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Jsl Vol 16-N5

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The Journal of School Leadership is broadening the conversation about schools and leadership and is currently accepting manuscripts. We welcome manuscripts based on cutting-edge research from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and methodological orientations. The editorial team is particularly interested in working with international authors, authors from traditionally marginalized populations, and in work that is relevant to practitioners around the world. Growing numbers of educators and professors look to the six bimonthly issues to: deal with problems directly related to contemporary school leadership practice teach courses on school leadership and policy use as a quality reference in writing articles about school leadership and improvement.

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11 Articles

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Changing the Culture of Schools: Professional Community, Organizational Learning, and Trust

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KAREN SEASHORE LOUIS

ABSTRACT: The theme of this special issue of the Journal of School Leadership involves teachers’ professional learning communities. It is satisfying to see a major journal in educational leadership focus on a problem that was seen only dimly two decades ago. This contribution examines the antecedents and underlying research traditions that have culminated in the strong sense of urgency among scholars and practitioners to shift the focus of school reform away from restructuring and toward reculturing (Miller, 1998). In addition, it cautions against the hope that professional learning communities will become a temporary panacea for what ails the public schools and the even greater tendency to develop in professional learning communities interventions that can be implemented, such as a new reading curriculum.

Many years ago, educators were warned that there was little chance that schools would improve without significant changes in their culture (Sara-son, 1982). The current focus on professional learning communities (PLCs) is one major effort to address this fundamental issue. A long history of studying culture, whether in small or large social units, has attracted many perspectives, although most empirical research in organizations agree with a view of culture as an enduring independent phenomenon that consists of some combination of values, beliefs, and assumptions that organizational members share about appropriate behavior (Schein, 1992). The core problem of changing the culture of schools involves both elements of this statement: Unless we challenge the status quo and move beyond the polite agreement that “all children will learn,” it is unlikely that much will change. To do so, we must base our theories and our interventions on what is known about cultural conditions that improve children’s learning. In this article, I argue that there are three: professional community, organizational learning, and trust.

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It’s Everywhere, but What Is It? Professional Learning Communities

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PATRICIA ROY
SHIRLEY M. HORD

ABSTRACT : This article first explores the characteristics of professional learning communities (PLCs) identified in the research literature. Second, it examines the staff and student outcomes derived from the implementation and integration of a PLC in a K–12 school or a university. Third, it provides suggestions for school leaders about creating and operating a PLC and its highly democratic and participatory way of working and about supporting and guiding the staff to become a PLC. Noted are structural features that support collegial interaction. These opportunities for open discussion and debate inevitably lead to conflict, which must be managed and used constructively. Thus, the article includes counsel about developing trusting relationships, positive regard, and other human capacities.

Professional learning community (PLC) is a concept to some, a cultural factor to others, a way of working to still others, and a popular term that appears to be blooming across the educational landscape like “a thousand flowers,” from the song of yesteryear. It seems to be everywhere: in village schools, city schools, rural settings, and suburban and urban locales. A recent article attested to the international attention being given to PLC as an effective school improvement strategy (Gunther-Rolff, 2003). It is being hailed as the best idea for continual school improvement since the overhead projector reached classrooms. Furthermore, it is the first of the 12 standards for staff development identified and explicated by the National Staff Development Council (2001).

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Leadership Capacity and Collective Efficacy: Interacting to Sustain Student Learning in a Professional Learning Community

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DIANNE F. OLIVIER
KRISTINE KIEFER HIPP

ABSTRACT : This article explores a reciprocal relationship between leadership capacity and collective efficacy in a pre-K–8 school in the Southern United States that continually advances as a professional learning community. Survey data from this mixed methodology study showed significant positive correlations among subgroup scales measuring leadership capacity, collective efficacy, and professional learning community dimensions. Additionally, school performance, as measured by accountability systems, resulted in growth and sustainability of student achievement. The interviews made these findings come alive through four emergent themes: high leadership capacity; a strong sense of collective efficacy; continual and undeviating focus on learning for students and teachers; and a strong sense of collective responsibility, collaboration, and teamwork. This study provides clear evidence that capacity building and collective efficacy can be enhanced through success as a professional learning community.

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Teacher Leadership Emerges Within Professional Learning Communities

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GAYLE MOLLER

ABSTRACT : This article describes how teacher leadership emerged within schools with either a high level or a low level of readiness to establish a professional learning community. Through the perspectives of principals and teacher leaders, there were distinct differences in the emergence of teacher leadership, the operation of shared leadership structures, and the principals’ actions to support the professional learning community. The schools were spread along an inclusive–exclusive continuum of participation. The differences in the principals’ perspectives of teacher leadership revealed either a collaborative or a detached association. Principal actions that supported teachers included listening, knowing, and learning about curriculum and instruction and consistent follow-through on commitments.

As schools focus on building professional learning communities, a parallel development of teacher leadership can be predicted. This article reports on a study that was part of a project that involved a multi-year study of the development of schools as professional learning communities. The purpose of the study was to examine the dimension of supportive and shared leadership to identify contexts that build the capacity of teachers to share leadership. Given that the focus of the larger study was on the professional staff, the sharing of leadership was between the administrators and other members of the professional staff—especially teachers.

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Teachers as Leaders in a Knowledge Society: Encouraging Signs of a New Professionalism

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DOROTHY ANDREWS
FRANK CROWTHER

ABSTRACT : Challenges confronting schools worldwide are greater than ever, and, likewise, many teachers possess capabilities, talents, and formal credentials more sophisticated than ever. However, the responsibility and authority accorded to teachers have not grown significantly, nor has the image of teaching as a profession advanced significantly. The question becomes, what are the implications for the image and status of the teaching profession as the concept of a knowledge society takes a firm hold in the industrialized world? This article addresses the philosophical underpinnings of teacher leadership manifested in case studies where schools sought to achieve the generation of new knowledge as part of a process of whole-school revitalization. Specifically, this article reports on Australian research that has illuminated the work of teacher leaders engaged in the IDEAS project, a joint school revitalization initiative of the University of Southern Queensland and the Queensland Department of Education and the Arts.

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Redistributed Leadership for Sustainable Professional Learning Communities

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ANDY HARGREAVES
DEAN FINK

ABSTRACT : Distributed leadership in schools is not exclusive to professional learning communities; it is distributed in all schools, for good purposes and for bad, by design and by emergence. In this article, we describe a normative view of distributed leadership that tends to be a leadership of advocacy, and we offer a descriptive perspective that argues that although sustainable leadership is distributed leadership, not all distributed leadership is sustainable leadership. It depends on how the leadership is distributed and for what purposes. Using one of our seven principles of sustainable leadership—breadth—we then show how leadership distribution in professional learning communities is both distinctive and varied.

We live in an educational world of relentless reform and ceaseless change. The achievement and equity goals of reform are admirable; yet, the processes for reaching them are frequently flawed and almost always frustrating. If the first challenge of change these days is to ensure that it is desirable and if the second challenge is to make it doable, then the biggest challenge of all is to make it durable and sustainable.

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The Tri-Level Model in Action: Site, District, and State Plans for School Accountability in Increasing Student Success

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JANE B. HUFFMAN
ANITA PANKAKE
AVA MUÑOZ

ABSTRACT : This article offers information about a district’s school improvement efforts to reculture as a professional learning community, which we believe exemplifies the school and district levels of Fullan’s (2004b, 2005) tri-level model. We use Fullan’s eight elements of sustainability to organize the data gathered in interviews with school and district personnel over a 3-year period. Additionally, data from an interview with the state commissioner of education (also, the former superintendent of the district) hint at emerging state-level changes based on changes initiated within the district studied.

Nearly 15 years ago, Murphy (1991) noted that “one of the most peculiar things about the education reform movement of the 1980s was the relative absence of reference to the superintendency” (p. 32). This situation has recently changed. The conversations regarding educational reform have begun to include not only the superintendency and school district roles but also the system’s role at the state level. Barber and Fullan (2005) offered their work in this regard by identifying two interacting assumptions necessary for educational reforms to be sustainable. First, “we must focus on ‘tri-level development’, namely what has to happen at the school and community at the district level, and at the state level” (p. 2). Their second assumption focused on the need for intentional actions to cause improvement at all three levels and with their relationships to one another. This tri-level model can be used with any innovation or reform. In this study, the reform was the reculturing of a school as a professional learning community (PLC) to achieve accountability goals and expectations of the district and the state. Though not as sophisticated in its development, a similar concept was posed by Murphy (1991):

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Accomplishing Districtwide Reform

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LYN SHARRATT
MICHAEL FULLAN

ABSTRACT : This is a mystery story. It is about a district that apparently did the right things but seemed not to get commensurate results across all classrooms and schools. In this article, we look closely at the details and discover an important lesson about districtwide reform. The district is York Region District School Board, which is a large multicultural district just north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. York is a rapidly growing district with a diverse sociocultural and linguistic population, with over 100 different languages spoken in its schools. The school board has been opening, on average, at least 5 elementary schools a year for the last 5 years. There are 140 elementary schools and 27 secondary schools, with over 108,000 students and 8,000 teachers.

Districtwide reform has become increasingly important over the past decade as educational leaders have sought to achieve large-scale sustainable school improvement across the system. Our article delves deep into what such reform looks like and what educators must do to obtain substantial success in student learning.

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Creating Learning Communities in Low-Performing Sites: A Systemic Approach to Alignment

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D’ETTE FLY COWAN

ABSTRACT : Creating learning communities in low-performing districts and schools is especially daunting in an era of accountability and standards-based assessment. This article describes research that informed application of Southwest Educational Development Laboratory’s Working Systemically model for increased student achievement. The article highlights 4 needs of low-performing districts and schools, and it describes actions to address these needs systemically while promoting a culture of collaboration and professional learning. It focuses on a process for alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to state standards across levels of the local system. Finally, it discusses roles and responsibilities of external change agents in helping districts and schools learn to work systemically.

Since 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act has required schools to use evidence- or research-based approaches in their efforts to increase student achievement. An assumption behind this legislation seems to be that informing schools about what they need to do is sufficient; that is, schools can figure out for themselves how to do it.

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Identifying and Leading Effective Professional Learning Communities

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LOUISE STOLL
AGNES MCMAHON
SALLY THOMAS

ABSTRACT : This article reports key findings from a 2-1/2-year mixed methodological study of professional learning communities, the first of its kind in England. In particular, the concept of effectiveness is explored as it relates to professional learning communities. We describe three ways in which effectiveness can be construed, arguing that any comprehensive assessment of professional learning community effectiveness by school leaders needs to identify and attend to all three aspects.

There is considerable international interest in exploring the potential of professional learning communities (PLCs). Although the professional community has been studied in the United States for some time (e.g., Louis, Kruse, et al., 1995; McLaughlin & Talbert, 1993), researchers elsewhere have come to the topic more recently (see Stoll & Louis, in press), even though there has been work in related areas (e.g., Bolam, 1977; McMahon, Bolam, Abbott, & Holly, 1984). Enthusiasm about PLCs is based on a rationale that when teachers work collaboratively, the quality of learning and teaching improves. Providing greater challenge to student learning depends on increased teacher professionalism, by increasing the status of teaching and providing greater professional growth opportunities. Progress of educational reform also depends on the capacity of teachers, individually and collectively, and how this links with school and system capacity. Rather than focus on superficial, quick fixes, PLCs appear to generate and support sustainable improvements because they build the necessary professional skill and capacity that keep schools progressing (Hargreaves, 2003; Stoll, Fink, & Earl, 2003).

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Building Schools, Building People: The School Principal’s Role in Leading a Learning Community

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CORAL MITCHELL
LARRY SACKNEY

ABSTRACT : This article describes the work of the school principal in building a vibrant learning community for staff and students. The descriptions emerged from a series of investigations into teaching, learning, and leading practices within schools that have high capacity for effective teaching and learning. These investigations demonstrated that the direct and consistent involvement of the school principal is essential for building a culture of learning for staff and students. In successful schools, principals serve four broad functions: center, holder of the vision, builder, and role model. These roles yield cultures and structures that sustain, energize, and vitalize teaching and learning.

In 1990, Peter Senge’s landmark book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization introduced the world to the idea of a learning organization. This concept struck a deep chord with educational scholars because it offered a path to a long-sought goal: schools as places where learning is the motivating force and first priority for all people within the building. Educational scholars, however, saw a tension between the structural metaphor of an organization and the dynamic character of real learning. In educational circles, the metaphor morphed from a learning organization to a learning community. Since that time, the construct has moved from the margins to the center of the academic discourse in education, with many scholars working on understanding, defining, and developing learning communities in educational settings. We begin by presenting some of these understandings from the literature.

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