THE PERSPECTIVES OF NOVICE PRINCIPALS IN HIGH POVERTY, LOW PERFORMING SCHOOLS: CHALLENGES FACED AND SUPPORT NEEDED By CHARMYN M. KIRTON A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTI AL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR TH E DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2014
Â© 2014 Charmyn M. Kirton
This study is dedicated to my mother, the late Zilla Taitt Kirton. There was never a challenge for which she did not find a solution and never a person in need she did not assist. This study is also dedicated to my children, Dr. Lee C. Buddy Jr., and Dr. Cherisse M. Buddy for their love, encouragement and support.
4 ACKNOWLEDGMEN TS I would like to thank God , for giving me the knowledge and strength to complete this dissertation and doctoral program. The peace that you bring to my life every day centers and empowers me. I would like to thank my doctoral committee for their perspec tive, guidance and expertise: Dr. Elizabeth Bondy, committee chairperson this journey would not have been possible without you. Your patience and constant encouragement have calmed my fears and focused my resolve to be successful in this doctoral progra m. You continue to inspire me with your dedication and commitment to disrupt the status quo of racism and inequity and you have strengthened my voice on behalf of marginalized students. You understand my journey better than I understand it myself and I w ill always be indebted to you for helping me to see beyond the wires of my cage. You have nurtured my potential and given wings to my flight. Dr. Ruth McKoy Lowery, your quiet strength is recognized and appreciated. I admire your work, knowledge and exp ertise. I am honored to have you as a member of my doctoral committee. Dr. James Mc l esk e y, you have inspired my journey with the possibilities of school transformation and reform. I am grateful for your expertise, insight and commitment to my doctoral jo urney. Dr. Rose Marie Pringle, I admire your accomplishments, knowledge and expertise. You have guided my journey since I began this doctoral program and I appreciate you. You are my silent mentor.
5 I would also like to thank the team of practitioners in the Education Transformation Office, Miami Dade County Public Schools: To Dr. Pablo Ortiz, Associate Superintendent, my supervisor and friend Your courageous leadership inspire s me. You have trusted my vision and leadership while encouraging my profess ional growth. Thank you for supporting me on this doctoral journey. To the Administrative Directors, my colleagues I learn from you every day and I am grateful to be on this journey of school transformation with you. To the Elementary and K 8 Team of Instructional Supervisors and Curriculum Support Specialists I am in awe of your youthful energy, expertise and passion for the work of school transformation. You work untiringly every day to improve teacher quality and instructional practice on behalf of marginalized students and their families. You continue to inspire my leadership and I am honored to be a part of your journey. To the three novice principals who made this study possible you opened your schools, and gave of your time. I am inspired with your leadership, vision, pride and dedication. I will always be grateful to you for trusting me to tell your story. I want to thank my fellow members of the first CTE cohort. Together we have grown as scholar practitioners and supported each other over the last four years. I am honored to have taken this doctoral journey with you. Our friendships will go beyond the pages of our completed dissertations . I would also like to t hank the members of the Coral Gables Congregational Church for your suppo rt of me as a soloist and as an educator. Pastor Laurie, your insight, strength and leadership continue to empower and inspire me.
6 I would like to thank Dr. Vernon Andrews, my mentor and friend. For over 40 years you have guided my journey with encouragem ent, patience and humor . I share this success with you. I would like to thank my friends: Mariana, Fred and Donald; Ron and Steve; Beverly and Jim; Josef, Greg, Mark, Natasha, Kingsley and Mike . You supported me on this journey and your friendships will always bless and encourage me. I would like to thank my family: To my mother, the late Zilla Taitt Kirton you worked hard and sacrificed much to ensure that I was given every opportunity to be successful in life. You had the vision about who I was to become and you were unwavering in your mission. To Dr. Lee Buddy Sr. You lead the family with a life that is spirit filled and committed. Your academic achievements and accomplishments have inspired us all. To my children Lee Jr. and Cherisse you have taught me so much about myself and have inspired me to work hard and complete this doctoral journey. I am grateful for your support and love. You led the way academically, achieving doctoral degrees in your field of study, however, your greatest ac complishments lies in the lives that you live every day honest, kind, god fearing, and working to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. I am proud of you both and honored to be your mother. I Love You.
7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 9 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY ................................ ................................ ......... 12 Background and Significance of the Problem ................................ ......................... 12 National Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 14 Local Context ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 17 Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 20 Research Questions: ................................ ................................ .............................. 22 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ........................ 22 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ................................ ................................ .................... 24 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 25 Challenges of Urban Schools ................................ ................................ ................. 26 The Evolution of the Role of the School Principal ................................ ................... 28 Practices of Effective Principals ................................ ................................ .............. 31 Effective Leadership Practices in Urban Schools ................................ ................... 36 The Challenges of School Principals ................................ ................................ ...... 37 Principal Prepara tion ................................ ................................ ............................... 41 The Role of District Leaders Supporting Urban Schools ................................ ......... 43 3 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 47 Miami Dade County Public Schools ................................ ................................ ........ 48 Education Transformation Office (ETO) ................................ ................................ .. 49 Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 56 Selection of Participants ................................ ................................ ......................... 57 Description of Participants ................................ ................................ ...................... 59 Method ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 62 Interview 1 Becoming Acquainted: ................................ ................................ 63 Interview 2 The First Year: ................................ ................................ ............ 63 Interview 3 Looking Back and Looking Ahead: ................................ .............. 64 Analysis of Data ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 65 Subjectivity Statement ................................ ................................ ............................ 66 4 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 69
8 The Novice Principals ................................ ................................ ............................. 71 Principal One (P1) ................................ ................................ ............................ 71 Principal Two (P2) ................................ ................................ ............................ 72 Principal Three (P3) ................................ ................................ ......................... 73 The Challenges of Novice Principals ................................ ................................ ...... 73 Resistance from Key Stakeholders: Teachers, Parents and Students ............. 73 Building Partnerships with Key Stakeholders: Parents and Students ............... 80 Trusting District Leaders ................................ ................................ ................... 86 Mentorship Vacuum ................................ ................................ ......................... 88 The Support Needed b y Novice Principals ................................ ............................. 91 Collegial Mentorship ................................ ................................ ......................... 93 Collaborative Mentorship ................................ ................................ .................. 99 Silent Mentorship ................................ ................................ ............................ 100 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 101 5 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 103 C ontributions to the Literature ................................ ................................ ............... 105 Implications for Practice ................................ ................................ ........................ 108 District Leaders ................................ ................................ .............................. 109 Principals ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 11 2 Next Steps ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 116 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 118 APPENDIX A CONSENT LETTER ................................ ................................ .............................. 120 B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................ ................................ .................... 122 C ANALYSIS OF DATA TABLES ................................ ................................ ............. 124 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 128 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 135
9 LIST OF TABLES Table page C 1 Data organized by interview question and participants ................................ ..... 125 C 2 Data organized by research question and participants ................................ ..... 126 C 3 Data orga nized by research question across participants ................................ 127
10 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education THE PERSPECTIVES OF NOVICE PRINCIPALS IN HIGH POVERTY, LOW PERFORMING SCHOOLS: CHALLENGES FACED AND SUPPORT NEEDED By Charmyn M. Kirton August 2014 Chair: Elizabeth Bondy Major: Curriculum and Instruction Across the nation, urban school districts continue to search for solutions in order to transform high poverty, low performing schools. While the literature recognizes the leadership of school principals as pivotal to school transformation initiatives , novice principals in urban distric ts face challenges of poverty, racial dynamics in communities, families that are considered dysfunctional and marginalized, and large numbers of low performing students. District leaders often fail to provide support to these principals to specifically add ress their unique contexts. The one size fits all blanketed support provided is insufficient to support their practice, build their expertise and respond to their challenges. This qualitative study sought to determine the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they face in leading high poverty, low performing schools , and the support they need to be successful . Three novice principals were selected to participate in the study, and data were analyzed following the three interviews that were c onducted with each principal. The findings of the study revealed four main challenges to their work: resistance from key stakeholders such as teachers, parents and students;
11 building partnerships with students and parents; having trust and confidence in di strict leaders, and the existence of a mentorship vacuum. The findings of this study also revealed the importance of novice principals being that they were prepared in th e area of curriculum but lacked expertise in such operational areas as budget and personnel. For the success of their leadership, it is crucial that differentiated support is provided to them through collegial, collaborative, and silent mentorship. The complex and high stakes accountability system that determines the success or failure of novice principals is much more demanding than in years past. It is hoped that the results of this study will enhance the supports provided to novice principals so that they may facilitate increased student learning and success.
12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY School transformation initiatives have focused on improving teacher quality and practice, fostering relationships with community leaders and parents, alloca ting funds for additional personnel, utilizing specific instructional materials and implementing targeted intervention programs. School principals are not only the facilitators of these initiatives, but their role as instructional leaders is pivotal to sc hool transformation efforts (Duke & Salmonowicz, 2010; Fullan, 2007; Leithwood & Strauss, 2009; Levin, 2007; Salmonowicz, 2009; Salmonowicz & Levy, 2009). It is expected that through their leadership, teaching and learning will be improved. However, some principals lack the expertise necessary to increase student achievement, amidst the challenges of poverty, low performance and societal dysfunction in communities. Additionally, school district leaders may not recognize the unique challenges principals fac e and therefore, fail to differentiate support that would specifically address their needs. The one size fits all blanketed support provided by district leaders is insufficient to assist principals in their quest for instructional improvement and student a chievement (Fullan, 2007; Levin, 2007; Peters, 2012). Background and Significance of the Problem Studies have demonstrated that the leadership of school principals has a measurable effect on student achievement and on the quality of instruction in schools (Fullan, 2007; Gentilucci, & Muto, 2007; Ha llinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood, 2005; Leithwood and Strauss, 2009; Theoharis, 2009). In fact it has been stated that principal st udent achievement (Johnson, Walker and Levine, 2010). While school principals play
13 a key role in creating schools that foster the achievement of students, they are also faced with the unrealistic expectations of the public and the ever increasing standards and scrutiny of the federal government, state and district educational systems. In addition, accountability legislation coupled with increased measures of achievement, have targeted individual schools rather than school districts, placing increased pressu re on principals in schools that have been designated as low performing. These principals experience extreme stress as a result of the increasing demands on their personal time, school board and district directives as well as the requirements of new progra ms and initiatives. They are also faced with the possibility of being transferred, losing their jobs or having their schools taken over by the State Department of Education. Many principals have even reported a decrease in their effectiveness and authorit y and have considered quitting their positions. Some have retired early while other potential leaders are concluding that the position of principal is not worth the stress and aggravation (Duke, 1988; Fullan, 2007; Garcia Garduno, Slater, Lopez Gorosave, 2011; Rodriguez, Murakami Ramalho & Ruff, 2009). Despite the frustrations, principals and school districts continue to explore ways to address the challenges of an ever changing society where minority children comprise a large percentage of the population , and where 1 in every 4 are children of immigrants (F irst Focus & Save the Children, 2012). School leaders are not only faced with the challenge of increasing the achievement of a growing population of culturally and linguistically diverse students but m ust explore solutions to the growing gap between the rich and poor, and the unique needs of children that live in poverty. There were moments in the history of America when reformers believed that education would be the
14 remedy for social change and targete d their efforts to improve the challenges of society through schooling (Fullan, 2007; Rury, 2009). It seems that once again, the school and its leaders are considered the panacea for the inequities and social problems that exist in our nation. Therefore i t is against this backdrop of poverty, low achievement, high public expectations, national and state mandates that school principals work to provide a quality education for minority and marginalized students. National Context The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) proposed by President George W. federal programs aimed at improving performance in U.S. schools. This was intended to be accomplished by increasing the standards of accountability for schools as well as increasing the skills of students in reading and mathematics. The Act also provided parents more flexibility in selecting which schools their children should attend. Through annual testing, by which school effect iveness was judged, a timeline for progress was established and specific consequences for failure were imposed. The overall intent of the law was to ensure that students, regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity or disability, attained proficiency i n reading, mathematics and science by 2014. The NCLB requirements included a disaggregation of the data within each state and school by student demographic subgroups. The subgroups included economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, males and females, and major racial and ethnic groups ( Balfanz, Legters, West, Weber, 2007; Caillier, 2007; Gardiner, Canfield Davis & Anderson, 2009; U. S. Department of Education, 2004 ) . Despite the laws that we re enacted, the funding that was established to support the laws, and the training and support given to schools and
15 their leaders, the low achievement of Black and Hispanic students continues to persist as compared to their White peers (Barton & Coley, 200 9; National Assessment of Education Statistics, 2012). Furthermore, the accountability legislation at the federal and state levels brought additional challenges that have impeded student achievement in many urban schools and communities ( Furhman, 1999 as q uoted by Houle, 2006 ) . This was evident in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading assessment that measures the reading and comprehension skills of 4 th grade students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (201 3 ), t here was no statistically significant change in the White Hispanic gap or the White Black gap for Grade 4 students from 2009 to 201 3 . The White Hispanic gap showed a 25 point gap in 2009 , 2011 and 2013 while the White Black score gap showed a 2 5 point gap in 2009 and a 2 6 point gap in 2011 and 2013 . It was further noted that even though the average scale scores across the nation for reading between 2009 and 201 3 increased, Black and Hispanic student scores were significantly lower than those of their White peers. For example, the average scale scores for Whites in reading increased from 229 to 23 2 ; and Blacks and Hispanics from 204 to 207. It should also be noted that in 201 3 , only 2 1 % of White students in 4 th grade performed below the basic level of profi ciency in reading while 5 0 % of Black students and 47 % of Hispanic students performed below the basic level of proficiency. Additionally, 69 % of White students scored above the 75 th percentile in reading while only 6 % of Black students and 12% of Hispanic s tudents scored above the 75 th percentile (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2013 ). In m athematics, even though 4 th grade students scored higher in 201 3 than in any of the previous assessment years, there was still a gap in achievement between
16 Bl ack and Hispanic students as compared with White students. For example, in 201 3 , the average score for White students was 2 50 while the average for Black and Hispanic students was 224 and 2 31 respectively. Additionally, when comparing their proficiency lev els, 9% of White students were below the basic level of proficiency in mathematics while 34% of Black students and 2 7 % of Hispanic students were below the basic level of proficiency (National Center for Education Statistics, 201 3 ). Additionally, 70% of Whi te students scored above the 75 th percentile in mathematics while only 5% of Black students and 12% of Hispanic students scored above the 75 th percentil e. It was further noted in 2013, that 76% of students that were eligible for the National School Lunch P rogram scored below the 25 th percentile in mathematics (National Assessment of Education Progress , 2013). Across the nation, public schools and their leaders are also faced with growing numbers of children and families who live in poverty. In 201 2 , the U. S. Census Bureau reported that 46.5 million Americans were living in poverty. Approximately, one in four children lived in poverty and 24. 4 % of the children were under age 6 . Additionally, 21.8 % of children under 18 were also living in poverty and of thos e children , 18.5 % were White, 33.8 % were Hispanic and 37.9% were Black (U. S. Census Bureau, 2012; National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2012; First Focus & Save the Children, 2012). Additionally, in 2010 2011, out of 49.5 million children enrolled in public school systems, 1.1million were identified as homeless by the U. S. Department of Education (U. S. Census Bureau, 2012). It seems that despite these statistics, g overnment policies are slow to adapt and respond. A
17 children only receive 8% of federal funding , and for every $7.00 spent on senior citizens , only $1.00 is invested in children (First Focus & Save the Children, 2012). The leadership of principals in schools that serve students that are lo w performing and live in poverty is vital. While programs have been established across the country to develop the ir leadership skills , many programs are not situation specific and do not address their diverse and challenging contexts (Duke & Salmonowicz 20 10; Levine, 2005; Peterson, 1986). For example, p rograms such as the National Principals Mentoring Certification Program, a yearlong professional development program that trains current principals to support beginning principals as well as t he New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, California a re just some of the programs geared to provide assistance to new principals. These programs, although valuable, are not designed to be responsive to the situation specific needs of principals. It is evident that transfor m ing high poverty, low performing schools seem to be far more complex and challenging than previously recognized (Fullan, 2007) . Local Context Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) recently engaged in several program s to train aspiring leaders to respon d to the needs of low performing schools. The Florida Turnaround Leaders Program (FTLP) is a collaborative effort between the Florida Department of Education, the Southern Regional Education Board, five local school districts and charter schools statewide. The program is supported by the Race to the Top grant and partners with the University of North Florida and the University of Central Florida. MDCPS has also partnered with the University of Florida in its Florida Master Teacher initiative. This program, currently funded through the Investing in Innovation grant (i3), not only provides job embedded professional development to
18 teachers but enhances the practices of principals through the Principal Fellow Program. Principals are able to attend professional development meetings five times a year to further develop their leadership skills, conduct inquiry projects as well as interact with other principals across the state of Florida. These initiatives to develop the skills of principals are certainly importan t because the data and demographics of the Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) are similar to that of other urban districts in the nation ( National C enter for Education Statistics, 2012 ). In 2013, MDCPS had 355,268 students, 90% of whom were Black or Hispanic and 7% were White. 73% of the students qualified for the free and reduced price lunch program (Miami Dade County Public Schools, 2013). It should also be noted that the poverty among children 18 years old or less in Miami Dade County increased in 2012. In 2010, Miami Dade County reported that 22% of its children were living in poverty while in 2012 there was an increase of 4% to 26%. Additionally, 4,406 students were reported as homeless, the most in all 67 school districts in the State of Florida (Torres, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Despite the challenges, Miami Dade County Public Schools outperformed districts with similar demographics in 2013 , especially on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). For example, the average read ing score of students in 4 th grade in Miami Dade County was 223. This was higher than the average score of 212 for public school students in large cities. However, there is still much work to be done to address the challenges of closing the achievement ga p. When reviewing the 201 3 data from the NAEP, as compared to the data from the same assessment in 20 11 , the average reading scores of White students in 4 th grade in Miami Dade County increased
19 from 221 to 223. However, in 2013, Black students had an avera ge score that was 29 points lower than White students in reading and Hispanic students had an average score that was 13 points lower than White students. Additionally, in 2013, students who were eligible for free and reduced price school lunch, an indicato r of low family income, had an average score that was 23 points lower than students who were not eligible . It was also evident when analyzing the proficiency of the 4 th grade students in reading that White students outperformed Black and Hispanic students. For example, in 2013, 15% of students in 4 th grade performed below the basic level of proficiency, while 46% of Black students and 27% of Hispanic students performed below the basic level of proficiency ( National Center for Education for Education Statis tics, 2013). In mathematics, the average score of 4 th grade students in 2013 was 237 and not significantly different from the average score of 236 in 2011. Additionally, in 2013, Black students had an average score that was 24 points lower than White stud ents and Hispanic students had an average score that was 13 points lower than White students. In 2013, students who were eligible f or free and reduced price school lunch had an average score that was 20 points lower than students who were not eligible. I t was also evident when analyzing the proficiency of the 4 th grade students in mathematics that White students outperformed Black and Hispanic students. For example, in 201 3, only 6% of White students in 4 th grade performed below the basic level of profic iency, while 2 6% of Black students and 18 % of Hispanic students performed below the basic level of proficiency (National Center for Education Statistics, 201 3 ) . Based on the 2012 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test 2.0 for reading, 60% of 4 th graders in Miami Dade County Public Schools were considered proficient. In
20 addition, 79% of White students as compared to 44% of Black students and 62% of Hispanic students were considered proficient. In Mathematics, 62% of 4 th graders were found to be proficient. O f these students, 79% of White students, 47% of Black students and 65% of Hispanic students were considered proficient (Miami Dade County Public Schools, 201 3 ). Purpose of the S tudy In 2009, Miami Dade County Public schools had several persistently low ach ieving D and F schools , and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recognized that it was important to change their trajectory. As a result, the Education Transformat ion Office (ETO) was formed to improve teaching and learning in 19 of the persistently low perfor ming K 12 schools. Servicing poor, disenfranchised Black and Hispanic students, learning , instructional framework of support and change (Education Transformation Office, 2013) . In August 2012, the Education Transformation Office expanded its support to 66 K 12 schools and I was appointed as an administrative director . During that school year, I led the work of improving student achievement in 36 Mi ami Dade County Public e lementary and K 8 schools. However, for the 2013 2014 school year, ETO expanded its services to 108 K 12 schools. My work as the Administrative Director for 68 e lementary and K 8 schools has afforded me the opportunity to improve teacher quality, develop instructional leaders, and expand services for students while increasing parent and community involvement. As I work in these schools, I have had the opportunity to encourage collaborative leadership while implementing stra tegies to foster change. Working with a team of instructional supervisors and c urriculum support specialists, we
21 strive daily to redefine and support the delivery of instruction in the classrooms while seeki ng to address the inequities and debilitating practices that have previously defined these schools. Despite our efforts, it seems that sustained student achievement remains elusive. It is my hope that an improvement in the quality of education will serve a s a catalyst to break the cycle of poverty, inequity and low achievement. This study pivots on the perspective that schools operate in different contexts, and the needs of the leaders in high poverty, low performing schools are unique. The underachievem ent of Black and Hispanic students as compared to their White peers, as well as the challenges of poverty, clearly illustrates the need for strong, supportive and innovative leadership in these schools. During the 2012 2013 school year, several beginning principals replaced veteran principals in the low performing schools of the Education Transformation Office. While the current professional development for principals are well intentioned, due to funding constraints , the large number of schools, and insuff icient district resources , support to novice principals has been limited . As a result, novice principals continue to struggle with effective leadership practices and the implementation of initiatives that would have a positive impact on transforming challe nging schools and increasing student achievement. The challenges they face must be acknowledged, and the support provided to them must go beyond state and district preparation programs, school handbooks and the enforcing of district designed initiatives. Novice principals, defined in this study as principals who have been in their positions for three school years or less, are on a continuum of knowledge and practice. Their needs differ even though the demographics and student performance data of their
22 scho ols may appear similar. While classroom teachers are expected to provide a differentiated approach in their instruction of students, there is a failure to acknowledge a similar differentiation of support for new principals. The practice of district leaders to provide a blanket of support to all principals regardless of their needs and challenges seems to be less than beneficial and does not create the change in student a chievement that is needed. The voices, perceptions and ideas of novice principals are si lenced amidst district designed routines, initiatives and mandates. This study will examine the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they have encountered in leading their high poverty, low performing schools and the support that they per ceive is needed to address these challenges. Their insights will be used to address the support that is presently being provided to enhance the practice of school principals, transform schools and increase student achievement. Research Questions: The fol lowing questions will guide the study: RQ1: What are the challenges experienced by novice elementary principals who lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? RQ2 : What support do novice elementary principals believe they need to address these challenges? Significance of the Study This study will provide policy makers and district leaders a glimpse into the perspectives of principals who lead high poverty, low performing schools. This will encourage and enable school districts to recognize the v alue of moving beyond the one size fits all blanketed support that is currently provided to a more differentiated method of support, tailored to the diverse and compl ex contexts in which principals work. This study will also provide insights to other urban districts that are searching for answers to
23 enhance the leadership of novice principals amidst the demands of accountability, increased poverty and low achievement. It will also increase awareness of the important role of school principals and other stake holders in conversations about school transformation and educational change.
24 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE Urban s chools , characterized by the academic underachievement of Black and Hispanic students, create unique challenges for school districts and t heir leaders. Even though there continues to be a plethora of district designed initiatives and mandates to address the challenges and create change, student achievement continues to be elusive. School principals are considered the leaders who can implem ent and sustain these initiatives, yet their perspectives are rarely solicited. This study will examine the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they h ave encountered in leading high poverty, low performing schools and the support they pe r ceive they need to address the challenges. Their insights will be used to review the support that is presently being provided in order to enhance the ir practice, transform schools and increase student achievement. The following questions will guide the st udy: (1) W hat are the challenges experienced by novice elementary principals who lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? (2) What support do novice elementary principals believe they need to address these challenges? Following the introductio n, the literature will be reviewed to identify the challenges that urban schools face. The literature will then be further reviewed to explore the evolution of the role of the school principal and identify effective leadership p ractices of school principal s . Th e chapter will then explore the challenges that principals face in their leadership ro les followed by a review of principal preparation programs. The chapter will close with a review of the literature that identifies the support provided to urban sch ools by school district leaders.
25 I ntroduction The increasing racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of schools, along with the increasing numbers of families who live in poverty pose challenges for school reform. In addition, while schools have always h ad the responsibility of preparing students for the future, the methods of teaching and learning utilized in the past are proving unproductive to equip students with the knowledge and skill necessary to be successful in a complex global society (Darling Ha mmond, 2010). Darling Hammond (2010) yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have not yet been identified, using technologies that have n educators have had to redefine their knowledge, skills, values and practice in an effort to meet current expectations and standards. Additionally, the increased focus on accountability has impacted their school i mprovement efforts and operational decisions. The task of educating students is even more daunting in urban schools where the challenges that are faced are systemic. Urban communities continue to experience severe economic, fiscal and social challenges and the task of increasing student achievement in these communities are enormous and vastly different from those in affluent suburban neighborhoods. Urban schools are often situated in crime infested, depressed, high poverty communities, which daily threaten the safety, survival and opportunities of students. Parents who live in these communities are faced with limited resources , work multiple jobs and are often unable to be actively supportive of the education of their children. Theirs is a daily struggle t o escape a system that depresses their aspirations, fails to change the trajectory of their lives, or create and sustain positive opportunities for their children. While it is evident that they have high
26 aspirations for their children and have entrusted them to the school system with the expectation that their potential would be valued a nd their opportunities expanded, their ability to assist them outside of the walls of the school house remains a challenge (Foote, 2005; Jackson, 2005 ; Yosso, 2005 ). In fact, these parents are often ridiculed by a school system that blames them for being poor, for not making education a priority , and for Bradshaw, 2006: Yosso, 2005 ). As a result, there continues to be a persis tent search in urban schools for initia tives that will educate parents and have a sustained effect on closing the gaps of achievement and expectation . Challenges of Urban Schools In urban schools, academic success is expected to be accomplished even in classrooms that serve students with multiple languages and needs, wide ranges of ethnic diversity and differing cultures and values. The moving target of success is measured by specific standards, based solely on high stakes standardized tests that most ed ucators have no voice in defining. Urban schools have strengths that go unrecognized, and they seem to be caught in a cycle of failure (Levine, 2005). The s chool buildings are often in disrepair, resembling custodial institutions rather than institutio ns of learning (Haberman, 2000) . T he large numbers of at risk students, drug use, gang affiliation, violence, high student mobility and extreme poverty in these urban schools continue to discourage even the most dedicated teachers as they work to create po sitive relationships and academic success with and for their students (Beachum, McCray & Huang, 2010; Foote, 2005; Jackson, 2005). Classrooms are often overcrowded, and the quality and availability of classroom resources is inadequate (Foote, 2005 ; Jackson , 2005 ).
27 While the management of students often proves to be challenging for teachers and administrators, the students are confronting obstacles as well. With their lives focused on survival in dysfunctional homes and crime ridden neighborhoods , many disc over that they even have to focus on surviving the inequities and low expectations in classrooms that continue to marginalize their existence. Teachers who do not value their knowledge or acknowledge the potency of their cultural differences misinterpret their attitudes and behavior as disruptive, deviant, and insubordinate , and many are suspended, staffed into special education programs, retained or even expelled (Smith & Smith, 2009; Wal d & Losen, 2003) . Education , which has always been viewed as the ins titution that can cure the ills of society , is once again forced to respond to the blatant brutality against the minds and lives of these students. T he task has fallen on school leaders to grapple with the challenges of educating them while fighting agains t low public support , unrealistic standards , and the political machineries of accountability that threaten to derail and de value their efforts and progress . They continue to work tirelessly to dispel the thinking that the failure of these students can be attributed to their inherent limited intellectual abilities, lack of motivation and circumstances (Rury, 2009 ; Valencia, 2013). They work diligently to prepare these students to be resilient in the presence of those who judge them unfavorably and are pois ed to annihilate their dreams and cage them within neighb orhoods of crime and poverty. The leaders of these urban schools are also faced with the hiring and retention of high quality teachers while working to motivate and develop inexperienced teachers (Beachum et al. , 2010; Foote 2005). It has been documented that inexperienced
28 teachers are often assigned to urban schools. Perhaps not surprisingly, they tend to be absent more frequently than experienced teachers and often transfer out of urban schools to schools that are in suburban districts and considered less challenging (Foote, 2005). A s a result , s chool leaders work diligently to overcome the revolving door of teacher turnover and teacher quality while striving to thwart the low expectations and deficit thinking of many who remain (Beachum et al., 2010; Darling Hammond, 2007; Jackson, 2005; Valencia, 2013). School leaders have also explored ways to facilitate academic success while honoring and maintaining the identities and cultures of their st udents. In response, they have been forced to and its offerings while reinventing themselves and their educational beliefs. They have also explored ways of retaining students in their schools with the increased presence of charter schools whose claims of a more comprehensive education have pandered to parental dissatisfaction . It has become obvious to public school leaders that public schools no longer have the monopoly on the education of students , so they must now comp ete for the education pie, to remain a viable option at the table of education. While the strengths of the schools and their leaders have often gone unrecognized by the cynics, school leaders have had to acknowledge their weaknesses and explore ways to dev elop their expertise and enhance their practice. The Evolution of t he R ole of the School Principal The role of the school principal in the early 19 th century was initially that of a teacher and building manager. This teacher and building manager, directed by an off site superintendent, was responsible for the instruction as well as maintaining the building which was usually just a classroom space (Mendels, 2012; Neumerski, 2012;
29 Rousmaniere, 2007). As schools became subdivided by age and achievement, he ad teachers or teaching principals were appointed. There were no job descriptions or legal documents that governed their positions, and many of the head teachers or teaching principals were selected because they were available, wanted the job , or had the mos t seniority in the school. Their job was primarily to maintain discipline and oversee the operation of the classrooms (Neumerski, 2012; Rousmaniere, 2007). In the early 20 th century, the move towards professionalization of the principal became evident as the principal assumed a more supervisory role. Additionally, the school bureaucracy expanded into a system of clerks, assistant principals, and others with non teaching responsibilities. As a result, the principal was required to supervise these individua ls and in most cases was no longer required to teach (Neumerski, 2012; Rousmaniere, 2007). As the role of the principal evolved, the principal was considered an instructional originated in the effective school movement when schools were considered effective if they were able to educate all students, regardless of their family background (Marsh 1997 ; Mendels 2012; Neumerski, 2001 ). Principals, as instruction al leaders, were expected to promote a learning environment that was conducive to student learning by establishing high expectations for student behavior and academic success. Their responsibilities included coordinating the curriculum, promoting quality instruction, evaluating teachers, aligning instructional materials with curriculum goals, allocating instructional time and monitoring student progress. They were also consi dered facilitators of learning, collaborative inquiry, professional dialogue and
30 s chool development (BlasÃ© & BlasÃ©, 1999 ; Mitchell & Castle, 2005 ). The ir goals were centered on student achievement , and principals were considered effective if they were able to articulate the vision and mission of the school to stakeholders both within t he school and in the community (Grissom & Loeb, 2011; Khalifa, 2012; Marsh, 1997 ; Murphy, 1990). Principals were expected to develop a positive culture in their schools, encourage staff collaboration and student engagement, bring in outside resources, and develop strong links between parents and the school. Indeed, principals were responsible for defining and articulating the values, beliefs and cultural tone that gave a school its unique identity (Mitchell & Castle, 2005; Sergiovanni, 20 06) . A U.S. Sena te Committee Report on Equal Educational Opportunity governmental study (as cited by Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005 most important and influential individual in any school . . . It is his leadership t hat sets the tone of the school, the climate for learning, the level of professionalism and morale of teachers and the degree of concern for what s .S. Congress 1970, p.56) This perspective conti nues to be relevant more than 37 years later. It seemed that the view of the principal as an instructional leader waned slightly over the years, replaced by the principal as a strategic planner, setting goals and problem solving ( Mitchell & Castle, 2005). Several shifts in policies a ccounted for this change. For example, with changes in educational policies, many principals seemed to be inundated with managerial tasks and mounds of paperwork. In fact Marsh, 2000 [ as stated by Mitchell and Castle, (2005) ] , indicated that the demands o f the accountability
31 movement forced principals to concentrate on the managerial aspects of meeting accountability requirements , and as a result the reins of instructional leadership were given to teachers and assistant principals . In the current educati onal climate, however, the role of the principal seems to be a combination of the various roles that have been played over the years: instructional leader, manager, strategic planner, communicator and even a servant to the needs of the state, district, sta ff, students and parents (Dyer & Carothers, 2000 ; White Smith, 2012 ). With such an enormous responsibility for school transformation and student achievement , it is important that these school leaders maintain a clear understanding of nd mission and serve as a bridge to connect numerous school reform efforts. While recognizing that innovation and achievement may not be accomplished without dissonance, they must remain steadfast in their efforts even amidst the distractions of the agend as of parents, teachers, other educators and politicians. Practices of Effective P rincipals In a meta analysis of 69 studies conducted from 1978 to 2001 by Marzano, Waters & McNulty (2005), it was found that the leadership of principals has a significant relationship with student achievement. It is therefore important that the effective practices of successful school principals are identified . While teachers must concentrate on the core functions of teaching and learning, the school principal must be a mo tivator and act as a filter to outside distractions, agenda (White Smith, 2012 ; Foote, 2005). creation of reform agendas that will lead to success by all children requires l eaders who can learn from past lessons, heed the findings of current educational research and rely
32 . Therefore, with p assion, a sense of purpose, and fidelity to instructional practice, school leader s must hav e the expertise to move forward the vision and mission of the school . It is expected that through their leaders hip, teaching and learning will be improved. They should be able to encourage working to influence and foster high expectations. T heir role is pivotal t o school transformation (Duke & Salmonowicz, 2010; Fullan, 2007; Leithwood & Riehl, 2005 ; Leithwood & Strauss, 2009; Levin, 2007; Salmonowicz, 2009; Salmonowicz & Levy, 2009 ; Th e Wal lace Foundation, 2012; Theoharis, 2009). It has often been difficult to identify the practices of effective principals due to a lack of data, the ability to isolate the practices , and other variables coupled with the complexity of their work (Grissom & Lo eb, 2011) . Attempting to create a common framework has in some ways overshadowed the research to specifically identify the effective attributes of principals. However, some researchers have identified effective practices of principals and deemed them very important as they relate t o student achievement (Grissom and Loeb, 2011). Utilizing the study of Grissom and Loeb ( 2011 ) as a framework to identify the practices of effective principals , five dimensions of pr incipal leadership have emerged and are suppo rted by other research studies. Grissom and Loeb used the self assessment of principals to identify and isolate five dimensions of principal effectiveness. Instructional m anagement . This dimension was important in the role of principals and included task s such as using data to inform instruction, professional
33 development and evaluation of the programs that support ed and improve d instruction at the school. In this element, principals planned and implemented the professional development activities for thei r staff and they also coached teachers. In the evaluative role, principals evaluated the curriculum, utilized the assessment results to improve the curriculum and instructional practices and provide d instructional feedback. While few principals rated them using data to inform instruction while only 35% gave themselves a similar rating for their ability to plan professional development activities for their teachers. Internal r elations . Building strong interpersonal relations were vital to the work of principals within th e school (Grissom & Loeb, 2011; Leithwood, 1994; Reitzug, West & Angel, 2008). This dimension included working positively with students and staff, resolving conflicts and maintaining positive relations within the school. Additionally, addressing issues o f social justice and working to provide an equitable education for students was vital to the work (Leithwood, 1994). Grissom and , students while This dimension aligned with the relational leadership that Reitzug, West and Angel (2008) alluded to in their study. Relational instructional leadership was vital to an effective prin cipal an d did not usually occur as a result of working directly with the instructional program . Rather it was a result of the principal assisting teachers and students to feel better about themselves, encouraging them to work harder and take
34 more pride in their work. The principals in study were able to articulate the connection between student success and developing positive relationships. Organizational management. In organizational management , the principal oversaw the operation o f the school , and the tasks performed were all geared towards the short and long term goals of the school. This dimension included maintenance of the school facility, managing budgets and resources while maintaining a safe school environment. This dimens ion also included managing people, data and processes to foste r the improvement of the school (The Wallace Foundation, 2012). Ad ministration . R outine administrative work such as managing school records, including attendance related tasks were important to performance and operation of the school. Compliance related tasks, such as reporting and imp lementing standardized tests while maintaining s tudent discipline and supervision , were also integral to this dimension. 68% o f principals reported that they External relations . Building positive relationships with all stakeholders outside of the school were also determined to be vital to the work of principals . It is cru cial for school principals to have a deep understandin g of the community being served and foster a strong relationship between the school, home and other community organizations (Grissom & Loeb, 2011; Khalifa, 2012). Khalifa (2012) stated that , especially urban principals , must move beyond their school walls in order to gain an understanding of the unique social and cultural conditions of their neighborhood communities. In doing so, they may find that grades, behavior, and test scores are not
35 the primary issues at the forefront of community ba (p. 429). Other aspects of this dimension included fund raising, while communicating and working with the district to identify and mobilize resources. It was interesting to note that only 38% of community organizations and only 18% raising activities (Grissom & Loeb, 2011). Other studies identified effective char acteristics and practices of school principals. Collaborative leadership was identified as an effective practice of school principals. For example, Leithwood & Mascall (2008) studied the impact of collaborative leadership on student achievement . They sur veyed principals and teachers in 180 schools within 45 school districts in 9 states and found that principals in higher achieving schools encouraged collaboration among school members and other stakeholders to a greater degree than principals in lower achi eving schools. The principal seemed to be an infinite resource in all schools , and c oll aborative leadership was shown to have significant direct effects on student achievement . In 2010, Hallinger and Heck conducted a study in 192 elementary schools to d etermine whether collaborative leadership impacted initial school performance. Their study with 12,480 grade 3 students focused on r eading achievement by collecting the achievement data websites in years 2, 3, and 4 of the study. Survey s were also given to teachers in years 1, 3 and 4. The study found that while collaborative leadership had indirect effects on rates of growth in student achievement , it had a significant direct effect on the change in a school academic capacity.
36 It is therefore vital that p rincipals recognize the importance of continually developing collaboration among teachers, building their knowledge, skill and practice , and equipping them to work together to meet the current challenges in their schools and in educa tion. Since principal s alone cannot provide the leadership necessary to maximize the instructional potential of their schools , e ffective instructional leadership should also encourage autonomy and collaboration . With so many managerial and leadership deman ds, principals should recognize the importance of solici ting teacher involvement in instructional and operational decisions . When redefining their vision and refocusing their leadership, principals should regard their schools as learning communities plac es where adults and students , through collaboration with each other, are life long learners. As opposed to leadership that is hierarchical in nature, collaborative leadership gives opportunities for the school to benefit from the capacities and expertise of the teachers . Through collaboratively creating professional communities of learning , teachers will be able to explore the challenges of practice and find solutions and research tested theories that would be of benefit to students (Beachum, McCray, Huang , 2010 ; Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Leithwood & Mascall, 2008; The Wallace Foundation, 2012 ) . Effective Leadership P ractices in Urban Schools The context of the school influence s practices of school principals , so the l eadership needed in urban schools is va stly different from leadership that is exhibited in non urban settings . In a study by Marcos, Witmer, Foland, Vouga and Wise (2011), superintendents and assistant superintendents reported that while many principal preparation programs prepared principals for school leadership, these principals were
37 often not prepared for urban settings. It is indeed a challenge for school principals when w orking with a diverse population that includes students who are homeless, live in poverty, are non English speakers, a nd live in single parent homes (Beachum et. al., 2012; Foote, 2005 ; Grissom & Loeb, 2011). Based on the demands of urban schools, researchers have found that the practices of effective principals challenge the status quo and champion change initiatives ( F ullan, 2007 ; Marcos, Witmer, Foland, Vouga & Wise, 2011 ; Marzano, Waters & Mc Nulty, 2005; Tredway, Brill & Hernandez, 2009 ). Effective practices also build more collaborative and democratic arrangements with teachers, district personnel and other stakehol ders in an effort to achieve the challenges of schooling in urban communities and respond effectively to the diverse needs of the students (Beachum et. al. , 2011; Leithwood & Mascall, 2008 ; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005; The Wallace Foundation, 2012 ). F oote (2005) also stated that urban school leaders should work to provide relevant professional development for teachers, decentralize decision making and explore options for retaining high skilled teachers. Additionally, the relationship with outside agen cies and the community is very important must ensure that services provided by the community partners are coordinated and aligned to the instructional program of the school (White Smith, 2012). Overall, the practices of schoo l leaders in urban settings should encourage a comprehensive, authe ntic, coordinated and sustained effort toward increasing student achievement . The C hallenges of S chool P rincipals While it is important to identify the effective practices of s chool princ ipals , it is also important to recognize that they face many challenges, especially as they relate to the accountability system that has been established as a measure of their success.
38 Principals have stated that the ever increasing standards and scrutiny of the federal government, state and district educational systems , which in turn creates unrealistic expectations by the public, has been challenging. For example, in some states, even though t he politics of school accountability are very complex and fluc tuating , many ( Shipps & White, 2009; Stevenson, 2008; Wong & Nicotera, 2007). Such accountability legislation , coupled with increased measures of achievement, ha s often determined the success or f ailure of the principal. Research also shows that principals experience extreme stress as a result of school board and district directives , the requirements of new programs and initiatives and the increasing demands on their personal time. They are also f aced with the possibility of being transferred, losing their jobs or having their schools taken over by the State Department of Education. Additionally, the demands of listening to and addressing the concerns of parents and community members, as well as t eacher and parent organizations wanting more of a voice in school policies, all seem to pull the principal in opposing directions. Principals also find that they are faced with competing with each other for students, competent teachers and resources. It i s no wonder that many principals have considered quitting their positions or retiring early (Duke, 1988 ; Fullan, 2007; Garcia Garduno, Slater, Lopez Gorosave, 2011: Shipps & White, 2009; Rodriguez, Murakami Ramalho & Ruff, 2009 ; Stevenson, 2008 ). While e xperienced and veteran principals find their jobs challenging, it is little surprise that the research shows that novice principals, with less than three years of experience are reporting high levels of stress and facing many challenges as well. Novice pri ncipals reported that they were often appointed to their positions with limited
39 prior experience and lacking expertise in various aspects of the work (Fullan, 2007; Levine, 2005; Spillane & Lee, 2013). While some novice principals previously participated in principal preparation programs, others were assistant principals prior to their appointment or came into the position of principalship from classrooms where they were teachers. Their inadequate preparation for the principalship has been described by Lo novice principals reported that technical challenges such as managing the budget and maintaining the building were difficult since, not only did they have little exposure to these experiences prior to their appointment, but they believed that these issues required knowledge they did not possess. The area of personnel was also a cause for concern as they dealt with ineffective and resistant staff and discovered that support ing or reprimanding these staff members was challenging. They did not believe they were well prepared in managing personnel issues ( Spillane & Lee, 2013; Weindling & Dimmock, 2006). Even though the novice principals brought certain skills, knowledge and experiences to the positions, they often realized that these experiences that had previously shaped their expectations were inadequate for the principal position or were being challenged and changed with the reality of the position (Spillane & Lee, 2013). Spillane and a study conducted by Spillane and ust in the study further reported that they experienced increased stress, sleep loss, physical
40 exhaustion, worry and frustration. They also reported that the long hours, relentless workloads and demands from multiple stakeholders were a challenge (Duke, 1988; Fullan, 2007; Spillane & Lee, 2013; Tredway, Brill & Hernandez, 2009). Previous administrators of the school were among the stakeholders who were considered challenging to the novice principals. The novice principals expressed the difficulty of dealing with the legacy, practices and style of their predecessors and reported resistance by teachers, parents and students to the changes in routines and cultures tha t were previously established (Spillane & Lee, 2013; Weindling & Dimmock, 2006). Principals have also expressed that they have experienced resistance and a lack of support from district leaders . They stated that district requirements and mandates sometimes impeded their progress and they wanted to be released from the constraints imposed by school district s Theoharis, 2009). The principals cited long response times from district personnel as well as a lack of resources and expertise. One principal when speaking of the school itself can be a huge obstacle. I found myself fighting with the Turnaround Group, p. 2). In addition to the challenges already stated, novice principals in urban districts face the additional challenges of poverty, racial dynamics in communities and families that are considered dysfunctional and marginalized. Not only do they have to work with large numbers of low performing students amidst high rates of teacher turnover, but they must also deal with a complex and high stake accountability system that
41 determines their success or failure as principals (Spillane & Lee, 2013). It is therefore important that the preparation for their positions is explored. Principal Preparation M any programs have been established across the country to prepare and develop the leadership skills of school principals . T he National Association of Elemen tary School Principals (NAESP) introduced the Principals Advisory Leadership Services (PALS) Corps, designed to meet the needs of new and experienced school principals. One component of this program was the National Principals Mentoring Certification Prog ram, a yearlong professional development program that trains current principals to guide, nurture and support beginning principals in a quasi apprenticeship experience. The program includes a three day institute and nine month mentoring internship with in depth mentoring practice, monthly chats, professional readings and self reflection projects (Hall, 2008) Additionally, t he New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, California has also created initiatives to assist new principals. This national non profit cent er is designed to improve student learning by developing the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders. Their principal induction program provides training for leadership coaches as well as an on line formative assessment system for novice administ rators. They also provide support for districts in designing and implementing their own programs of (CLASS) workshop works exclusively with selected principals, new and experienced, who are experi encing low student achievement at their schools (New Teache r Center, 2009). Additionally, at the University of Virginia , the Curry School of Education and the Darden Graduate Sc hool of Business Administration joined forces to create the Partnership for Le aders in
42 Education. This program in turn developed the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Programs (VSTSP) to specifically address the needs of low performing schools in Virginia by training specialist principals (Duke & Salmonowicz, 2010). Many princ ipals are also trained through traditional university coursework. Levine ( 2005 ) the report on the education of principals and superintendents. The study included 28 schools and depart ments of education. He found the overall education administration . . . with programs marked by Fullan (2007) q uoted Mintzberg (2004), who stated that principal preparation programs Several principal organizations have been in support of induction programs that inclu de mentoring or coaching for new principals . The California State Department of Education recommended t he use of leadership coaches and t he West Contra Costa School District, an urban school district in northern California, provided external coaches to pri ncipals leading low performance school s . The leadership coaches were used to develop novice principals and provide assistance to them in clarifying their professional goals, reflect ing on their practice and creating systems that were sustainable to increa se student achievement (James Ward & Salcedo Potter, 2011 ). The coaches were selected from individuals who had successful career s as principals, central office administrators and university professors .
43 Although efforts have been made to address the traini ng of aspiring principals, there is still a gap between the curriculum and the job requirements of school principals . The professional development that most school districts provide does not relate to the unique contexts in which these principals work. Th e principals still enter principalship lacking expertise in various aspects of the job (Fullan, 2007; Levine, 2005; Spillane & Lee, 2013). With the challenges that school principals, and novice principals in particular, are experiencing, it is apparent tha t many of these preparation programs are not specific to their diverse , challenging contexts and needs, and additional support is needed after they become principals (Duke & Salmonowicz 2010; Levine, 2005; Peterson, 1986). The Role of District Leaders Supp orting Urban S chools District administrators work in school districts that range in size from fewer than 100 students to large school districts with over 300,000 students (Fullan, 2007). Often in the larger school districts, the schools report to district offices that consist of a bureaucracy of specialists. The school superintendents of these districts are usually appointed by a school board and work to lead the specialists and promote the vision of the schoo l board. The superintendent has the opportuni ty to exercise educational leadership (focus on pedagogy and learning); po litical leadership ( focus on acquiring resources and building coalitions) and managerial leadership ( focus on supervision, planning and support) (Fullan , 2007). The operation of d is trict offices is vital to the school reform process and the success of school leaders. It is important that school districts, with the leadership of their s uperintendents recognize what i s needed to get district wide student success. For example, Togneri and Anderson (2003) in a study conducted by t he Learning First Alliance , identified the
44 policies and practices of five high poverty districts to improve student achievement. The five school districts: 1. Recognized and acknowledged poor performance and explor ed solutions. 2. Focused on improving instruction and student achievement making tough decisions on the allocation of limited resources. 3. Built a system wide framework of instructional support. 4. Encouraged all stakeholders to play a role in the transformation of the schools. 5. Ensured that professional development was relevant to instructional practice. 6. Recognized that school improvement takes time and they did not expect immediate results. With the important role that district leaders play in school transfor mation, it is vital that they are able to reflect on current practices, open to change, and are focused on improving the achievement of students . Too often teachers and school principals are asked to change their knowledge and their practice while district personnel maintain the status quo. Therefore, d istrict leaders should evaluate their work and the practicality and effectiveness of policies, practices and procedures. Without this , the unchanged policies and practices of district leaders will not be ali gned with the work of principals in schools . For example, while principals are called on to be instructional leaders and their presence in the classroom is demanded, the administrative demands on them from district offices are rarely reduced ( Fullan, 2007 ; Jackson, 2005). A different approach to leadership is needed. The literature indicates that d istrict leaders should be willing to change policies and procedures and create new systems to support and align curriculum and instruction. It is also importa nt that they are willing to create programs and professional development sessions that are tailored to the nee ds of school principals. District leaders should also be willing to engage in ongoing communication
45 with school principals and demonstrate respec t for their ideas, experiences and time (Fullan, 2007; Theoharis, 2009). Through identifying the practices of effective principals, the challenges that many principals face in the execution of their jobs, and the role of the district offices in the schoo l transformation process, important background for this study is provided. For school transformation to be a reality it is vital to recognize that schools operate in different contexts , and the needs of the leaders in high poverty, low performing schools are unique. It is also important to recognize that there are many ingrained district practices that are considered of these practices are not in the best interest of increasing and sustaining student ach ievement or addressing the needs of novice principals in high poverty, low performing schools. For example, t of providing a blanket of support to al l principals regardless of the ir needs and challenges does not provide adequate support for principals who work in challenging contexts . The support of principals in these schools, especially novice principals, must go beyond preparation programs, compliance with State mandates and an enforcement of district designed practices. This study will examine the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they have encountered in leading their high poverty, low performing schools and the support that they perceive they need to address these challenges. Their insights will be used t o address the support that is presently being provided in order to enhance the ir practice, transform schools and increase student achievement. As educators , we must have the courage to give voice to the plight of urban schools and the novice principals
46 who strive to bolster and increase the academic performance and opportunities of students.
47 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Across the nation, there have been many initiatives to reform schools and increase st udent achievement. Some school reform efforts have i nclu ded increased standards and regulations, a lengthened school day or year and a changing of core requirements . Other school reform efforts have included a broadening and deepening of the relationship between schools and families, attracting and retaining e ffective teachers, upgrading teacher education and restructuring teacher roles. Despite these reform efforts and the huge sums of money invested, significant gains in student achievement continue to be elusive. Issues such as teacher resistance, fu nding, lack of collaboration and shared meaning among stakeholders, as well as the entrenched practices and policies of school districts, are some of the factors that have impacted the implementation and sustainability of many reform efforts (Fullan, 2007; Theoh arris, 2009 ). School change and transformation is a sociopolitical process that must take into account the perspectives of individuals, classrooms, and schools as well as local, regional and national forces (Fullan, 2007). The development of a shared unde rstanding of school transformation among stakeholders was often not a priority and the initiatives failed, frustrating those who were mandated to implement the strategies. There remains , however, a sense of urgency across school districts to understand th e transformation process and combine meaning and action to achieve continuous improvement in schools. In this chapter, I describe the methodology that was used for a qualitative study that addresses two research questions: (1) what are the challenges expe rienced by
48 novice elementary principals who lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? And (2) w hat support do novice elementary principals perceive they need to address these challenges? First, I provide an introduction to the context of the st udy. Then I will state the purpose of the study followed by a description of the participants and a brief description of the schools they lead . This will be followed by the interview questions as well as some of the challenges that may be encountered in t he interview process. Finally, after stating how the data will be analyzed, this chapter will end with a glimpse into my work as an educator and its potential impact on the findings of the study. Miami Dade County Public Schools Miami Dad e County Public Schools (MDCPS) is a public school district serving Miami Dade County, Florida. Founded in 1885, it is the largest school district in Florida and the southeastern United States, and the fourth largest in the United States. M iami over 400 ,000 students and approximately 44,000 employees, 20, 332 of whom are teachers ( MDCPS District Strategic Plan, 2013). Similar to other school districts , MDCPS has several schools that are persistently low performing and fragile, especially as high stakes testing and state formulas continue to raise the standards of proficiency and achievement . MDCPS continues to work to provide a high quality education that will enable its students to lead productive and fulfilling lives as lifelong learners and re sponsible citizens ( MDCPS District Strategic Plan, 2013). Miami Superintend ent Alberto Carvalho, with a vision of equity and high student achievement , stated , we know it to prepare our students (Carvalho , 2011 ).
49 educational excellence, many schools continue to struggle with implementing and sustaining school reform initiatives. P revious super intendents have worked to change the culture of low performance in the district , but the top down approach of many of these initiatives did little to tap into the beliefs, values and knowledge of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community le aders. For example, in 2004 the School Improvement Zone was the cornerstone of Superintendent Rudolph F. "Rudy" Crew's efforts to reform education in Miami Dade. The 39 schools selected for the School Improvement Zone initiative received intensive support and a special academic program that placed a strong em phasis on literacy. H igh quality teaching materials were utilized and special teams of experts known as Student Development Teams were hired to assist students in gr ades pre k indergarten to second and to boost the reading and writing skills of retained third graders. In the secondary schools, these teams specifically addressed t he needs of students in grades six and nine who were performing two years or more below grade level. Additionally, t o give all students in the School Improvement Zone more time and opportunities to learn, the school day was extended by one hour and the school year by five days (School Improvement Zone, 2007) . S tudent achievement , as indicated by the test scores , did not improve si gnificantly and the funds that were being used to sustain the initiative seemed to place funding constraints on non zone schools. As with other school reform efforts, the School Improvement Zone initiative ended when the Superintendent resigned. Education Transformation Office (ETO) In 2009, Miami Dade County Public schools had 35 D and F schools with 19 of those schools considered persistently low achieving. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho
50 recognized that it was important to take tho se low performing scho ols in another direction and arrest their downward trend in performance . As a result, the Educational Transformation Office (ETO) was formed. Even though many still remembered th e failed efforts of the School Improvement Z one, and viewed this new initiati ve with skepticism, ETO forged ahead armed with a $14 million school improvement grant to address the needs of 19 persistently low performing schools six elementary schools, three middle schools and 10 senior high schools. In 2011, the Education Transfo rmation Office expanded its services to 26 schools , adding three elementary schools, four middle schools, and a n additional $ 6 million dollars. In 2012, Miami Dade County Public Schools expanded the Education Transformation Office to 66 schools, adding 27 elementary schools, 11 middle schools and two senior high school schools, for a total of 36 elementary schools, 18 middle schools and 12 senior high schools. There were 66 schools being served by ETO, with a total population of 47,356 students. Of these students, 65 percent were Black, 32% were Hispanic, 2% were White and 1% comprised students of other ethnicities. With over 93% of the students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch, only 31% of these students scored at proficiency on the 2012 Florid a Comprehensive Assessment Test in reading and 37% scored at proficiency on the 2012 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in mathematics (Education Transformation Office, 2013). Based on the results of the 2013 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, it wa s evident that schools in the district that were not being served by the Education Transformation Office were regressing and struggling academically. As a result, the district created a new system of support and school selection criteria based on a Distri ct
51 Support Formula (DSF). After adding the various components of the school grade and doubling the reading proficiency score, all schools in the district were ranked from lowest to highest. The lowest 25% of schools were then tiered to receive various lev els of support from the Education Transformation Office. For example, all Tier 3 schools would receive intense ETO support, including systems and structures to build teacher and leadership capacity. Tier 2 schools would receive a scaled down model of supp ort from ETO sufficient to build and maintain capacity, while Tier 1 schools would receive closely monitored. All tiered schools however, would be allocated instruction al coaches (Education Transformation Office, 2013). Based on this new tiered support initiative in 2013 2014, ETO supported 108 low performing K 12 schools including 68 elementary and K 8 schools, and 40 middle and senior high schools. While the work of ETO continues to be challenging, it is important to recognize its successes since its inception. In 2009, the 19 low performing schools were C, D and F schools as per the State of Florida grading system. After the 2010 Florida Comprehensive Assessment T est (FCAT) results and one year of support from ETO, there were two A schools, one B school, 12 C schools, four D schools and no F schools. Following the 2012 FCAT, the results of the original 19 schools as per the State of Florida grading system were rev iewed. There were three A schools, three B schools, eight C schools, four D schools and one F school (Education Transformation Office, 2013). The results of the 2013 FCAT also showed that 36% of the 36 ETO elementary schools, maintained or increased readi ng proficiency, 67% increased proficiency in Mathematics while 75% increased proficiency in Science. Additionally, 61% of the 18
52 ETO middle schools increased in reading proficiency and 72% increased in science proficiency. All 18 middle schools maintaine d or increased participation points on the algebra end of course exams and nine of the 18 middle schools maintained or increased in performance points. Of the 12 ETO senior high schools 92% increased in reading proficiency, while all ETO senior high schoo ls increased their passing rates in Algebra, Geometry and Biology. There was also increased participation in Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment and Industry Certification courses by 27 percentage points (51% to 78%) and an increased performance in these c ourses by 21 percentage points (59% to 80%). College Readiness in reading also improved by 26 percentage points (32% to 58%) while Math improved by 8 percentage points (21% to 29%). Finally, the average graduation rate for ETO schools increased to 76% (E ducation Transformation Office, 2013). Many of the successes of the Education Transformation Office (ETO) can be attributed to the efforts of the staff of practitioners who were teachers, instructional coaches, and instructional leaders prior to being hi red by ETO. With a shared vision to performing schools, they began their work with ETO (Education Transformation Office, 2013). All ETO employees previously worked with some measure of success in high poverty schools and had a demonstrated record of improving student achievement. Their main focus was to provide support to schools , building instructional capacity and increasing student achievement. While focusing on developing and implementing a co herent instructional vision and instructional framework, they work to improve teacher quality, to develop
53 instructional leaders, to expand wraparound services for students and to increase p arent and community involvement (Education Transformation Office, 2 013). In an effort to improve teacher quality in the 108 low performing K 12 schools, the Education Transformation Office has placed at every school three or more i nstructional coach es with expertise in reading, mathematics and s cience . P ositive Behavior System (P BS ) coaches were also allocated at selected schools to work with teachers and administrators in developing strategies to ensure positive student behavior. The ETO executive directors, instructional supervisors and curriculum support specialists, with the leadership of administrative directors, recognized that the training of the instructional coaches was vital to the success of the ETO initiative. They coaches every year. Over the three days of the academy , instructional coaches are equipped with strategies and content knowledge to drive the instruction at the ir schools. They also participate understanding of theory and con tent is deepened and their practice is developed . ETO instructional supervisors and curriculum support specialists work with the instructional coaches at the school to implement t he coachi ng cycle with teachers who are in need of support. They also ensure that all professional development activities for teachers are job embedded, specifically related to the needs of the teacher s and the scho ol. With the exception of a one week long summer academy for teachers, all other professional development activities are provided in collaborative planning sessions during the school day or after school, addressing areas of interest and need.
54 In addition to the professional development activities that are provided to instructional coaches and teachers, providing incenti ve bonuses to teachers whose data indicates improvement in student achievement provides motivation towards the goal of achievement. For example, at the end of the 2012 2013 school year, bonuses of $2,000.00 were paid to several teachers in ETO schools . Ho wever, w hile teachers were able to receive bonuses for their efforts, several teachers whose data did not demonstrate increased student achievement after receiving support were involuntarily reassigned to non ETO schools. Another element of improving tea cher quali t y and fostering school reform was the instructional review conducted at all ETO schools three times during the school year. The administration, instructional coaches and ETO practitioners participate in classroom walkthroughs to review instruct ional practices, and analyze data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR), and district interim assessments. Strategies and action steps to increase student achievement are identified duri ng the reviews and documented in implementation plans. These implementation plans are written by the ETO practitioners, working collaboratively with school site administrators and instructional coaches. The progress of the strategies and action steps of t he implementation plans are monitored and the plans updated as needed. The Education Transformation Office (ETO) also works to develop instructional leaders. All principals are on a continuum of knowledge and practice, and it is important to develop and su pport the ir instructional capacity . Professional development activities such as t hink tank sessions and instructional rounds have been implemented, and
55 principals also collaborate as a community of learners focusing on best practices and instructional rigo r. Assistant principals are also expected to work closely with the instructional coaches to facilitate the alignment of the instructional program while encouraging the collaboration of all stakeholders. Therefore, it is important that initiatives to dev elop their instructional capacity were addressed . For example, secondary schools , assistant principals were assigned to specific subject areas, thus enabling them to master the content a nd provide focused support to instructional coaches and teac hers. Secondary assistant principals also attend the monthly Instructional Coaches Academy (iCAD) sessions with their instructional coaches. Elementary a ssistant principals develop their content knowledge and become equipped to provide instructional leade rship in their schools by participating in the monthly Instructional Cohort of Assistant Principals (iCAP) sessions facilitated by the ETO instructional supervisors. In an effort to also develop the instructional capacity of school leaders and provide the necessary experiences to move seamlessly into positions of leadership , ETO created the Project Lead Strong program. This internship initiative for future principals and assistant principals is designed to build their instructional expertise. The particip ants not only attend monthly professional development sessions but are also given the opportunity to participate in a one week summer institute at Harvard University. Assistant principal participants in Project Lead Strong are also assigned a mentor princ ipal and work in schools as resident principals for a semester. In an effort to expand wrap around services for students, many community based organizations have partnered with ETO. For example, mentoring and outreach
56 programs such as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization, Communities in Schools and Diplomas Now have all partnered with ETO to provide mentoring and support services. Additionally, enrichment opportunities are provided to ETO students through the participation of City Year, College Su mmit, and the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program. ETO also strives to strengthen parent and community involvement, and advocacy centers have been established across the county for parents to receive assistance and voice concerns over student progress and school decisions. ETO also focuses on parent academy classes and parent teacher conference times have been extended as needed to accommodate parent schedules. Additionally, an ETO task force, comprised of various community and busine ss leaders, meets in an effort to provide and coordinate services to parents and students. Purpose of the Study Even though the Education Transformation Office has a coherent, aligned and well defined plan to improve teacher quali ty, develop instructional leaders, expand wraparound services for students, and increase parent and community involvement, the challenge of increasing and sustaining student achievement remains . As a result, it is necessary to delve deeper into the practices and needs of the leade rs of these low performing schools. As stated in Chapter 1, studies have shown that the leadership of school principals is pivotal to school transformation efforts and has a measurable effect on student achievement and on the quality of instruction in sch ools (Fullan, 2007; Gentilucci, & Muto, 2007; Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood and Strauss, 2009; Levin, 2007; Theoharis, 2009). Johnson, Walker and Levine, (2010) have also stated that principal and teacher effectiveness account for approximately 60% of
57 impact on student achievement, while in a study by Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005) there was a significant indirect relationship between the leadership of the principals and student achievement. Many novice school principals however, do not have years of experience to guide their work, and seem to lack the expertise to improve teacher quality and increase student achievement in their schools. Leithwood, Bauer and Riedlinger (2006) stated that if administrators are to improve student learning , then ongoing support is needed. There seems to be a failure by school district leaders to recognize the unique challenges of school principals and provide support that is specific to their needs. The one size fits all blanketed support provided by distr ict leaders seems to be insufficient to assist principals in their quest for instructional improvement and student achievement (Fullan, 2007; Levin, 2007; Peters, 2012). This study will examine the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges the y have encountered in leading their high poverty, l ow performing schools and the su pport that they perceive they need to address these challenges. Since school principals play a key role in creating schools and opportunities to foster the achievement of st udents, it is important that their perspectives are explored. Their insights from this study will be used to address the support that is presently being provided to enhance the ir practice, increase student achievement and transform high poverty, low perfor ming schools . Selection of Participants During the 2012 2013 school year, the Education Transformation office (ETO) was comprised of 66 schools. Thirty one of these schools were E lementary (K 5) schools and five were K 8 centers . Among the 36 Elementary and K 8 school principals, nine principals were in their first three years of principalship with five of the
58 nine principals in their first year of principalship. For purposes of this study, novice principals were identified as those within the first three years of principalship. In an effort to understand the challenges novice principals face, principals will be selected from the nine principals who were novice principals during the 2012 2013 school year. The selection of the principals will be based on t he following criteria: 1. Novice principals working in schools in Miami Education Transformation Office. 2. Three years of less as principals of high poverty, low performing schools. 3. Their schools have been labeled as Differentiated A ccountability Schools (DA) by the State of Florida. 4. Comprehensive Achievement Test. 5. The principals must be very engaged in their practice, and eager to discuss their plans for improvement. 6. The principals must be principals of the same school for the 2012 2013 school year and the 2013 2014 school year. 7. Their schools have a student enrollment of over 250 students with 98% or more eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Based o n the criteria, three principals were identified to participate in the study. The Education Transformation Office (ETO) provided support to the schools of the three principals during the 2012 2013 school year. Two schools have worked with ETO for three ye ars , and one school was new to the ETO process in the 2012 2013 school year. The three novice principals have pa rticipated in the ETO principal s meetings and have been supported by the ETO team of Instructional Supervisors and Curriculum Support Speciali sts. However, despite the resources that have been made available to the schools, based on their performance on the 2013 Florida Comprehe nsive Assessment
59 Test, one school receive d a D grade and two schools receive d a n F grade on the State ding system. Description of Participants It was important that the identity of the novice principals was protected to prevent them from experiencing additional challenges to their work for participation in this study. In the interest of confidentiality an d anonymity, several steps were taken. For example, I decided that I would not provide a detailed narrative about each participant and their school. Additionally, I removed their ethnic identities and merged participant descriptors. The first participant was a female principal appointed to her school after working as an assistant principal and reading coach . She holds a degree in Educational Leadership. The school she leads is located in a low socio economic urban co mmunity in Miami Dade County, Florida . For many years the school has served a transient community which is comprised of governmental subsidized housing and some private homes. During the 2012 2013 school year, the school served a po pulation of pre kindergarten through fifth grade students w ith 98 % of the student population identified as economically d isadvantaged and qualified for free and reduced price lunch. The school implements a systematic school wide behavior plan and s tudents across grade levels are provided with rewards and consequen ces in order to promote a positive learning environment. The school is a Differentiated Ac countability (DA) school . The school has implemented s everal parent trainings to allow parents to learn about student programs and school initiatives . Activities suc h as open house, award ceremonies, and Advisory Committee ( EESAC ) ha ve assisted in fostering parental involvement.
60 The second participant was also a female principal and was an Assistant Princ ip al before being selected to become a principal o f an elementary school . She was also a reading coach before becoming an administrator and has a degree in Education Leadership. The school she leads is located in a low socio economic urban community in Mi ami Dade County , Florida. The school has pre k inderga rten through fifth grade with 98% of the students on free and reduced price d lunch. The school also implements a systematic school wide behavior plan where s tudents are provided with rewards and conseque nces in order to promote a positive learning environment. Parental and community involvement have increased in the past years as a direct result of the involvement of the distri p arent academy . School workshops and training allow parents to engage and learn about student programs and school initiatives which result in a positive collaboration between home and school. Several activities such as open house, award ceremonies, and School Advisory Committee ( EESAC ) ha ve a ssisted in fostering parental involvement. The school has also worked diligently to create a partnership with the community , and several counseling agencies and community programs provide services to the students and their parents . The third participant i s a female principal who has a certificate in Educational Leadership. Her school is also located in a low socio economic urban community in Miami Dade County, Florida . T he school has students in pre kindergarten through fifth grade with 98% of the student s qualifying for free and reduced price lunch. The students reside in governmenta l subsidized housing and single family homes where the median income is at or above the poverty level. The school implements a systematic
61 school wide behavior plan. Students across grade levels are provided with rewards and consequences in order to promote a positive learning environment. The school is a Differentiated Accountability school . D espite the past academic performance of the students , the leadership team, in partne rship with stakeholders, has imagined a very different future for students, the school, and the surrounding community . Parental and community involvement have increased in the past years as a direct result of the leadership of the principal and her staff. W orkshops and trainings allow parents to learn about school initiatives and s everal activities such as open house, award ceremonies, and Excellence School Advisory Committee ( EESAC ) ha ve assisted in increasing parental involvement . The school has also worked diligently to create a partnership with the community and o utre ach programs and Dade Partners are actively involved in the school. The three novice principals report directly to the Education Transformation Office and receive instructional and specialists from the Florida Department of Education . They also receive support from other district offices in the school system. However, there appears to be a disparity between the resou rces and support provided and the student performance outcomes. This qualitative study explored the perspectives of the three novices about the challenges they have faced and the support they need to address those challenges. The experiences of the parti cipants were explored in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they perceive to exist in their schools. The data were gathered through three interviews conducted with the selected novice principals. Their
62 experiences have served to gen erate further insights into the challenges novice principals face and the support needed as they lead high poverty, low performing schools. The findings will provide insight for school districts and school principals regarding the support that is needed t o transform low performing, high poverty schools and increase student achievement. Method Interviews provide powerful data because they afford access to the thinking and perceptions of the participants (Fichtman Dana & Yendol Hoppey, 2009). T herefore, t hree semi structured interviews using open ended questions were conducted with participants to collect the data . Capturing the words of these novice principals was important for gaining insights into the challenges of their positions and the support they needed. Prior to the first interview, the participants were given a consent letter to sign and the initial li st of i nterview questions (see Appendices A and B ). The interviews were conducted over a six week period during the months of January 2014 and Febr uary 2014 and each session was approximately 45 minutes . The dialogue was recorded using a tape recorder and the recording app on an IPAD. Additionally, I maintained a journal in which I recorded responses from the participants that needed further clarifi cation. The journal also allowed me to consider questions to be asked in subsequent interviews. Following each interview, I listened to the recording of the interview and with the questions noted in my journal, I was able to ask clarifying questions in s ubsequent interviews. The questions below guide d the interviews, and additional questions were posed in respons
63 Interview 1 Becoming Acquainted : 1. Describe your professional background, including the preparation that you hav e had for your role as principal. 2. Were you working in an Education Transformation Office school prior to your appointment? Please explain. 3. Did your training adequately prepare you for your position? Please explain. 4. Were you a Project Lead Strong particip ant prior to your appointment? If so, did your participation in the program prepare you for your position? Please explain. 5. Describe your school, including the students and staff. 6. What were your first impressions of your school? 7. Tell me a story about one of your first experiences at the school? 8. What do you wish you had known before moving into your position? How would this have helped you? Interview 2 The First Year : 1. What challenges did you encounter as a first year principal at this time? 2. How did you res pond to the challenges? 3. What opportunities did you encounter as a first year principal? 4. How did you respond to those opportunities? 5. Looking back, would you change your response to the challenges/opportunities? If so, how and why? 6. What supports did you rece ive during your first year? From whom did you receive support? 7. What kinds of supports do you wish you had received during your first year? Please explain. 8. Tell me a story from your first year as principal. Make it a story that captures what that year was like for you. 9. What is your advice for novice principals? 10. What is your advice for the supervisors of novice principals?
64 Interview 3 Looking Back and Looking Ahead : 1. As you look back on your first year, what stands out for you? 2. Has your leadership pra ctice changed since your first year? In what ways? 3. How do you account for the changes you have made? 4. What are your short and long term goals for the school as you look ahead? 5. What kinds of support are you receiving from the district this year? 6. What support do you need moving forward to be successful in meeting your goals for the school? 7. What do you wish district administrators understood about your school? 8. Tell me a success story about you and your school. 9. Tell me about a disappointment you have experienced this year. 10. What do you think new principals at schools like yours need to know and do to have success? It was important to minimize the unequal power dynamic between the interviewer and the interviewee so that the participants we re comfortable about expressing their perspectives (Creswell, 2013). The unequal power dynamic posed the greatest challenge because of my supervisory relationship with these principals. It was important to ensure that when interviewing the principals, or when interpreting and reporting the data, I remained conscious of any biases and experiences that I was bringing to this qualitative study. This concept of reflexivity was important as I positioned myself in the writing, recognizing how my experiences wo uld have potentially shaped the findings, interpretations and conclusions. Minimizing unequal power was also vital in the interview process. It was important to allow the participants to be free to express their views. Several strategies were employed to ensure their freedom and comfort during the process.
65 For example , when it was foreseen that a question would be asked that the participants would be hesitant to answer, or when I perceived that they were hesitant to respond to a question, they were imme diately reminded that I was merely the researcher and their responses were confidential . I constantly reminded them that their identity would not be divulged or connected in any way to their responses. Additionally, prior to their consent to participate i n the study, they were given the consent letter that clearly stated that all identifiers would be removed during transcription and the tape erased following transcription . These guidelines have been carefully followed and I have been extra careful to ensu re that all identifiers have been removed when writing the findings of this study . It is also important to note here that the positive rapport that had already been established with the participants seemed to have created a welcoming, non threatening envir onment at each interview session. Analysis of Data The stories of the participants and the commonalities that existed between them were captured and narrated in response to the two major research questions. After the interviews were transcribed, each in terview was read several times to allow me to be immersed in the story of each novice principal . During the reading of each interview, partial sentences or phrases of interest were highlighted and notes were written in the margins of each transcript ident ifying ideas or insights that were beginning to emerge from the data. Three tables were then utilized to condense and analyze the data before beginning to narrate the perspectives of the novices . A sample page from each table is represented in Table C. Ta ble C 1 grouped the responses for each participant by the interv iew questions. For example, this table listed the interv iew question s on the left with column s labeled
66 with the names of the participants across the top ( Table C 1) . The responses of each pa rticipant to the interview questions were placed in the various columns. Many of the responses were paraphrased but care was taken to ensure that the intended meaning was accurately conveyed. As needed, d irect quotations from their responses were also recorded in the table . Table C 2 then noted the responses of each participant as it related to the two major research questions. As questions and responses to similar topics were combined and labeled, this t able identified the inferred themes that emerged from each participant ( Table C 2) . The responses that were not able to be combined and did not relate to the major research questions were still coded and later discarded if they did not address the research questions . Wh ile T ables C 1 and C 2 analyzed the data by part icipant, Table C 3 identified, combined and labeled the common themes that emerged across all three participants ( Table C 3) . The process of identifying and combining the themes across the participants was repeated, further conde nsing and analyzing the data . Following this analysis, the two major research questions of the study were answered in a narrative that best reflected the perspectives of the three novice principals . Subjectivity Statement As an administrative director in t he Education Transformation Office , Miami Dade County Public Schools , I currently lead the work of improving student achievement in its 68 elementary and K 8 schools. My work has afforded me the opportunity to focus on improving teacher quality, increase the capacity of instructional leaders, and expand services for students while increasing parent and community involvement. As I work in these schools, I have had the opportunity to encourage collaborative leadership while implementing strategies to foster initiatives of change. Additionally, my work continues
67 to afford me the opportunity to speak on behalf of students who have been subjected to practices that are not in their best interest and assist teachers who do not expect much from them. Creating a v ision for student success, I continually strive to give voice to their plight, while coordinating programs that support and enhance their achievement. Working with a team of instructional supervisors and curriculum support specialists, I strive daily to re define and support the delivery of instruction in the classrooms while seeking to address the inequities and debilitating practices that have previously defined these schools. It is my belief that an improvement in the quality of education will serve as a catalyst to break the cycle of poverty, inequity and low achievement. Based on my position as an administrative director in the Education Transformation Office and seven years of experience as a principal, I am aware of the biases, values and experiences that I bring to this study. Throughout the data collection process I was aware of my thoughts, emotions or reactions to the responses of the participants. I constantly sought clarification from the participants on their responses, pressing them for detail s so that I did use my own experiences and knowledge to provide meaning to their responses. It should also be noted that since the interviewing of these participants can pose some challenges due to my experience and supervisory relationship, care was take n to ensure that the phrasing of the interview questions would not coerce participants to respond in particular ways. Additionally, so as not to impede my ability to tell their story, I remained mindful to use their words and experiences when writing the narrative. It was important to gain their perspectives and identify their challenges and needs. This study hopes to provide a deeper insight into what was needed to improve the practice of novice principals and increase student
68 achievement while creating s ustainable school transformation in high poverty, low performing schools.
69 CHAPTER 4 FINDING S The accountability movement in our nation has placed increasing pressure on schools and school districts to perform. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB ), based on the assumptions that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals would improve individual outcomes in education, required states to assess determ ined whether the school had taught the students well (Gardiner, Canfield Davis, & Anderson, 2009; U. S. Department of Education, 2004). If the required standards or improvements were not achieved, decreased funding, the stigma of failure, and other punis hments were meted out. In light of NCLB expectations, it became incumbent on school districts, schools and their leaders to ensure that students are learning and performing to a high standard. While much has been done to address school improvement and s tudent achievement, many schools are still not performing to the high standards that are required. School districts continue to implement initiatives in the hopes of changing the trajectory of achievement. Their initiatives include innovative instructiona l strategies and interventions, demotions of administrators, school closings, opening of charter schools, and traditional approaches to professional development for teachers and administrators. School principals are not only the facilitators of many of th ese i nitiatives, but their role as instructional leaders is pivotal to school improvement efforts. They play a key role in fostering the achievement of students, but face the unrealistic expectations of the public and the ever increasing standards and scru tiny of the federal government, state
70 and district educational systems. While i t is easy to look at the effectiveness of the principal, it is vital that district administrators and other educators are able to see the faces, live s , and stories behind the data . I t is important to recognize that schools not only operate in different contexts but the needs of the leaders in high poverty, low perfo rming schools are unique . In 2009, the Education Transformation Office was created to improve teaching and learning in persistently low performing schools in Miami Dade County . Servicing poor, disenfranchised Black and Hispanic students, the Education Transformation Office utilized a unique instructional framework of support to its school s with a coherent, aligned and well defined plan to improve teacher quali ty, develop instructional leaders, expand wraparound services for students and increase parent and community involvement (Education Transformation Office, 2013). Despite their well d efined plan of support, sustained student achievement remains a challenge. As a result, it is necessary to delve deeper into the practices and needs of the leaders of these high poverty, low performing schools and gain a better understanding of the challe nges they face. This study examined the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they have encountered in leading high poverty, low performing schools and the support that they perceived they needed to address the challenges. The following q uestions guided the study: (1) What are the challenges experienced by novice elementary principals who lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? (2) What support do novice elementary principals believe they need to address these challenges? I nterviews were conducted with three novice principals of high poverty,
71 low performing schools in Miami Dade County Public Schools and the data was analyzed. I begin my discussion of the findings by introducing the three principals and their priorities for their schools. The Novice Principals As an administrative director in the Education Transformation Office, I was fortunate to witness the initial appointment of the novices to the principalship . E ven though their schools were designated as low performing o grading system, they were determined to create positive opportunities for their students. I was honored to listen to their stories and sense the drumbeats of passion echoing through their efforts to be advocates for their students and parents. As we discussed their journey, we celebrated their triumphs while acknowledging the disappointments and fears that resonated deeply throughout many of their stories. It was evident though, that their vision for their schools was indelible in their minds and sustained their efforts despite resistance, fears and unrealistic expectations. They were determined that their quality education and a plethora of positive experiences and opportunities for their staff, students and parents. Principal One (P1) ppointed as the principal of an elementar y school and recognized the potential of the school and staff. She believed the school was a believed that
72 that the school did not have efficient management systems or structures in place when she arrived, she knew that she was facing many challenges. After work ing to put structures and systems in place and to refocus the instructional practice of her teachers, she was devastated at the end of the school year when the school received a failing grade from the State of Florida. Principal Two (P2) e that P2 had for her school was evident in all of our that many people in Miami Dade County did not know of the school. Therefore, she decided that it was important positively featured on the news, in newspapers and she was also featured in several school, and was determined to ed ucate her students as well as their parents. She make them partners in the work of the school. It was important to her that the parents because eve n though she knew the positive work that was being done at the school change the trajectory of student achievement but despite her efforts and those of her staff, it was disappointing to her and the faculty that the s chool received the F grade
73 from the State of Florida . With determination, she emphatically stated in response to the gr Principal Three (P3) school by creating rules and expectations for the students, teachers and parents. She also worked to develop their trust, especially after she experienced severe opposition to her changes in the routines and procedures of the school. It was important to her to demonstrate to the teachers and parents that the decisions that she was making were in the best interest of the students. She also expressed her determination to change the failing grade of the school. The C hallenges of N ovice P rincipals As their stories unfolded, it was evident that the principals had pride in their accomplishments, experienced disappointme nts in failed initiatives, and maintained clear priorities as a compass for their leadership. An analysis of the data revealed four main challenges to their work as novice principals: resistance from key stakeholders, building partnerships with key st akeh olders, having trust in district leaders , and the mentorship vacuum. Resistance from Key S takeholders : Teachers, Parents and S tudents was just one fight after another . . of P3 are indicative of the opposition that the novice p rincipals faced to their vision and
74 expectations. Their efforts to disrupt the status quo of chaotic structures and routines, ineffective instru ctional practices that were fostering low performance, and abysmal test scores were met with opposition from teachers, parents and students. While the teachers boldly challenged the new instructional expectations, some of the parents were opposed to the ch ange in administration, and the accompanying changes in the opposing academic and behavioral expectations. She viewed the students as disruptive in the classrooms, confron tational with adults, and resistant to school rules and routines. Teacher resistance. The novice principals were previously trained curriculum leaders, and understood the instructional practices that were necessary to increase student achievement. For ex ample, as a result of experiences with curriculum and pedagogy, she was confident that the curriculum framework and structures she was implementing were necessary and would yield positive results. P1 claimed that the and responded negatively to her expectations for increased rigor in instruction. She was confronted with numerous complaints, high levels of absenteeism, and teachers by their actions, especially and cried to her husband. In fact, on one occasion she told him that she was unable to continue being a principal. Her husband, while being s
75 Prior to becoming a principal, P3 was also a Reading Coach . Sh e was confident in her ability to data and make the necessary instructional changes to focus instruction and increase student achievement. Based on her knowledge and expertise , she believed that disrupting ineffective instruction al practices was necessary. ndicated that they especially after a teacher threatened her family following an unpleasant exchange. She thought were going to be successful. The students who were having difficulty grasping the concepts seemed to be invisible. The teachers fail ed to recognize that many of these students had enter ed the school with limited background knowledge and vocabulary and were deficient in the skills needed to master the grade level curriculum. As a result, they were struggling and failing. P3 was aware t hat the statu s quo of low expectations was breaking the spirits of the children and devaluing their existence. It She found her teac and make the necessary changes alarming, and she was determined to disrupt their too much paperwork, too many administrative mandates, too many disruptive students not
76 trying to explain the reasons why I wanted something done. Every time I made a decision for something to be done, it w as constantly them coming to me, asking why it (P3). Despite the resistance from the teachers, the principals worked every day to inject effective strategies into an emic instructional programs. They remained consistent in their expectations and efforts to redirect the trajectory of poor teaching and student achievement. Despite the resistance, P1 knew it was important to nurture the teachers and assist them in realiz ing high expectations for every student. She nurtured her teachers by demonstrating to them that she believed in their potential and encouraged their collaboration on various decisions that needed to be made. She reported saying to a classroom teacher, you are a leader of the building . . . look for to give her teachers a voice and allow them to work with her to find solutions to the challen ges. Following each meeting, many of their ideas were implemented and the resistance began to be diffused. P1 reported that she now has a connection with her P3 noted that the walls of resistance began to break down when the teachers that teachers began to understand that since the new instructional strategies seemed to ce change . . . I
77 Parent r esistance . Parents were not only initially resistant to the new administrations but also to the accompanying changes in the routines at the sc hools. P3 the changes she was making and called the Parent Advocacy Office with complaints every day. After receiving numerous calls, the parent advocate advised P3 not to make However, P3 was not to be deterred, and in an effort to change the chaos and secure the building, she continued to make the changes she thought necessary. For example, P3 was stunned to observe a parent yell and curse at a second grader whom she believed had bothered her daughter. This further convinced P3 that the established routines that were in place for the arrival and dismissal of her students did not cre ate a e parents and no longer allowed them to roam the building after the arrival bell had sounded. This did not resonate well with the parents, and they responded by challenging other really try to get P1 also experie nced the anger and resistance of many parents and community leaders and believed that her ethnicity was the main cause for their resistance . The school was predominantly Black and s he had a different background and was not raised in or lived in the community . Parents wrote letters expressing dissatisfaction with her appointment and leadership, and s he was faced with
78 many negative comments an d blatant opposition to her work . Parents stated that since her background was different she could not have an understanding of the neighborhood and the people who lived there . P1 expressed that she did not allow the resistance to taint or diminish her pas sion for the work in the school. She cared about the students and the community and knew that she was an integral part of the change that had to be realized. She knew that not to follow through with her commitment would be to actively support and reprodu should ever be a factor and it was, and I think it still is and I think it always will be . . . I but on what I can do to improve the school and work with the k ids . While P1 and P3 candidly expressed their challenges of resistance from the parents, P2 did not voice resistance from teachers or parents as one of her challenges. She seemed to have a different understanding and int erpretation of the actions of her you find yourself sitting with a grandmother who now has two extra children and her food stamps were only supposed to be for her and now she has to feed two new d they need clothes. Tell that kind of Her understanding of her parents and their struggles allowed her to find ways to work with them in spite of their resistance.
79 Student Resistance . Creating that safe haven with the students proved to be a challenge. The principals explained that initially the students did not recogniz described the students as confrontational, defiant and disrespectful to adults and to one were in total control of the teachers, of security, of the staff. We had our hands full with knew how system to their advantage for they realized that if there were an infraction of the rules they would be suspended and sent home. Once home they would be allowed to play and ride their bikes around the neighborhood (P1). The principals realized, however, that these students could no longer be subjected to the exclusionary practices of s uspension that seemed to indicate that they did not have the intelligence, behavior or skills necessary to be successful in regular classrooms. For example, P1 remembered on her first day, walking the hallways and finding at least 24 students outside of th wanted the students out of their classrooms. The principals knew that they had to work with teachers to change the inequitie s and low expectations that marginalized these students. Although challenging, the principals were determined to change the trajectory of student achievement while nurturing them to success. The novices understood that it was important to work with the students. For example, P3 whatever issues this
80 child has , because we might end up encountering this child in the streets someday. So designed pr ograms at the school that would encourage achievement and invest ed in incentives as rewards . For example, not only were students rewarded for being on the honor roll but even students who did not achieve the honor roll were rewarded for demonstrating prog ress. Resistant teachers, parents and students were a significant challenge to the from the stakeholders needed immediate attention for they threatened to derail student learning and erode the influence of the principals in the school and the community. The principals knew they were working with teachers to close the achievement gap, but also working to change the expectation gap. They also recognized that without effecti ve instructional strategies, and a belief in the abilities of the students, it would be impossible to disrupt the trend of low performance in their schools. It was also vital, according to the principals, that the parents and students understood the value of education and the importance of rules and routines in the learning process. Building P artnerships with Key Stakeholders: Parents and S tudents where my kids come from and what the (P1). The three principals acknowledged that if they were going to be successful in meet ing the needs of the ir students, they had to make the necessary changes to create a climate where parents and students were valued, and respected. They recognized that the school could not work in isolation, but needed to build positive partnerships with make parents accountable for thei
81 students and their parents, educating and engaging them in the life of the school, while important, was challenging. Partnerships with parents. The principals acknowledged the importance of developing par tnerships with the parents but also recognized that the negativity of school site personnel to parent partnerships was also a challenge. P2 expressed that status negatively and did not give them an opportunity to be involved in the school. The parents in turn sensed the negativity and felt alienated, refusing to participate in an unwelcoming school environment. In fact, P3 explained that some school personnel believed that they should be the sole decision stance would make it difficult for parents to view the school parent relationship as a workable partnership. The principals recognized that the challenges they were experiencing i n building parents. P1 realized that it would be challenging for her to build partnerships with parents since as an assistant principal she did not have many experience awareness to the challenges ahead of her. She recounted a parent becoming i rate in the office because she believed that the school was not attending to her needs. She then threw her flip flops across the office while expressing many demeaning expletives. P1 recalled another incident of a parent who came to the school to retrieve her blood pressure medicine from her child who had stolen it that morning. P1 explained that she
82 und so that she would not witness what she was going to do to the child. The principal successfully encouraged the parent to leave the premises with the child, but the incident made her realize the challenges ahead of her to understand and build positive partnerships with her parents and students. since everyone in the school had at least one or more degrees, and many parents were illiterate or did not have a high school diploma . As a result, they were often unable to speak knowledgably with teachers and be effective advocates on behalf of their children. the priorities of the school. She recounte d the experiences of picture day at her school. did not make much money the first year. She then decided that she would allow the students to take the pictures dressed in their own clothes and not in their school ng off and stru and even though they had ducation was not their priority. P3 also reiterated the challenge of understanding parents and building positive partnerships with them. Through an u nfortunate incident at the beginning of her
83 building partnerships with the parents would be challenging. She recounted noticing a student with a hole in her shirt and flip flo p sandals on her feet. Thinking that the family needed assistance, she approached the parent and offered assistance. The parent was extremely offended by the offer and instead of the gesture being seen as a positive one for both the principal and the pare nt, it became a negative experience for both. She realized that it was very important to know and understand the parents in order to build positive partnerships with them. P3 also realized that sometimes it took the efforts of another parent to assist in t he building of a positive principal parent relationship. She had a parent in her school who volunteered for many years, lived in the community and was acquainted with many of the parents. P3 recognized that while this parent was volunteering in the schoo l, he was probably taking the opportunity to observe her actions and interactions with the students. She thinks that he was observing how challenging her relationship with the parents was becoming but also noted how dedicated she was to the students and t heir achievements. P3 then observed him quietly having informal conversations with the parents and diffusing many situations for her. While P3 acknowledged that initially she may have caused some friction among the staff and parents, the assistance and in fluence of the volunteer parent enabled her to build positive partnerships with the parents. As previously stated, it was evident that P2 understood the challenges that her parents faced and was a strong proponent of the importance of educating the parent s. In an effort to encourage parental engagement, she planned many events for the parents at her school. Initially, the events were not well attended, but she kept working
84 to establish many more opportunities for engagement and conversation. She believed numerous conferences she held the previous year. Drawing on her own experiences, she was op because you can change the way your family looks, lives, eats . . . you can change opportunities . leadership. Part nerships with students. Building positive relationship with the students amidst their defiance of authority and confrontational attitudes was a challenge. The principals realized, however, that it was important to understand their lives and develop posit ive relationships with them. The principals recognized that many of the students were poor and disenfranchised, lived in foster homes or at homeless shelters, and many were in open cases with the Department of Children and Families. Additionally, these s tudents were forced to survive in neighborhoods where drug dealers carted their wares openly on streets, where gangs and violence existed and false accusations of who they were as minority . P2 noted that the stud ents led hard for education to be a priority if your mom just dropped you off at your
85 T he principals remained determined to build positive relationships with students in order to communicate to them that their lives were valuable They realized that no matter how daunting the challenge to build their confidence and change their negative be haviors, it was important to mold and remediate the students so they would ultimately be productive citizens not only of the school but of society . They were aware that these students could no longer be subjected to the exclusionary practices of suspension . Such practices were a Band Aid on underlying issues and seemed to indicate t hat the students did not have the intelligence, behavior or skills necessary to be successful in regular classrooms. The y no longer wanted the ir academic disengagement to be vie wed as disruptive or defiant . Although challenging, the principals were determined to change the path of student achievement while nurturing them towards success. The principals also recognized that if the students were to become partners with them in the ir learning, they had to have a voice. For example, P1 realized that while their underachievement continued to be a topic of conversation and an increasing challenge , their perspectives often remain ed unsolicited. She believed that if the s tudents were to responsible for their learning it would be pivotal to the implemented, she met with every classroom of students, and explained the new routines for arrival and dismi positive behavior as well as the incentives. The students were allowed to ask questions and express their apprehensions regarding the changes. Additionally, P1 explained that it was just as importan
86 type of attention While the novice principals experienced many challenges in building partnerships with parents and students, they knew that once the partnership was developed it was an important milestone on the journey to increased student achievement. P1 stated t hat As a result, they continued working diligently to build relationships and passionately advocate on behalf of the parents and students. Trusting D istrict L eaders There are enough people vying for my job that if I mess up at the wrong point there are people who are ready . . . piranhas in the water, vultures waiting on you . . . some people wait until you die, but vultures have really gotten quite b nipping (P2). These were tough words from P2, but threaded throughout the conversations with the principals was the fear of be perceived by these principals, that there were people in power who determined their fate, and it was beyond their control to change the decisions. It was their perception that negative comments or parent complaints would be enough to get them replaced. There were several factors that contributed to this fear and insecurity, including the limited number of schools in the district and the eligible candidates who had completed the preparation programs and ha d not yet been assigned to an administrative position. The pool of assistant principals was large and the available positions few. In fact, the district temporarily discontinued the Assistant Principal Preparation Program (AP3) and redesigned the Project Lead Strong program because
87 of the numerous candidates to be placed. As a result, this contributed to the fear of the novices Additionally, in prior years , there were demotions of principals and assistant principals, even within the Education Transformation Office , and the reasons for the demotions remained a mystery to the novices . Throughout our conversations, it was obvious that there was some discomfort when I asked questions regarding the support they received from their supervisors. I continually had to remind the participants that I was simply the researcher collecting the facts, and their identities would be completely anonymous. The fear that these principals were experi encing seemed to make it difficult for them to remain confident and make the tough decisions that the position required. One of the principals expressed how debilitating the fea r was among novice principals. P2 ob in so much fear and thought that This fear also meetings and in other arenas. They perceived th at asking certain questions would lead vulnerable discussions became guarded. The novice princ ipals also perceived that if their thoughts were different from those of the facilitators at meetings, someone might conclude that they were not team
88 players. They believed that the leaders did not really want to hear honest opinions, and these principals were not willing to risk the embarrassment. It was stated that they had experience if they asked a question. She stated that other principals would look at them district leaders could be costly; expressin g divergent perspectives could be interpreted as negativity and a possible reason for demotion. The principals all found support networks where they felt safe receiving the assistance they needed. Their networks consisted of principals who were appointe d to their positions at the same time or principals with whom they had previous relationships. In these networks there was trust; questions were not judged negatively, and the that circle (P2) . Together they worked to help each other master the requirements of the job hidden from the eyes of Mentorship Vacuum It was indeed evident that the three novice principals lacked expertise in various aspects of the job even though they were academically q ualified and prepared for their positions as principals. On review of their academic preparation for the job, two of the three principals were education majors and one principal , although not an education
89 major had certification in teaching and administra tion . Additionally, the novices either Program (AP3). One principal did not participa te in either of the preparation programs but believed that the various positions she held prior to becoming a principal , prepared her for the principalship . All three principals were assistant principals prior to their appointment and credited their leade rship preparations not only to their prior for what it means to be a principal because of the school I was coming from, the principal, just learning from her . . . tha general consensus among the principals, however, was that there was no program that ed to be a principal (P2). As a result, they recognized that they needed a lot of help in their new positions. It was evident that as assistant principals they were mentored by the principals they assisted. However, as principals it was challenging to access information and have questions answered as they related to the operation of their scho ols. There was not a formal vehicle or clearly defined pathway to receive mentorship specific to their needs after they became principals a time when they perhaps needed the most support and assistance. One principal was assigned a mentor by the school district and that was extremely helpful for her; another was assigned a mentor who called one time to introduce herself but did not reach out to her after that initial call. The third principal in the study was not assigned a mentor and had to seek her o wn mentoring relationships.
90 The principals faced challenging experiences that they were not prepared to (P2). They explained that even though they believed themselves to be prepared and who was not assigned a mentor, recounted her experience immediately af ter she was appointed. She stated that the former principal handed over the keys to the school here a re no lights, this is a failing school, her leadership and passion, as well as the rel ationships she had previously developed with other principals. While it was beneficial for the purposes of the study to identify the challenges that the three principals encountered, it is also vital that the reader is aware that these principals did not allow the challenges to negatively impact their leadership, vision and they moved forward to change the trajectory of student achievement. The principals continued to explo re effective leadership strategies to combat the resistance they experienced from teachers, parents and students. They worked strategically to encourage parent and student engagement and to build positive partnerships. While it seemed that the perception s of those in authority were at times negative, the principals continued to work with their supervisors and peers to find solutions to positively impact
91 the instructional programs at their schools. It was also evident that without a system of mentorship, developing expertise in various areas was still a challenge. In this study, the principals were able to express the type of support that they needed to be successful. The S upport N eeded by N ovice P rincipals While an analysis of the value of the preparat ion programs of Miami Dade County Public Schools is beyond the scope of this study, the principals all agreed that even after participating in the preparation programs and assisting veteran principals, they were unprepared for various aspects of the job . The principals explained that after they became principals, it would be helpful to have a vehicle in place to enable them to address aspects of the work where they lacked expertise. When reflecting on the support that they needed as novice principals, they all expressed that the curriculum support they received through the Education Transformation Office was exceptional. curriculum support. However, the operational aspects of the job were where they believed they lacked expertise and needed further support from mentors. For example, P1 further explained that every job she had prior to becoming a principal had always spending many sleepless nights when principal preparation programs. To the novi
92 referred to the ability to develop a good management system, efficiently scheduling and The three princip als reported that they were least prepared in the area of school budget . While there were sessions in the principal preparation program designed to budget. They considered how it was connected wit wanted more support, spec personnel. In fact , she stated that she had to hire a treasurer from another school to teach her Personnel management was another area in which the three principals struggl ed and needed support. P2, for example, would have benefited from additional support when she had to dismiss nine people from her building during her first year. She stated that as an Assistant Principal, she did not receive sufficient training in the ar ea of administrative reviews and writing attendance directives, so the process was
93 challenging for her and she needed assistance. P1 also recounted a situation during the previous year when she had to non reappoint a teacher because of ethical concerns. S lack of knowledge and expertise in this area. Without expertise in the areas of budget and personnel, the novice principals The mentorship vacuum , previously identified in this chapter, continued to challe nge their ability to develop professionally and address the areas in which they were deficient . The three principals expressed the . As P2 stated, u Based on their responses, t hree kinds of mentors hip were identified: collegial mentorship, collaborative mentorship and silent mentorship. Collegial Mentorship Collegial mentorship refers to the mentorship and support that novice principals need from colleagues such as district leaders , and exper ienced principals. The novices viewed these colleagues as experts in various aspects of the work and considered their expertise vital to their ongoing professional growth and support . Although P3 ho ped to find one veteran principal or district leader with expertise in all aspects of the work, the novices recognized that district leaders and expert principals had different areas of expertise. District directors . It is important to reiterate that the three novice principals were complimentary of the support that they received from the directors in the Education
94 Transformation Office . P1 stated, able to tackle a lot of things becaus e of the suppor t from ETO However, t hey initially considered district directors director relationship was nurtured, they found that the directors were responsive to their needs. P2 recounted an emergency situation at her school and she called her ETO director for support. T he much needed assistance. Even thoug h the principals acknowledged that the district leaders were responsive, the y stated that they had to request their assistance. They expressed that s directors . Since the first year was so overwhelming, it was important to the novice principals that their directors made contact with them to find out what support was needed. P3 appreciated her ETO director checking on her in he r first year. She explained that her director knew she was a when she would exp ress to the director that she needed assistance with the budget, he stayed with her and assisted her. When she needed assistance with a parent, the director would set up a meeting. She further explained that since she is no longer
95 The three principals also commented on key quali ties of effective directors. They viewed these qualities as vital for a mentoring relationship. P3, for example, indicated confidence concerns or issues that were shared. For example, P3 recalled that her director handled situations for her and it was great. She recalled his reassuring always made himself available . P3 also expressed that district directors should be emotionally supportive, always assuring novice principals supportive meant tha t the district director was not going to make her feel that she was with the fear and insecurity that they could not ask questions without being judged negatively, it was important to them to have supportive directors. They had witnessed . It ETO vividly r emembered the director arranging for the district budget analyst to meet with her at the school to assist with balancing the budget. She considered th e experience Additionally, P2 was impressed with the district director since she
96 added that in her first year, she worked with one director for all operational aspects of the job and another for curriculum issues. This model of support worked for her b system, which divides various aspects of the work between four directors, does not The principals explained that it was v what it was like to be a novice principal, orrying and thinking about hundred s of P2). By this they meant district directors should Instead, they needed to remember what their first year was like as beginning principals. By remembering the challenges an d fears they experienced during their own first year, from district directors. Ex pert Principals . While it was important for novice principals to have support re aching out to the expert mentor principal and visiting her school, she stated that she
9 7 l and so the way she runs her building was very interesting to me . . . I saw her delegate a lot P3 also indicated that the collegial mentorship of expert principals was powerful thought that having an expert mentor principal was important, because she could get Although the ETO directors were the novices expressed that they did not want to reach out to them principals who had already dealt with similar situations and could give a quick response. It was evident that the novice principals experienced fear and were cautious of calling to the at tention of the directors, and those issues on which they received assistance assis [principals] they valued the expertise and timeliness of response from the other principals, they did The three principals recognized that while mentorship from expert principals was important, mentor principals should be selected based on their expertise. As a result, it
98 was possib le that more than one mentor principal should be assigned to novice principals based on their expertise in the various aspects of the job. For example, P2 selected a mentor who was good at data and curriculum while another of her mentors was good at budge t and personnel. She therefore reached out to principals who had not in schools with a school grade similar to hers, and reached out to expert principals whose schools were demonstrating increased student achievement. Although she was leading princip The three principals were also emphatic that professional development from district personnel who have not worked as principals for many years tended to be more recounted a professional development session on budget the previous year that was facilitate d by expert principals. She stated that the session was valuable because it was the ncipal you
99 Collaborative Mentorship Collaborative mentorship refers to the mentorship that novice principals receive from collaborating going y of the Think Tank sessions that were implemented through the Education Transformation Office and wanted to have more opportunities for similar experiences. Those sessions, facilitated by expert princ ipals, allowed expert and novice principals to collaborate as a community of learners and develop strategies that would foster change efforts in their schools. As . . . Think Tank sessions , they not only discussed the theory behind the strategies but gained insights into strategies and practices that could be implemented in their schools. Since a distrust of some district leaders was one of t he challenges expressed by the principals, it was important for them to find networking opportunities where their ideas and questions could b e voiced and respected. In the Think Tank sessions , they were comfortable expressing their ideas, and sharing thei r practices without fear of being retaliated against or judged negatively for their ideas. the emotional support that novice principals needed. P3, for example, stated that the
100 nerable" and supported (P2). Silent Mentors hip Silent mentorship refers to the mentoring novice principals received by observing aware that they were mentors to novice principals. Nevertheless, their actions were being carefully observed by the principals and were used to chart their professional Silent mentorship was important to the novice principals because they wanted support and guidance in their career decisions. For example, P1 candidly stated that she wanted to be me (the researcher). She stated that she was watching me carefully mentors, was aware of th eir journeys and carefully watching as they maneuvered overcame to attain and maintain t mentors on her professional journey.
101 Conclusion Based on the findings, it is evident that the novice school principals were faced with daunting and unique challenges when leading high poverty, low performing schools. But they were determined to work diligently to increase student achievement. They were faced with resistance from teachers and parents as they worked to change entrenched routines and ineffective instructional practices. They were also challenged by the disruptive and confrontational behaviors of students, and realized that their students did not have a increasing student achievement could not be accomplished without building positive partnerships with their parents and students . Not only was it import ant to educate the parents and make them advocates for their children, but it was vital that parents felt welcomed, and that they trusted their leadership. T he findings also indicate that the novice principals were fearful of being d istrict leaders or demoted from their positions. They cou ithout a formal mentorship program, they found it challenging to receive support in the areas where they lacked expertise such as budget and personnel. Without the assistance of mentors and the demands of the job, If novice principals are to be held accountable for s tudent achievement, then the challenges expressed in this study must be addressed and support provided. The novices expressed not only how much they valued the knowledge of distr ict directors
102 and their desire to glean from their experiences, but they also wanted the opportunity to network with other novice and expert principals. Based on the findings of the study, they considered the principals who were experts in various aspects of the work valuable to their professional growth. These expert principals he lped them build their expertise and enhance career advancement. At the same time, they were able to be vulnerable as they collaborated with other principals. They wanted the school district to make it a priority to provide support to novice principals thro ugh collegial mentorship, collaborative mentorship and silent mentorship. It is vital that district directors and expert principals, who have mastered the art of leadership and school transformation, be given an opportunity to mentor novice principals. S imilarly, novice principals should be given the opportunity to collaborate and work alongside the experts, honing their leadership skills and developing their practice.
103 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Across the nation, there have been many initiatives to trans form low performing schools and increase st udent achievement. Despite the investment made in innovative initiatives, significant gains in student achievement remain elusive . School leaders , the caretakers of school transformation, are at the center of the se initiatives and are not only faced with the challenge of increasing the achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse students , but must explore solutions to close the gaps of achievement and expectation. While many middle class families across the nation are seemingly plummeting i nto poverty, many students in low performing schools are living that life of poverty. Together with their parents , they exist in crime and drug infested neighborhoods, imprisoned by the shackles and consequences of rac ism and poverty . They react negatively to an education system that is sometimes unable to cater to their needs or value their potential and often perceives them as intellectually deficient. Their perspectives on their learning are unsolicited , and their di sruptive and confrontational behaviors are met with suspensions and expulsions . There were moments in the history of America when reformers believed that education was the panacea for social problems, inequities and academic challenges (Fullan, 2009; Rury , 2009). Unfortunately, education has not always proven to be the answer, and is instead blamed for various social problems and the inability to close the achievement gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged (Levine, 2005). While schools have stre ngths that go unrecognized, the accountability movement, with its high stakes tests, has exposed their weaknesses. Therefore, a strong, decisive and
104 immediate response that articulates a clear and focused plan is needed to increase student achievement and change the negative tide of public perception. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, of the Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), has framed his response through the efforts of the Education Transformation Office (ETO). With a mission of equity and increase d student achievem ent , ETO has worked to address the needs of low performing and fragile schools (Education Transformation Office, 2013). In spite of its efforts, sustained student achievement and transformation of all low performing schools have not becom e a reality. Since the leadership of the principals in those schools was vital to their mission of school transformation, it was necessary to delve deeper into the challenges and needs of the leaders of these high poverty, low performing schools in Miami D ade. This study examined the perceptions of novice principals about the challenges they have encountered in leading their high poverty, low performing schools, and the support they perceived they needed to address these challenges. The following questions guided the study: (1) W hat are the perceived challenges experienced by novice elementary principals that lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? (2) W hat support do novice elementary principals perceive they need to address these challenges? Three novice principals were selected to participate in the qualitative study and data were gathered from the three interviews that were conducted with each principal. While every effort was made to reassure the novice principals that I was acting as a r esearcher and would protect their anonymity, I was still their district supervisor. Even though I was confident that I had a positive relationship with each participant prior to beginning the study, it is possible that they may not have been as
105 candid in answering questions that related to the work of the directors of the Education Transformation Office. However, I do believe that sufficient data have been collected to give district leaders insight into the challenges of the novices and the kinds of suppo rt that should be provided to meet their needs. In fact, data analysis revealed four main challenges to their work: resistance from key stakeholders, building partnerships with key stakeholders, having trust in the district leaders and the existence of a mentorship vacuum. Based on the findings of the study, the novice principals expressed the need for through collegial, collaborative, and silent mentorship. Mentorship was important to the novi ces since it was recognized that even after they participated in principal preparation programs, they lacked expertise in various aspects of the job and needed support from district leaders and other principals to be successful . The insights of these novi ce principals will be used to address the support that is presently being provided to novice principals in Miami Dade County Public Schools and in other urban school districts. It is hoped that the results of the study will also enhance the instructional p ractice of the novice principals, build their operational expertise and lead to increased student achievement. Contributions to the Literature many ways the school principal is the most important and influential individual in any school . . . It is hi s leadership that sets the tone of the school, the climate for learning, the level of professionalism and morale of teachers and the degree of concern U. S. Congress, 1970 , p. 56 ). Based on the findings of this stu dy, it is evident that this perspective continues to ring true . The role of principals is indeed pivotal to the efforts of transformation (Duke & Salmonowicz, 2010;
106 Fullan, 2007; Leithwood & Strauss, 2009; Levin, 2007; Salmonowicz, 2009; Salmonowicz & Levy , 2009; Theoharis, 2009). The novice principals in this study stated that their schools were unique , and they faced challenges such as the resistance of teachers, parents and students; building partnership with parents and students; trust and confidence in district leaders and a mentorship vacuum . The challenges they expressed mirrored the findings of previous studies that identified the challenges experienced by novice principals. For example, this study identified the stress that novice principals face d as a result of school board and district directives, the requirements of new programs and initiatives and the possibility of being transferred, losing their jobs or having their schools taken over by the State Department of Education . Additionally, it w as noted that the principals faced resistance to changing instructional practices and routines from teachers, students and parents. These findings were also identified in previously conducted studies. ( Levine, 2005; Shipps & White, 2009; Stevenson, 2008) . Despite the resistance they faced, the principals recognized that it was important to nurture and collaborate with the teachers and build strong relations within the school if their vision of student achievement was to be realized (Grissom & Loeb, 2011 ; Reitzug, West & Angel, 2008). Multiple researchers, (Beachum et al. , 2010; Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Leithwood & Mascall, 2008), have commented on the opportunities for school transformation when there is collaborative leadership as opposed to leadership t hat is hierarchical in nature. The novice principals in this study also recognized the importance of collaborative leadership and worked to encourage this collaboration among teachers and other stakeholders.
107 The three principals perceived that it was impo rtant but challenging to build partnerships with key stakeholders such as parents and students . It was also important to their work to have a deeper understanding of the communities they served and to foster strong relationships with stakeholders (Grissom & Loeb, 2011; Khalifa, 2012). One of the principals was quite empathetic to the challenges of building a positive one or more degrees. While many parents had high hopes for the success of their children, their views on their role in the education of their children were different from those of the school. It was therefore important to the principals to make it a prior ity to develop a positive partnership with the parents, to create a welcoming environment and to educate them to be advocates for their children. Novice principals reported that they were often appointed to t heir positions of principalship with limited pri or experiences , and lacking expertise in various aspects of the work (Fullan, 2007; Levine, 2005; Spillane & Lee, 2013). While they thought they t, they reported that the operational aspects of their jobs, such as managing the budget and personnel , were challenging (Spillane & Lee, 2013; Weindling & Dimmock, 2006). They did not believe that they were well prepared for managing these areas and even r (P3). They noted that even though they participated in principal preparation programs, they did not find the programs adequate to address their specific needs and build their expertise (Duke & Salm onowicz, 2010; Peterson, 1986). For example, in this study, P3
108 presented in the progra m but nevertheless entered the principalship lacking expertise in other critical areas. Based on the literature reviewed and the findings of this study, it is important to p rograms. With the lack of a formal mentoring program after principals were appointed, their inability to perform certain tasks was evident. It is vital then that collegial, collaborative and silent mentorship programs are developed by school districts to provide much needed support. Additionally, the findings demonstrated that novice express their ideas. It is therefore important to their success and professional growt h that they are supported in their work and given opportunities to network and build relationships with district supervisors and other principals. Other researchers have stated that it is important for these principals to continue to challenge the status quo and build more collaborative conversations with district personnel if the diverse needs of students are to be met and increased student achievement is to become a reality (Fullan, 2006; Marzano, Waters & Mc Nulty, 2005; Mascall, 2008; The Wallace Foun dation, 2012). Implications for Practice This study will provide policy makers and district leaders a glimpse into the perspectives of the novice principals who lead high poverty, low performing schools. It will also encourage school districts to recognize the value of moving beyond the one size fits all blanketed support that is currently offered to principals, to a more
109 differentiation of support, tailored to the diverse and complex contexts in which principals work. The study will increase awareness of t he important role of school principals and other stakeholders in conversations about school transformation and educational change. The findings of this study will also be relevant to other urban districts that are exploring ways to enhance the leadership of novice principals amidst the demands of accountability, increased poverty and low achievement. The study conducted with three novice principals who lead high poverty, low performing schools, has made me aware of the challenges they face in increasing s tudent achievement. I realized that there have been many mandates given to them both by the state, district and ETO, yet few district leaders have taken the time to listen to their needs and respond with consistent and ongoing support. While there are hi gh expectations for their leadership, principal preparation programs have been inadequate and have not provided them with the expertise and knowledge needed to enhance their practice. District leaders continue to hand them the keys to their schools with w ell wishes but fail to adequately mentor them after they unlock the doors. The implications of the study will be further articulated as they relate to district leaders, principals, students, and parents. District L eaders District leaders have been percei ). Until a relationship was developed leaders (P2). Some d and many
110 novice principals have been hesitant to voice th eir opinions. The fear of being often debilitating (P2). While they acknowledged that there were some district leaders who wanted to see their principals succeed, it was often difficult to identify the district l eaders they could trust. Based on the lack of trust of district leaders, the novice principals were guarded in their questions and made few contributions to discussions. They perceived that boundaries were silently placed around their thinking , and they were unable to voice their challenges and needs . Instead, they found themselves relying on a group of three or four principals with whom they had previously built relationships and trusted. In that elt safe (P2). They often (P3). It is possible that my colleagues and I in the district office may have for gotten what it were like to be novice principals . As I reflect on my first year as a principal, I do recall the excitement over my appointment, but even though I knew I was ready for the position, I also knew that I lacked expertise in various aspects of the job such as budget and personnel. While I knew tha t my directors were available, I did not want to be had previously developed a relationship, to provide answers to my questions. I also remember the isolation and fear t hat I experienced after being handed the keys and realizing that I was the person in charge of the future of these students and the professional growth of the staff. I recalled my first week on the job and having to prepare for my first summer session. Eve n though the classrooms were ready, the
111 teachers were hired and the student lists prepared, I remember waiting for my director to visit the school and check my work. I needed her to assure me that everything was ready, but she never came. I have since di scussed that experience with her and while she did explain that she knew my capabilities and expected that I was going to be ready, her support at that time would have been reassuring. Based on the findings of this study, and remembering my personal experi ences as a novice principal, I recognize the importance of checking in occasionally with novice principals and offering support and guidance. Novice principals , especially in high poverty, low performing schools operate in unique contexts, and it is import ant that as district leaders we address their needs and allay their fears and frustrations. It is interesting to recall that the areas of budget and personnel were the most operationally challenging for me. These areas were also identified by the novice principals as the areas in which they lacked expertise and needed support. It is vital that the areas of budget and personnel be addressed in the specific contexts of each school and principal. Additionally, it is important to review the principal prepara tion programs to ensure that these and other areas of need are also addressed in detail. The data indicated that while the principals respected the knowledge of district leaders, they also wanted the opportunity to network, collaborate with other principa ls and receive information f . T he principals valued the expertise of principals and were eager to learn them (P3) . During the 2013 2014 school year, a limited number of Thin k Tank sessions were organized by ETO for Elementary and K 8 principals. Even though the sessions were facilitated by principals and received positive feedback, the findings indicate that it
112 is important for ETO to consistently organize monthly sessions wh ere principals can collaborate and share their best practices with each other. The results of the study also demonstrate that it is important for district leaders to establish a mentoring program for novice principals. Implementing a collegial or collab orative mentoring program would provide support from district leaders and expert principals. With the mentorship program implemented, novice principals would be mentored beyond their first day on the job. The principals expressed that rarely does one pers on have the expertise in every area, and they relied on the expertise of several district leaders and principals. Therefore, it is possible that novice principals would be assigned more than one mentor based on their needs and expertise. It is also import ant that the district leaders select mentors carefully, based on their areas of expertise. It can no longer be assumed that all supervisors would be effective mentors. It would be important to review the number of years that district supervisors have been removed from the school site and determine if they possess mentors should also be trained in providing support to the novices and must be held accountable for the supp ort to the novice principals. For example, in the study, P3 expressed that she was provided a mentor; however, the mentor contacted her once to introduce herself and never contacted her again. Therefore, it is important that a system of accountability is established to ensure that the novice principals are receiving the necessary support and expertise to improve their practice. Principals The lack of support principals received, coupled with their limited expertis e in various aspects of the job, left th e novice principals frustrated scared and
113 overwhelmed. With the pressure of state and d istrict mandates, unrealistic public expectations and the demands of high stakes testing , it i s vital that the challenges and the need for support they expresse d are addressed . While they may perceive district directors and other stalwarts of the bureaucracy as (P2), it is crucial that novices use their voice s and positions on behalf of their marginalized students. They must be willing to change and disrupt entrenched and ineffective practices to increase student achievement. They should be confident in their practice and give voice to effect changes to school policies and practices that inhibit their p rofessional growth and preclude students and parents from positive educational opportunities . As P2 declared, the ability to write well, speak well and to hold a conversation with the superintendent and then talk to that grandma with the third grade education . . . everything is about how The findings of this study suggest that principals must develop the art of communication. It is important for principals to communicat e with teachers, parents and students, using their words to break down the walls of resistance and provide inspiration and motivation towards the goal of student achievement. P2 confirmed this when she remain passionate about their work and be able to speak on behalf of their school and its needs. It is also important that novice p rincipals take the initiative to make contact with district leaders or other principals to receive support. While it is still prudent for district
114 leaders to reach out to them, the novices should be bold and aggressive in requesting assistance in spite of any fear and intimidation they may experience . Students . Principals should use their positions to develop the voices of their students while building positive partnerships with them . Studies have shown that when student participation is encouraged, cl assroom and school wide changes occur and student achievement is enhanced (McQuillan, 2005). Additionally, when students are empowered , the underachievement of Black and Hispanic students continue to be a topic of conversation and an increasing challenge for educators nationwide, these students have not been a part of the reform process. Their voices have been silenced and controlled thro ugh discipline policies and the negative stereotypes that falsely define them . Their perspectives remain unsolicited even as they contend daily with perceived deficiencies of their intelligence and discriminatory practices of low expectations from their te achers. Their defiant and confrontational behaviors , which often lead to their suspensions and expulsions, indicate their resistance to a watered down curriculum and ineffective instructional practices that do not meet their needs. The participants of t he study developed strategies to empower their students to be partners in their education while recognizing their schools as a haven . The principals knew that it was important for student voices to be heard and their self esteem developed. In the face of racial profiling and violent attacks against dreams and achievement, principals must work collaboratively with district leaders to take a stand aga inst the forces that dehumanize and disrespect the dignity of students.
115 Principals must valiantly work with teachers to understand and respect diversity and cultural differences and celebrate their identities. Through giving them a voice in their educational journey, educators can provide students the tools and resources necessary to maximi ze their opportunities. This must be a priority for novice principals. Parents . The findings of this study forced me to recognize the challenges that many parents face in changing the academic trajectory of their children. In addition to daily struggle to escape a system that depresses their dreams and makes it difficult to exit the cycle of poverty , they are often blamed for being poor, and targeted and recognizing the importance of the school parent partnership, many s chools do not make it easy for them to volunteer or become involved. While educators profess the importance of parental involvement , our policies and practices send a different message. Based on the princ regardless of their socio economic status and involvement in the schools, parents have high aspirations for their children . Principals and district leaders must have the courage to give voice to the plight of parents and work to educate them to understand and support evelop ing policies that welcome them into our schools may build partnerships that would benefit students. I nstead of focusing on the perceived deficiencies of parents, it is important for educators to become creative in exploring ways to involve them. Similarly, it is vital that principals and district leaders include parents in defining the meaning of parent engagement. Too often educators call for engageme nt and partnerships but are resistant when parents become involved.
116 Therefore it is vital that principals, their staff and the families share an understanding of their expectations for one another and for the ways parents will work in partnership with sch ools. Next Steps As an administrative director in the Education Transformation Office of Miami Dade County Public Schools, I have been given the opportunity to lead the work of improving student achievement in its 68 Elementary and K 8 schools. This job has been challenging but rewarding and has reinforced my belief that improvement in the quality of education will serve as a vehicl e to break the cycle of poverty and increase student achievement. As a district leader, I have always strived to encourage collaborative leadership while implementing strategies to create initiatives of change. While I recognize that the leadership of principals is pivotal to school transformation, based on the findings of the study, I am aware that I must work more closely w ith novice principals to find solutions that will close the gaps of achievement and expectation. The study has made me realize that my practice has been insufficient to support the practice of novice principals , and I must become the liaison between the no vices and district leaders , a rticulating their challenges and telling their stories. While I recognize that my colleagues in the Education Transformation Office work diligently to provide support to principals, it will be important for us to re evaluate o ur support to novice principals. Not only do we have the findings of this study and the perceptions of the novice principals to guide our work, but we have our own experiences as well. The high stakes of the accountability movement are so much more demand ing of novice principals than in years past, so it is vital that the findings of this study impact our future practice so that it will impact theirs.
117 The findings of the study indicated that collaboration among the principals was important. The participa nts of the study were complimentary of the Think Tank sessions that were implemented through the Education Transformation Office since the sessions allowed them to collaborate as a community of learners and develop strategies that would foster change in th eir schools. It is my intention to facilitate monthly Think Tank sessions with the principals , addressing various topics related to their instructional practice . A survey of all ETO principals will be designed to identify topics that will guide the focus of the monthly Think Tank sessions. Principals with expertise in the various areas will be identified to lead the discussions. Researchers ( Fullan, 2007; Hallinger and Heck, 2010; Leithwood, 1994) have reiterated the importance of collaborative leadership and its direct effect on the culture of the school and instructional practice of teachers and administrators . With the many demands of the principalship, it is important that principals solicit the involvement of stakeholders in the decisions of the scho ol . I will encourage principals to have weekly collaborative meetings with their assistant principals and instruct ional coaches, reviewing the instructional work of the previous week while planning for the upcoming week. Principals will also be encouraged to identify a school wide leadership team that consisting of grade level chairpersons, non instructional personnel, union representatives, students and parents. This team should meet monthly in collaborative sessions to explore solutions of i ncreasing and sustain ing student achievement and addressing the needs of the school. Since the faced and the support they needed. It would be interesting to hear the perspectives of
118 the district lea ders as to the challenges they face in sustaining student achievement and working with novice principals . Their insights would help to further strengthen the leadership and transformation of our struggling schools while build ing the relationship between di strict leaders and principals . Veteran principals sh ould also be the focus of additional studies. Many of the 68 elementary and K 8 schools that are being served by ETO are led by veteran principals. It would be of value to determine the challenges faced by veteran principals and the support that they need to change the trajectory of student achievement. Further studies and deliberation are also needed on the use of mentors to provide ongoing support to novice principals. As district leaders begin to co llaborate on developing a mentoring program to meet the needs of novice principals beyond the principal preparation program, four questions deserve further attention: 1. How do novices respond to the mentoring of mentors they have selected vs. the mentori ng of mentors selected by district leaders? 2. principal and a mentor? 3. What criteria should be used to select district directors who will ultimately provide support t o novice principals? 4. How do novices respond to receiving the support of a mentor for various lengths of time? These questions can be addressed through inquiry and the collective reflection of principals and district leaders. Conclusion The best educ ational leaders are in love with the work they do, with the purpose their work serves, and with the people they lead and serve. They are more prone to think of what they do as a calling or a cause rather than a job. The best leaders . . . all demonstrate a palpable passion for a moral purpose, and it is that passion that helps them persevere when
119 confronting the inevitable difficulties of attempting to bring about substantive change . (DuFour & Mazano, 2011, p.194) The novice principals who participated and with those they were leading. As they recounted their experiences, their enthusiasm and sense of pride in their schools, their staff, parents and students was evident. Committed to their vision for equity a nd student achievement, they knew that they needed to move beyond mediocrity and good intentions to purposeful action, implementing specific strategies and practices. They recognized that they needed to increase their knowledge and expertise and rebuild co llaborative routines and structures so that school transformation would be a reality. With principals as the pivotal leaders in our schools and the caretakers of school transformation, district leaders must continue to be aware of the challenges expressed by the novice principals in this st udy, and the support they need in their work to interrupt the cycle of poverty , and ineffective instructional practices. There has to be recognition on the part of district leaders that novice principals must be mentored beyond the principal preparation programs and that support to them must be differentiated to meet their needs. Across the nation, school districts search for solutions to transform high poverty, low performing schools. If we believe that all children can succeed , then we must also recognize that school principals are pivotal for moving this concept from merely an expression to a reality . Support of the efforts of principals, especially novice principals, must be provided to bolster the knowledge and resil ience they need to accomplish and sustain the transformation of schools.
120 APPENDIX A CONSENT LETTER Participant Informed Consent Letter Dear School Administrator : I am a graduate student in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Flo rida. As part of my coursework I am conducting interview s to learn what novice school principals perceive as their challenges in leading high poverty, low performing schools and the support that they need to be successful. I am a sking you to participate i n these interview s because you have been identified as a successful school administrator with less than three years of experience leading a high poverty, low performing school . As part of this study, you wi ll be asked to participate in three interview s wit h each session lasting no longer than 45 minutes. The interview s will be conducted at your office and will begin after I have received this signed consent document from you. With your permissi on I would like to audiotape the s e interview s . Only I will have access to the tape which I will personally transcribe, removing any identifiers during transcription. The tape will then be erased. Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law and your identity will not be revealed in the final ma nuscript. There are no anticipated risks, compensation or other direct benefits to you as a participant in these interviews . You are free to withdraw your consent to participate and may discontinue your participation in the interview s at any time without consequence. The initial list of questions is enclosed with this letter. Please note that y ou will not have to answer any question you do not wish to answer. If you have any questions about this study , you may contact: Charmyn M. Kirton (Graduate Student) Dr. Elizabeth Bondy, (Faculty Supervisor) If you have questions about your rights as a research participant in the study, you may contact: IRB02 Office P. O. Box 112250 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 32611 2250 Phone: (352) 392 0433 Please sign t his letter below and return in the enclosed envelope. A second copy is provided for your records. By signing this letter, you are giving me permission to report your responses anonymously in the final manuscript to be submitted to my faculty supervisor as part of my course work. Thank you for your cooperation, Charmyn M. Kirton
121 I have read the procedure described above for the interviews to be conducted with novice school principals of high poverty, low performing schools. I voluntarily agree to particip ate in the three interview sessions. I have received a copy of the initial questions that will be utilized in the interviews. ________________________ ____ ___________ Signature of P articipant Date
122 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW QUESTIONS I nterview 1 Becoming Acquainted 1. Describe your professional background, including the preparation that you have had for your role as principal. 2. Were you working in an Education Transformation Office school prior to your appointment? Please explain. 3. Did y our training adequately prepare you for your position? Please explain. 4. Were you a Project Lead Strong participant prior to your appointment? If so, did your participation in the program prepare you for your position? Please explain. 5. Describe your school, including the students and staff. 6. What were your first impressions of your school? 7. Tell me a story about one of your first experiences at the school? 8. What do you wish you had known before moving into your position? How would this have helped you? Intervie w 2 The First Year 1. What challenges did you encounter as a first year principal at this time? 2. How did you respond to the challenges? 3. What opportunities did you encounter as a first year principal? 4. How did you respond to those opportunities? 5. Looking back, would you change your response to the challenges/opportunities? If so, how and why? 6. What supports did you receive during your first year? From whom did you receive support? 7. What kinds of supports do you wish you had received during your first year? Please explain. 8. Tell me a story from your first year as principal. Make it a story that captures what that year was like for you. 9. What is your advice for novice principals?
123 10. What is your advice for the supervisors of novice principals? In terview 3 Looking Back and Looking Ahead 1. As you look back on your first year, what stands out for you? 2. Has your leadership practice changed since your first year? In what ways? 3. How do you account for the changes you have made? 4. What are your short and lon g term goals for the school as you look ahead? 5. What kinds of support are you receiving from the district this year? 6. What support do you need moving forward to be successful in meeting your goals for the school? 7. What do you wish district administrators unde rstood about your school? 8. Tell me a success story about you and your school. 9. Tell me about a disappointment you have experienced this year. 10. What do you think new principals at schools like yours need to know and do to have success?
124 APPENDIX C: ANALYSIS OF DATA TABLES
125 Table C 1. Data organized by interview question and p articipant s Interview Questions Principal 1 (P1) Principal 2 (P2) Principal 3 (P3) Question #6 What were your first impressions of your school? My Notes: Principals had a sense of pride speaking of their school and were hopeful and excited to see the changes. They were appointed to schools with n o systems and structures Challenging year No systems, no structures. Students were running the building. Many fights. Teach ers felt they were not supported. day here I went home and I cried, and I told my husband I And my husband been sent to this school. This toughen up e a leader; you will turn that school a round. Give yourself time (P1 p6) . Response: Looked at systems, structures such as kids entering and leaving school. Entering and ex iting classrooms, procedures (P1 p6) . Confronted with transfers the first week. transfer; t I was p6) . Had to change mindset of teachers, parents and students . was my feeling and I really felt so p9) . Amazing pride in school. Small staff. Som e live close to the school and some far away. Good balance (p6) . Staff highly motivated to get the like an F and we p6) . Low socio economic community. Parents have high hopes for the children (p6) . Everyone has at least one degree; some two, some three some four and they do not have high sc hool diplomas. How do I make you feel comfortable coming to this place unless I give you tools so that you realize when you come . . . the (P2 p8) . There was a lot of work to be done. No st ructures no order that my first impression was that I am in a p11) . Lax security. Parent came in and cussed 2 nd grader for bothering her child. No knowle dge of who w as in the building ( P3 p11) . Closed many gates and changed entrance for parents. Was cussed out when requesting parent to leave building. change too quickly. . . everybody hated p11) . First year was a roll ercoaster and exhausting. worst days of your life, . . . because it was just one fight after another after another . . . p12) .
126 Table C 2. Data organized by research question and participants RQ1 Principal 1 (P1) Principal 2 (P2) Principal 3 (P3) What are the challenges experienced by novice elementary principals that lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? High absenteeism High numbers of transfers Teachers believed they were not supported. Lack of passion about their jobs and their classrooms . Complained of too much paperwork, disruptive students, lack of structures and lack of support . Gaining trust of teachers . Rules not respected. Stude nts dis ids felt like they were in charge, knew how to run the system at the school and they knew that if I did this I would get kicked out or I would be sent home and I can ride bikes this afternoon around the . Would ha ve benefitted from training operational. thinking how could I refine my craft? I called a few principals to help, just to seek out and say how are you doing this? ( P1 p10) . Many parents are high school drop outs and illitera te. Education is not a priority . Students with open Department of Children Family cases . Many have not seen their parents in months and are left in care of a grandmother who is struggling a priority if your mom ju st dropped p5) . Budget. Not exposed to it as an AP. Would have like d training on connecting budget and master schedule. Would have made differe nt decisions about the number of personnel to be hired if knew budget differently. Someone is always waiting in the wings for your job. my job that if I mess up at the wrong point there are people who are . Bl atant disrespect from teachers and parents. Negativity very vocal. Not doing it if it is not in contract (p13). Teacher threatened her personal children (p22) . complaints e.g. closing the doors. Had honest conversat ion with them but at a faculty meeting stated things out of context (p18) . Following experience decided she could I have these good intentions for the students a nd for the school and honest . . . experience left p18). No buy in from teachers Gaining trust of parents. First year was a rollercoaster and exhausting. worst days of your life, . . . becaus e it was just one fight after another after anothe (P3 p21) p12) Not prepared to deal with parents. E.g. giving shoes to a studen t parent was offended. C ommunity she came from was different (p19)
127 Table C 3. Data organized by research question across par ticipants RQ1: What are the challenges experienced by novice elementary principals that lead high poverty, low performing elementary schools? Emerging Themes Principal 1 (P1) Principal 2 (P2) Principal 3 (P3) Resistance Teacher Parents Students Lack of Expertise Mentoring would be beneficial High absenteeism . High numbers of transfers . Teachers believed they were not supported. Complained of too much paperwork, disruptive students, lack of structures and lack of support . Rules not respe cted. Students disruptive and fighting. ids felt like they were in charge, knew how to run the system at the school and they knew that if I did this I would get kicked out or I would be sent home and I can ride bikes this afternoon around the neighborh (P1). Not being accepted by the community do not live in community, not raised in community, came from a different background. this building with no understanding of P3 p10) Would hav e benefitted from training nights thinking how could I refine my craft? I called a few principals to help, (p10) Veteran mentor principal b was exhausted. . . getting so overwhelmed with things that I thought I had to take care of all the time, and I saw her delegate a lot of these things (p8 ) . (No resistance noted in interview) Budget. Not exposed to it as the AP. Needed training on connecting budget and master schedule. Would have made diff erent decisions about the number of personnel to be hired. assistance with budget. I think p2) No mentor assigned Blatant disrespect from teachers and parents. Negativ ity very vocal. Not doing it if it is not in contract (p13). Coaches were also very vocal. No buy in from teachers. Resistant Teachers (p15) Teacher threatened her personal children (p22) Students did not respect the rules initially did what they wante d. Closed many gates and changed entrance for parents. Cussed out by parent when requesting parent to leave building. oo much change too quickly. . . everybody hated Operation aspect of job weakest area especia lly Budget. No training in that area school and she would come over, she would help me, she would teach me, she would . . . and this is a treasurer from another school teaching a principal. I was Mentor called once and never followed up after the initial call .
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135 BIOG RAPHICAL SKETCH Charmyn M. Kirton graduated from the University of Florida, in 2014 with the Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction. In 1979, she graduate d from Andrews University, Berrien Springs Michigan , in Music Education. Charmyn began her teaching career in Buffalo, New York and has also taught in St. Croix, Virgin Islands , before moving in 1986 to Miami, Florida where she has resided for the past 27 years. Working for the Miami Dade County Public Schools, she has taught at Royal Green Elementary , Oliver Hoover Elementary and Claude Pepper Elementary where she was also appointed as an Assistant Principal in 1997 . In 2000, Charmyn became the Principal of the Irving and Beatrice Peskoe K 8 School where she was successful in leading the school from a D to an A school based on the grading system of the State of Florida. Charmyn was then appointed to open a new publi c school in 2006, and wa s the founding principal of Norma Butler Bossard Elementary School. She is currently the Administrative Director for Curriculum and Instruction in the Education Transformation Office of the Miami Dade County Public Schools. Her res ponsibilities include leading a team of Instructional Supervisors and Curriculum Support Specialists to provide instructional support to administrators, e lementary and K 8 schools. Charmyn is a native of Trinidad and has two children. Her son, Dr. Lee C. Buddy, Jr., is an Assistant Principal in Clayton County Public Schools, Jonesboro, Georgia; and h er daughter, Dr. Cherisse M. Buddy , recently graduated from the Physical Therapy program at Andr ews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. She is very proud of their
136 accomplishments and commitment to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. She credits them with inspiring and motivating her to complete the Doctor of Education program. Ch armyn remains committed to her work in high poverty, low performing schools. She constantly seeks to find solutions that will close the gaps of achievement and expectation . It is her belief that an improvement in the quality of education will serve as a c atalyst to break the cycle of poverty and inequity, and increase student achievement. creating change in the face of unimaginable challenges and consequences . . . I have