875 Articles
Medium 9781475836738

The Ontario Quandary: Principals’ Perceptions of Accountability Policy and Social Justice

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

FEI WANG

The Ontario Quandary

Principals’ Perceptions of Accountability Policy and Social Justice

ABSTRACT: This qualitative study examines how accountability policies impact school principals’ social justice commitment. The study involved semi-structured interviews with twenty-two Ontario principals. Findings show that principals responded to the accountability policies with strikingly mixed emotions. Some grudgingly accepted the mandates and reluctantly sought to accommodate directives in their agenda. Some critiqued the reforms by highlighting the inequities and drawbacks in the performance-based tests. Others showed significant resistance to the reform and strategically used their power to navigate toward what they felt was best for their students. Such mixed sentiments among principals revealed a deeper struggle among them in navigating the system.

KEY WORDS: Leadership, Social Justice, Accountability, Accountability Policies

There is an ongoing debate among educators and scholars (Angelis, et al., 2007; Black & Valenzuela, 2004; Diem & Boske, 2012; Haney, 2004; Ryan, 2012) about whether external, outcome-driven accountability policies enhance or hinder the promotion of social justice among students with diverse backgrounds. Some scholars contend that accountability curtails educational opportunities, and reinforces and extends social inequalities (Black & Valenzuela, 2004; Haney, 2004; McNeil & Valenzuela, 2001). Others (Skrla, Scheurich, Johnson, & Koschoreck, 2001) argue that accountability can increase educational equity by reducing the achievement gap among student groups—especially gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students—through the establishment of standards and performance-based assessments. Regardless of the merits of the above arguments, this policy debate centers on the critical part of accountability, that is, standardized tests. School leaders who serve as policy mediators are expected to facilitate the integration of accountability policies to support student achievement. However, given the mounting accountability pressures, an increasingly diverse student population, and limited educational resources and service, the practice of leadership is fraught with tensions, contradictions, moral dilemmas, and political struggles. This study aims to examine how school principals who self-identify as social justice advocates react to the accountability movement in Ontario, Canada, how they perceive accountability and accountability policies, the actions they take, and the reasoning process they use in their attempts to satisfy accountability mandates while simultaneously tackling the various causes of social injustices in their schools.

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Medium 9781475836745

Central District Office Leadership for Diversity and Equity: Constraints and Opportunities for Policy Intermediaries

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

ALLISON MATTHEIS

Central District Office Leadership for Diversity and Equity

Constraints and Opportunities for Policy Intermediaries

ABSTRACT: This article reports the findings of a multiyear investigation of school district central office directors of diversity and equity in Minnesota, who play an important role in school desegregation/integration policy implementation. Ethnographic and survey data were collected to examine a range of leadership activities and perspectives in communities across the state that received state funding for integration programming. In this article, I present findings that illustrate the role of integration leaders as boundary-spanning policy intermediaries who navigate competing frames of meaning about the purpose and value of diversity in learning environments. Learning from these school district leaders’ focus on educational equity in the context of changing demographics offers opportunities to address local community needs more directly.

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Medium 9781475836745

Talking About Race: Overcoming Fear in the Process of Change

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

EMILY LILJA PALMER

KAREN SEASHORE LOUIS

Talking about Race

Overcoming Fear in the Process of Change

ABSTRACT: Purpose: We investigated the way in which structured, multiyear conversations about race and institutional racism occurred in suburban secondary schools with changing racial demographics. Research Framework: The study draws on interpretive research traditions, in that we assume that how teachers understand race and racism will influence how they work with colleagues and students. As such, the research examines to what extent talking about race and learning about institutional racism affects educators’ mental models and their classroom practices. Method: Secondary schools in three districts that had participated in ongoing professional development related to racial equity were selected. Grounded theory methods were used for data collection, coding, and analysis of interviews with teachers and administrators. Findings: This study revealed that principal leadership affected teachers’ engagement in this work. When this occurred, teachers made meaningful changes in classroom practices and their school communities. The primary findings of the study are: (1) fear of being considered racist was a barrier for White teachers and administrators that impeded collective focus on racial achievement gaps; (2) principals’ deep personal engagement over a period of several years encouraged a process of confronting and mitigating this fear, and helped teachers engage with the implications of race for school and classroom practices. Significance: Discomfort, a critical element in confronting racial inequities in schools, requires school leaders, particularly principals, to authentically participate and engage in order to foster teacher change.

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Medium 9781475836738

Exploring Empathy to Promote Social Justice Leadership in Schools

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

CHRISTA BOSKE

AZADEH OSANLOO

WHITNEY SHERMAN NEWCOMB

Exploring Empathy to Promote Social Justice Leadership in Schools

ABSTRACT: This study examines how 57 aspiring school leaders understand what it means to lead for social justice in K-12 schools. Grounded theory was employed for this qualitative study. The data collection included 855 audio and video reflections (15–55 minutes), 513 written narratives, 57 equity audits, and field notes. Emerging themes for this report include: (1) understanding social justice–oriented and equity-oriented pedagogies and work; (2) immersing oneself in culturally diverse contexts; (3) increasing critical consciousness; and (4) deepening empathic responses. Findings suggest promoting social justice-oriented transformative learning throughout coursework is critical to school leaders developing empathic responses toward disenfranchised populations. Implications suggest deepening empathic responses is critical to school leaders promoting social justice–oriented and equity-oriented work in schools.

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Medium 9781475836745

“The Click-Clack of Her Heels and the Jingle of Her Keys”: Exploring the Tensions in the Leadership of a Successful Turnaround Principal

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

ULRICH C. REITZUG

KIMBERLY KAPPLER HEWITT

“The Click-Clack of Her Heels and the Jingle of Her Keys”

Exploring the Tensions in the Leadership of a Successful Turnaround Principal

ABSTRACT: This qualitative case study explores the practices and tensions of being an effective principal in a turnaround school through an in-depth analysis of one principal who has been successful in several turnaround settings. Although principals have long been cited as foundational to a school’s success, being the principal of a turnaround school is a significantly different enterprise than being a principal of a non-turnaround school. Newly appointed turnaround principals are expected not only to generate significant improvement in achievement in schools that have been low-achieving for many years, but to do so in a short period of time.

To gain insight into the leadership practices of a principal who was successful in accomplishing school turnaround, we conducted interviews with 21 of the principal’s current and past colleagues, observed her in practice, analyzed documents related to her leadership, and interviewed her three times. In this report, we describe her leadership practice and conclude that it was characterized by four dynamic tensions that resulted in the turnaround of the schools she led:

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