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JSL Vol 23-N2

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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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Introduction to the Special Issue: Distributed Instructional Leadership as a Reform Strategy—Activating Teacher Leadership to Improve Student Learning in Urban High Schools

ePub

PAUL BREDESON
CAROLYN KELLEY

Heightened accountability for student learning, changing demographics, and safety and security issues make leadership of urban high schools a significant challenge. Intensified new instructional leadership demands have been added to the list of traditional responsibilities shouldered by high school principals for successful management of school structures, cultures, and daily operations. Within this environment, high school principals have had to find ways to enhance their focus on instructional leadership.

This special issue describes how urban high school principals mobilize teacher leadership to advance instructional practices and student learning. We conceptualize this as building distributed instructional leadership, embedded in the activities, structures, and processes of the school (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2001). In addition, we recognize the collaborative nature of distributed leadership and the importance of building teams or professional communities to support this leadership work (Scribner, Sawyer, Watson, & Myers, 2007). Thus, we focus on the ways in which high school leaders build capacity and activate existing roles and structures to build team-based instructional leadership, such as refocusing the work of department chairs on instructional leadership tasks.

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Leading Learning-Focused Teacher Leadership in Urban High Schools

ePub

BRADLEY S. PORTIN
FELICE ATESOGLU RUSSELL
CATHERINE SAMUELSON
MICHAEL S. KNAPP

ABSTRACT: Drawing on findings from a national study of learning-focused leadership in challenging urban settings, this article examines the work of teacher leadership in urban high schools. In this context, a recently emerging cadre of nonsupervisory teacher leaders, working in collaboration with supervisory leaders, exercises a form of “distributed instructional leadership,” creating new channels for instructional renewal. Extensive qualitative data from four high schools in different urban districts across the United States illuminate the nature of these teacher leaders’ work in support of teaching and learning, the ways they and their supervisory counterparts worked as instructional leadership teams, and the role that they played in supporting teachers in classrooms within schools that face significant challenges. Study findings highlight the unique expertise necessary for these teacher leaders—including content expertise, pedagogical coaching skill, ability to build relational trust, and capacity to link the classroom with district- and school-determined learning improvement efforts. In conclusion, the article sketches the implications for reconfiguring supervisory leaders’ work so that the efforts of all remain productively and persistently focused on learning improvement.

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Learning-Focused Leadership in Urban High Schools: Response to Demanding Environments

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MICHAEL S. KNAPP
SUSAN B. FELDMAN
THERESA LING YEH

ABSTRACT: This article traces how the work of instructional leadership in the urban high school embodies a response to particular pressures in the school’s environment. Based on evidence from multiple–case study research in four urban districts, the article demonstrates how supervisory and nonsupervisory leaders fashioned responses to the district (and state) system of instructional guidance and support, accountability, and the press for data-based practice. The analysis shows that in schools that display evidence of progress on a learning improvement agenda, the responses to environmental pressures reflect active engagement with what the environment offers, rather than the reactive compliance that can so often accompany reforms that emphasize high-stakes accountability.

Urban high school leaders work within environments that demand a lot of them. The students who walk in the school door every morning (or worse yet, fail to show up) bring various learning challenges and often acute emotional, nutritional, or other needs that are traceable to the circumstances of their lives. Their parents expect much of the school, though they do not always know how to express their hopes for the school in constructive ways. The chronic low performance that so many urban high schools exhibit prompts vigorous external pressure to improve, with all its accompaniments: testing, programmatic requirements, sanctions, and more. The state, the city, the larger community all want the world of the school.

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Defining and Activating the Role of Department Chair as Instructional Leader

ePub

CAROLYN KELLEY
JASON SALISBURY

ABSTRACT: With strong connection to schoolwide policy and vision and to the realities of the daily life of teachers and students, the department chair is uniquely positioned to play an important role in advancing instructional effectiveness (Printy, 2008; Weller, 2001). This article provides an in-depth look at the efforts of three urban comprehensive high schools to revision the role of department chair as instructional leader. The case studies identify building a shared vision, trust, role clarity, professional development, modeling, and application as critical elements of leadership development. The article defines the role of department chair as instructional leader and examines the effects of efforts to strengthen this role. Findings suggest that department chairs found their new role to be motivating and enriching, but significant training and reshaping of school norms were needed to provide the skills and legitimacy for them to lead instructional improvement in their departments.

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Principals Fostering the Instructional Leadership Capacities of Department Chairs: A Strategy for Urban High School Reform

ePub

HANS W. KLAR

ABSTRACT: A growing body of literature has highlighted the affordances of distributive forms of instructional leadership as a means to broaden and deepen instructional leadership capacity within schools. Yet, specifically how the capabilities of such key leaders as high school department chairs can be fostered to realize enhanced instructional capacity remains less well understood. In this article, I examine the efforts of principals in three urban high schools to foster the leadership capacities of their department chairs as a case of distributed instructional leadership. Data for the study were gathered from interviews, participant observations, and analyses of documents collected during a 2-year Leadership for Learning grant funded by the Wallace Foundation. The findings illustrate the crucial role that the principals played in redefining leadership roles, responsibilities, and structures; providing individual and team learning opportunities; and connecting the work of the department chairs to school and district instructional improvement efforts. I conclude with implications for practice and further research.

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Distributed Instructional Leadership in Urban High Schools: Transforming the Work of Principals and Department Chairs Through Professional Development

ePub

PAUL V. BREDESON

Leadership is about learning that leads to constructive change.

—Linda Lambert (1998)

The current press for accountability and sustainable school reforms has intensified demands on high school principals to focus on leadership actions and behaviors that influence student learning outcomes. Within this environment, high school principals have had to rethink their traditional responsibilities for successful management of structures, cultures, and daily operations. Though these management tasks are still important, principals have begun to recenter their work on leadership for learning—both student learning and professional learning within schools (i.e., instructional leadership). As numerous scholars have reported, such leadership is second only to classroom instruction among school-related factors that influence student learning and successful school reforms efforts (Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris, & Hopkins, 2006; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004).

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Distributed Instructional Leadership in High Schools

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RICHARD HALVERSON
MATTHEW CLIFFORD

ABSTRACT: This article explores the idea of distributed instructional leadership as a way to understand instructional leadership practice in comprehensive high schools. Our argument is that distributed leadership analyses allow researchers to uncover and explain how instructional improvement in high schools occurs through the efforts of multiple individuals working to simultaneously influence the contexts of leadership and the contexts of instruction. The distributed instructional leadership model draws on the full potential of distributed leadership to describe not only who is involved with high school reforms but also what situated tools, tasks, and routines are required to change and maintain improved teaching. The first part of the article develops an account of distributed instructional leadership as an approach to studying how leaders create high school learning environments, by drawing on research in distributed cognition. The second part provides an illustration of how the ideas of distributed instructional leadership were applied to the analysis of a curriculum-based reform in a comprehensive high school.

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