period of three months is required to complete the proposed research. Data gathering will take an estimated four weeks.