Vol. 4 No. 3
Spring 2014


Volume 4, Issue 3 of The Journal of Teaching, Learning, and Research in Educational Leadership contains the following articles in the order presented:

1. Superintendents and school boards: Delivering on the promises by Lemoine, P.A.,
Stringer, J.C., & Waller, R.E.

2. School board micromanagement: Apprehension for superintendents by Meyers, E.F. & Richardson, M.D..

3. Superintendents vs. school board members: How does a system continue to achieve
when leadership is at odds? By Nutt, P.S.

4. Buyout of superintendent contracts: Tough choices by Lane, K.E., Richardson, M.D.,
Lemoine, P.A. & McCormack, T.J.

5. Will the past be repeated? Elected superintendents versus appointed superintendents by
Obleton, E., Lemoine, P.A., Richardson, M.D., & McCormack, T.J.

6. Supporting school facility planning: How a school board acts by Chan, T.C.

7. Teacher tenure: Needed protection for teachers or an obstacle to progress by Hardy,
S.B., and Deering, T.E.



Superintendents and School Boards: Delivering on the Promises



Pamela A. Lemoine
James C. Stringer
Robert E. Waller

Pamela Lemoine is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Columbus State University, James C. Stringer is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University; Robert E. Waller is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Georgia.



Once negotiations are concluded, and the contract to hire a superintendent is signed, school board members and the school superintendent have made a legal agreement (Eadie, 2003). It is up to both parties to deliver on the promises of the relationship (Hutton, 2007; Vail, 2001). The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) defines the superintendent’s contract as a resource document for both parties (AASA, 2007; NSBA, 2009).

The contract spells out the benefits for the superintendent and often elaborates joint responsibilities (AASA, 2007). Establishing an evaluation process as part of the contract delineates the superintendent’s role and responsibilities and explains differences in roles between the superintendent and board members. “The lack of clarity in roles, expectations, and scope of authority contributes to major disagreements between boards of educations and their CEOs, largely related to the overlap in responsibilities” (Thomas, 2001, p. 9).


Hired based on promises of performance, 21st century school superintendents no longer manage “buildings, buses, books, budgets, and bonds” (Education Writers Association [EWA], 2003, p. 5); instead, superintendents are charged with increasing student achievement (Peterson, 2002). However, superintendents and board members, according to Goodman and Zimmerman (2000), have joint responsibilities to work together to promote and maintain a good education system.

The superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer of the school district and as such, is responsible for oversight of administration of board-adopted policies, oversight of budget and finance, and managing day-to-day district operations (EWA, 2003; Resnick & Bryant, 2009).
School superintendents direct highly complex bureaucracies and deal with teachers,
unions, students, parents, community organizations, the business community, governing
boards and politicians. Although to the outsider they appear to be in charge, insiders
understand that they are pressured by many different interests and rarely control their own
agendas. (Fuller, Campbell, Celio, Harvey, Immerwahr, & Winger, 2003, p. 11)

Today’s superintendents must balance goals to increase student achievement while dealing with the political complexities of working with school board members (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). Michels (2013) reports school superintendents are the “government’s best-paid, most coveted and most controversial employees” (p. 1). Superintendents receive a base pay and may also have a car and/or phone allowance, receive retention bonuses, and get performance pay incentives (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000; Goodman & Zimmerman, 2000). School superintendents, hired and fired at the discretion of local boards of education, have unique and dynamic relationships with their boards (Cooper, Fusarelli, & Carella, 2000; Mountford, 2008; Peterson & Williams, 2005).

School Boards

Board member responsibilities include selecting the superintendent, meeting policy making obligations, ensuring responsible fiscal management, maintaining ethical and legal standards mandated by state laws, and evaluating the superintendents performance promises (Eadie, 2009; Hess, 2002; Stronge & Xu, 2012). Board members, most often elected by local constituents, work as a legally designated governing body with powers to hire and fire superintendents, make policy, handle budget matters and advise the Superintendent (Shibles, Rallis, & Deck, 2001). Kowalski (2006) reported often board members overstep their roles “due to the increasing political nature of elected school boards” (p. 11). “Without clear demarcation between the roles of superintendents and school boards, tensions in many districts are part of daily life...role conflict is often the reason superintendents get into trouble with their school boards,” (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000, p. 54).

Board members make promises to constituents, have personal agendas, communicate directly with teachers and administrators, and do not always keep matters confidential (Caruso, 2005). Caruso (2004) characterized some board members as outliers, “Lone Rangers” (p. 8), individuals meddling in day-to-day school system operations, who undermine the superintendent’s ability to lead.

School board members, according to Hall (2008), require continuous attention from the Superintendent. Dawson and Quinn (2004) posit superintendent and board relations are akin to a marriage in which the partners initially do not know each other at all and roles have to be defined (Griffin, 2005; Harrison, 2002). The superintendent has to work with the board as an entity and then again with individual board members (Fuller, Campbell, Celio, Harvey, Immerwahr, & Winger, 2003; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004; Portis & Garcia, 2007). “The fact is, board-superintendent partnerships are not only extremely important to their school districts, but are also notoriously difficult to build, extremely fragile once built, and prone to deteriorate if not continuously and creatively supported and nurtured” (Eadie, 2003, p. 26). Houston (2007) points out maintaining good relations is easier when the superintendent and board members get to know one another on a personal level.

Building Trust

One immediate goal for the superintendent is to deliberately build relationships with board members based on trust (Portis & Garcia, 2007), ideally working in a team based relationship (Carr, 2003; Houston & Eadie, 2005). Shibles, Rallis and Deck (2001) contend superintendent-board relationships are really a “set of individual relationships” (p. 223). Suspicions, misinterpretations, accusations, and insecurity happen when trust between boards and superintendents is not established (Kowalski, 2006; Reeves, 2010).
Ensuring school board members collectively and individually feel informed about the issues and decisions to be made is necessary to establish positive relationships as well as trust (Glass & Franceschini, 2006). It is the responsibility of the superintendent to “provide knowledge and assistance, two-way communication, and establish mutual respect, by being cooperative” (Shibles, Rallis, & Deck, 2001, p. 224). The superintendent must actively encourage board members to review and ask questions about agenda topics, while the superintendent must anticipate the need to clarify information pertinent to board business, so that board members make informed decisions (Jones & Howley, 2009; Shibles, Rallis & Deck, 2001).
Critical policy decisions must be made by board members who may not necessarily have an educational background and may feel unsure (Mountford, 2004). Cooper, Fusarelli & Randall (2004) defined policy making “as a political process where needs, goals, and intentions are translated into a set of objectives, laws, policies, and programs, which in turn affect resource allocations, actions, and outputs, which are the basis for evaluation, reforms, and new policies” (p. 3). Establishing trust between the superintendent and board members is a process that necessitates moving away from formally scheduled meetings to get to know one another (Cooper, Fusarelli, & Carella, 2004; Eadie, 2006).
One of your primary responsibilities as superintendent and CEO of your district is to play a
leading role in building and maintaining strategically significant relationships, and the one
that is at the heart of your district’s strategic and policy-level leadership – and most critical
to your effectiveness as CEO – is between you and your school board. (Houston & Eadie,
2005, p. 73)

Board members and superintendents must understand their roles (Griffin, 2005; Henry, Saks, & Wright, 2001; Mountford & Ylimaki, 2005). “Without clear demarcation between the roles of superintendents and school boards, tensions in many districts are part of daily life...role conflict is often the reason superintendents get into trouble with their school boards” (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000, p. 54).

When board members and superintendents are unclear about who is responsible for which duties, conflict, inefficiency, and frustration are inevitable. Above all else, an effective leadership team requires that the board and superintendent establish and maintain a constructive working relationship with each other. (Goodman & Zimmerman, 2000, p. 17)

Ethical Dilemmas

Temptations abound for board members who want a good relationship with constituents who elected them and expect “to maintain two way communication with the public” (Kowalski, 2006, p. 126). Board members may not communicate with the superintendent and do not keep the superintendent informed (Kowalski, 2006; Nelson, 2010; Peterson & Fusarelli, 2008; Wagner & Simpson, 2009). Board members may also have trouble keeping issues confidential (Dawson & Quinn, 2004).

Relationships between board members and superintendents become most strained when there are issues about ethics (Caruso, 2004, 2005). “For obvious reasons superintendents are often wary about getting involved in board discussions about ethics, where they could be perceived as meddling ...” (Reide, 2004, p. 21). Superintendents also have to deal with issues created when one or a few board members dominate the board (Kowalski, 2006). Shibles et al. (2001) describe board members as fractional as they do not share common agendas and form coalitions “focused on an issue and dissolve [them] once their task is completed (Kowalski, 2006, p. 148).

Evaluating the Superintendent

Henderson, Henry, Saks, and Wright (2001) suggest, “ Trust, respect, shared values and knowledge, and each team member’s understanding of his or her role” (p. 6) contribute to the success of superintendents and board members achieving targeted goals and to positive superintendent evaluations (Farkas, Johnson, & Duffett, 2003; Peterson, 2002). Contracts call for board evaluation of the superintendent on an annual basis (Fusarelli, 2005; Soares & Soares, 2000). “Improving individual performance in order to provide quality services and programs to students is the ultimate purpose of evaluation,” (DiPaola & Stronge, 2003, p. 10).

Evaluations often contain comments and considerations geared to the ability of the superintendent to establish trust and communication with the board (Henderson, Henry, Saks, & Wright, 2001). “Every superintendent innately knows that the most important element is communication, communication, communication. This mantra is often the means for improving relationships with boards” (Krysiak, 2002, p. 19).

The evaluation process can be a valuable tool in defining expectations, enhancing communications, identifying and prioritizing district goals, and holding the superintendent accountable for performance. Evaluations provide the superintendent an opportunity to assess the board’s satisfaction with their performance. (DiPaola & Stronge, 2001, p. 108)
Equally important in the evaluation process are positive board-superintendent relationships (Kowalski, 2006; Mountford, 2004); indeed, the superintendent’s job security is directly related to pleasing board members (Glass & Franceschini, 2006).

Final Thoughts

The superintendent’s contract spells out the deliverables expected of a district superintendent. Brasher (2012) writes,
Superintendent contracts are legal documents and have profound (and sometimes
unintended) legal consequences. The board of education should ensure that it is
comfortable with all terms of all initial and continuing superintendent contracts before
voting to approve the contract. The board of education – and superintendent – should
actually see the contract before and during the vote! (p. 2)
Often the wording in the contract spells out the “promises” to be delivered by the entity of the board as well as the superintendent (Brasher, 2012). Eadie (2004) suggests,
First, the board and superintendent reach agreement on what appear to be the pre- eminent
CEO leadership challenges facing the district in five major categories: (1) the board-
superintendent relationship, including superintendent support for the board; (2)
educational leadership; (3) administrative and financial leadership; (4) external relationship
leadership; and (5) superintendent professional development. (p. 3)

Kowalski (2006) proposed that the main purpose of school boards should be to convert the needs of the community into goals and visions that are obtainable for school improvement. However, perceptions related to leading the school system become less clear when ordinary citizens, with various motivations for becoming a board member, are in charge of the educational system (Mountford, 2008; Richardson, 2005).
The superintendent and the school board deal with the bureaucracy of schools, state education agencies, and federal agencies, while providing challenges to the educational infrastructure in the school district (Eadie, 2009; Fuller,Campbell, Celio, Harvey, Immerwahr & Winger, 2003; Richardson, 2005; Summers & Wells, 2000). Griffin (2005), concludes “Each party must understand and respect the other’s role.” The board and superintendent “must share a mutual vision and work together as partners for the benefit of the district and its students” (p.55).


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School Board Micromanagement: Apprehension for Superintendents



Elizabeth F. Meyers
Michael D. Richardson

Elizabeth F. Meyers is an Educational Consultant in Baton Rouge, LA, and Michael D. Richardson is Callaway Endowed Professor of Educational Leadership at Columbus State University.



A school board is made up of elected or appointed leaders whose mission is to set the vision, goals, and direction of the school system and insure the goals are implemented. The paramount obligation of all board members is to act in the best interests of the school district. School boards are charged with ensuring that broader state and federal education requirements are met while translating local values and priorities into policies to meet the goals and aspirations of parents, tax payers, and local businesses. Sometimes the best intentions of school board members get overtaken by the possibility of change and mismanagement ensues. Management implies judicious use of all available resources for the attainment of defined goals; consequently mismanagement implies the unwise manipulation of resources that may not be in the best interest of the school district.


American education has reacted to public frustration with four decades of stagnant student productivity, the lack of instructional technology in classrooms, overall declining education development, and disturbing financial concerns suggest a downward spiral more powerful than predicted (Bryant & Resnick, 2011; Lipman, 2013). And now, the micromanagement of local schools boards is seen as a contributing factor to the perceived failure of American education (Farrell, Nayfack, Smith & Wohlstetter, 2014). The sheer volume of anecdotal evidence would indicate that micromanagement by local school boards is a significant problem (Reeves, 2002; Conley, 2003; Fuller et al, 2003; Ehrensal & First, 2008). If micromanagement is as substantial a problem as researchers indicate, then it is vital to understand why school boards tend to engage in micromanagement, how and to what extent they micromanage, and what effects micromanaging has on the district’s ability to address school improvement and student achievement effectively and efficiently (Lipman, 2013; Shuttleworth, 2013).

School Governance: History of Local Control

Traditionally, American school governance has been deeply rooted in local control (Sell, 2006). Early colonial education was considered a parental responsibility with moral and religious teaching the primary objective of education (Mauk & Oakland, 2005, Jeynes, 2007). In 1642, Massachusetts passed the first compulsory education law (Jeynes, 2007), established the first school board, and the first state board (Sell, 2006). Sell emphasizes that control remained with the local boards as the “general public was wary of giving up power over schools to the states” (p. 72).

After the American Revolution, education became the venue for promoting a democratic society. Benjamin Rush stated (as cited in Parkerson, 2001) that
public schools would produce one general uniform system of education {that would}
tender the mass of people more homogeneous and thereby fit them more easily for uniform
and peaceful government. (p. 8)
This shift in ideology led to a rise in the number of common schools (Jeynes, 2007), where American children could be molded into “efficient workers and good citizens” (Parkerson, 2001, p. 12).

The impact of cultural, social, and economic changes, such as the emancipation of slaves, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of scientific management, desegregation, and the Civil Rights Movement) impacted educational ideology, but not necessarily the organization of education (Rury, 2002). Today, many perceive local school board governance to be “outdated and incapable of effectively leading educational reforms” (Land, 2002, p. 229).

School Governance: Structure and Role Confusion

The structure and role of school boards remain “contested and misunderstood” (Ehrensal & First, 2008). The powers of local school boards are determined by state legislatures, and their purpose is to implement and monitor state educational policies and procedures at the local level (Land, 2002). Though the legitimacy of local school boards is determined by state legislatures, the members who serve on these boards are locally elected (Sell, 2006). Citizens view their local school boards as symbols of the democratic process (Ehrensal & First, 2008; Farrell, Nayfack, Smith & Wohlstetter, 2014) and expect them to “intervene on their behalf” (McAdams, 2008). School boards give parents a “mechanism for engaging in decisions that directly affect their children” (Bryant & Resnick 2011, p. 13).

Thus local school board members are not only trustees of education but also politicians. Opfer and Denmark (2001) point out that the “elected positions of school board members create susceptibility to self-interest, self-preservation, and competition” (p. 115). Land (2002) argues that growing state-level involvement in education has contributed to the confusion “regarding who is in control of education and what the school board’s role is" (p. 235). Conflicting organizational structures create tension between state and local interests (Arsen & Mason, 2013; Cambre, Causey-Konaté & Warner, 2013; Hess, 2011).


Chambers (2004) indicates that micromanagement “occurs when influence, involvement, and interaction begin to subtract value from people and processes" (p. 14). He emphasizes that micromanagement occurs when results subtract rather than add, “regardless of intent” (p. 16). Chambers underscores that micromanagement many times is due to a “lack of awareness” rather than any malicious intent (p. 22). Land (2002) posits that micromanagement occurs when there is a lack of trust. Reimer (2008) pointed to "numerous controlling and restrictive policies" as reflective of a lack of trust in the professional capabilities within organizations (p. 80). When questioned about maintaining a high-performing team, IBM executive Bruce Hillsberg (as cited in Kouzes & Posner, 2006) replied “hire smart and capable people and then let them do what they do best” (p. 80). Kouzes and Posner stressed that Hillsberg “lets people know what has to be done and then trusts them to do it” (p. 80).

Although policymaking is considered the primary responsibility of local school boards, researchers found that only a small percentage of time is devoted to it (Land, 2002; Sell, 2006; Ehrensal & First, 2008). Because most school board members are lay people, some critics argue that board members are not likely to “understand educational issues well enough to form policies and manage schools” (Sell, 2006, p. 84). If board members are unable, for whatever reason, to engage in policymaking, they will “look for a way to play a role” and “micromanaging then, becomes that contributing role” (Ehrensal & First, 2008, p. 78). Conley (2003) suggests that board members are “more easily sidetracked into the micromanagement of district affairs and onto noneducational issues with which many board members are more familiar and comfortable” (p. 151).

Mountford and Brunner (1999) found that personal motivation was a factor in micromanagement, indicating that board members “motivated by personal agendas were more likely to micromanage” (p. 12). Alsbury (2004) suggests that elected school boards are not necessarily a reflection of a democracy. He argues that low voter turnout, few opponents, and recruitment by current board members or district staff will likely result in members elected who represent a limited segment of the population. Mountford and Brunner (1999) found that an increasing number of people are seeking board membership for personal reasons and that these “personal agenda board members pushed too hard for rapid change without considering all factors first” (p. 17).

School Governance Reform

The largest number of proposed changes to school governance has occurred within the last thirty years (Land, 2002; McDonald, 2013). Mitchell (2006), states that “any kind of governance reform can only succeed if it facilitates educational practices that improve student performance” (p. 167). Sells (2006) indicates that a number of reforms have been implemented and “none have been supremely successful” (p. 85).

One such reform is site-based management, which is a model that seeks to “decentralize” and “debureaucratize school control” (Raywid, 1990, p. 156). Site-based management has been praised for its ability to involve stakeholders in decision making, but has been criticized for the significant amount of time, energy, and resources it consumes (Webber, 1995; Land, 2002; Conley, 2003). Two other reforms, school choice and charter schools, are essentially variants of site-based management (Lonsbury & Apple, 2012). Researchers are not convinced that site-based management improves student achievement, citing a lack of empirical evidence (Land, 2002; Mitchell, 2006; Malen & Cochran, 2008).

State or mayoral takeovers are current reform proposals. Failing schools and corruption within school districts have been cited as justification for taking over schools and school districts (Kiel, 2013; Miron & St. John, 2003). Some critics have argued that centralized control has given unlimited power to a small body that fails “when it comes to heeding the public voice,” particularly minority groups (Sell, 2006, p. 87). Public backlash has grown against state or mayoral control of public education. In one of the largest experiments with mayoral control in American schools, Mayor Michael Bloomberg experienced growing community backlash during his third term due to what Fullan and Boyle (2014) describe as a "lack of balance in push pull dynamics" (p. 46). As the public becomes disenfranchised, it becomes less supportive of the existing educational organization (Land, 2002; Wilkens, 2013). Whether due to the newness of the reform or the reform itself, researchers indicate that not enough empirical evidence has been provided to demonstrate that this reform has significantly impacted student achievement (Green & Carl, 2000; Land, 2002; Sells, 2006, Ehrensal & First, 2008).

Research on school board reforms such as term limits and appointed boards is extremely limited. Term limits, however, are unlikely to significantly impact either school board governance or student achievement. The Council of the Great City Schools conducted a nationwide survey of its districts in 2005 and found that 8.9 percent of its members had an average tenure between nine and twelve years and only 2.2 percent had an average tenure of greater than 12 years. The average tenure fell between five and eight years (p. 3). Similarly, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (2007) indicated that school board members served an average of two to six years. With regard to school board formation, Hoover (2008) found that changing from an elected board to an appointed one had no impact on student achievement.

The complexity of relationships and interactions between school boards, school districts, legislative bodies, state and federal education agencies, parents, and students significantly impacts reform efforts (Hirsh & Foster, 2013; Maeroff, 2011). More research is needed in the area of school governance (Marino, 2011). Cooper, Cibulka, and Fusarelli (2008) suggest that educational politics is an interaction of structure, behavior, and beliefs and that these interactions are vital, critical, and unpredictable (Mizzell, 2011). Researchers on school reforms such as limiting local school boards’ powers regarding personnel matters or superintendent contract procedures have provided limited insight into their effectiveness (Fuller, Campbell, Celio, Harvey, Immerwahr & Winger, 2003). The researchers, however, do speak to the fact that micromanagement is considered a leadership style--the implication being that wherever in the structure of education governance and management a leader is found, the possibility of micromanagement remains (Malen & Cochran, 2008). Chambers (2004) indicates that “preemptive anticipation [communication, information, transparency] is …the single most effective strategy you can initiate with micromanagers" (p. 158).


School board members have a fiduciary relationship which simply requires board members to act honestly, fairly, in good faith, and with integrity, and act in the best interests of the school district. But micromanagement by the school board can hinder an organization's ability in achieving its vision. Educational organizations with its many stakeholders and multiple levels of decision-making often experience an increased potential for micromanagement. Developing clear roles for school board members, providing procedures for the reporting of micromanaging, encouraging collaboration among district boards, assisting board members by providing requested training, developing methods for evaluating board performance, and providing feedback may prove more effective in developing the types of interactions and relationships found to be effective in supporting student achievement.


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Superintendents vs. School board members:
How does a system continue to achieve when leadership is at odds?

Pamela S. Nutt

Dr. Pamela S. Nutt is a member of the Henry County, GA Board of Education.


For over 200 years, school board members have been in charge of providing governance to local school districts (Prezas, 2013). Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin advocated that it was important for the local municipality to have control over the way their children were being taught, and thus saw the need for local school boards (Davies, 2011). The members of early school boards were lay persons from the community who provided facilities for educating the students and a teacher for instruction (Cistone, 2008; Mountford, 2008). These facilities and instructors were paid by levying local taxes indicating that school boards had the support of the local community (Bryant & Resnick, 2011).

As the population of America increased, so did the need for a clerk of schools (Kowalski, McCord, Peterson, Young & Ellerson, 2011). Board members realized that they alone could not run the day to day operations of the school system; thus the position of clerk or superintendent of schools was created (Mizzell, 2011). The role of the superintendent was and still is that of an administrator or chief executive officer who is in charge of leading the school system (Malen, 2011; Houston, 2001). Thus, the role of the superintendent was created by board members to carry on the daily operations of the school system (Kowalski, 2006; Kowalski et al, 2011). Superintendents and school boards began a working relationship that could be described as tumultuous at times, but they managed to provide education for everyone within their districts (Hoyle, Bjork, Collier & Glass, 2005).

Leadership at odds?

Today the roles of superintendent and board members are not as cordial as they once were (McAdams, 2008). High unemployment, declining tax bases, and increasing costs of living have today’s population asking questions about poor performance in education and demanding school reform (Frankenberg & Diem, 2013; Lipman, 2013). According to Ray Hudullah (personal communication, October 1, 2013), former school board chair in Georgia,
Reform is not as easy as changing a district calendar for the number of days to attend
school or redistricting a school district; it takes the cooperation of both the superintendent
working together with the board members to achieve such a task. But what happens when the superintendent and school board members do not agree on issues?

Glass and Franceschini (2007) stated that 71 percent of 175 superintendants who were surveyed perceived that their job as superintendent was in crisis. John Zauner, Executive Director of the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association (personal communication, October 1, 2013) reported that as of the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, there were 43 new school superintendents in the State of Georgia. Further, he reported that an average number of new superintendents was around 30. Simpson (2013) noted that many superintendents perceive the job is more than just being an administrator to the school system; it is more a political effort to work with the board members while doing what is best for the children. Feinberg (2013) reported that superintendents leave for a variety of reasons: retirement, health and family issues, non-renewal of contract, and to pursue other ventures. But a main reason superintendents leave is due to board members meddling in the day-to-day operations of the school system (Grissom, 2010; Prezas, 2013).

According to the Georgia School Boards Association (2006), the average length of time a school superintendent stays under contract with one system is three years and the average contract is for three years. Feuerstein (2013) found that 35 percent of the superintendents said that they would be more aggressive in developing more reform if they had a longer contract. According to Glass (2008), the relationship between superintendents and board members is critical in developing a positive and effective working and learning environment. Townson, Johnston, Gross, Lynch, Garcy, Roberts and Novotney (2007), reported that building a superintendent/school board relationship is a never-ending process and one that sets the tone for a positive or negative growth in academic achievement for the entire system.

Superintendent vs. School Board

The job description of a school superintendent is just as demanding as that of any chief executive officer (Furman, 2013; Pont, 2014). According to the Georgia School Boards Association (2006), the superintendent acts as the ex-officio secretary and treasurer of the board. As secretary, the superintendent must keep minutes during executive sessions and other meetings of the board (McAdams, 2008). As treasurer, the superintendent is responsible for the receipt and disbursement of school funds (Lipman, 2013). The superintendent must fulfill and accomplish all rules, regulations and instructions of the school board, which includes the implementation of school board policies (Bjork, 2008). The superintendent is also charged with making employment and assignment recommendations for all school personnel to the school board (Duvall, 2005).

Conflict between superintendents and board members arises when a board member acts as the superintendent or tries to circumvent his/her authority (Cistone, 2008). Peterson and Williams (2005) reported that a main reason for superintendents to leave their job is political pressure from a board member to act in a way that is not best for all children. Richardson (2005) also reports that superintendents are tired of being a scapegoat for issues that are beyond their scope of position. Board members must see the superintendent as the district leader and allow him/her the responsibility to do the job (Malen, 2011).

The superintendent is also in charge of setting the agenda for the board meetings (Wickerham, 2009). Conflict between board members and superintendents comes when a board member wants to add information to the agenda while the meeting is in progress (Ament, 2013). A functioning board will follow the agenda and abide by the policies and procedures that are already set (Reeves, 2010). Eadie (2009) also perceives that it is important to keep politics and personal agendas out of the meetings and always support the superintendent even if it is not a popular decision. Ament (2013) stipulated recommendations for board members working with a superintendent: (a) do not micromanage, (b) permit the superintendent to run the day-to-day operations of the school system, (c) make time for board members and superintendents to discuss roles and responsibilities away from normal meeting times, (d) provide workshops on job roles and responsibilities for both superintendents and board members, (e) include team work and self- esteem building in the program, (f) build a strong sense of communication between the board members and superintendent, (g) develop a program that nurtures leadership within the system, and (h) have a plan in place to replace the superintendent before he/she leaves.

School board members also face a number of reasons they do not stay longer than one term in office (Feuerstein, 2013; Hess (2011; Prezas, 2013). According to the Georgia School Boards Association (2006), board members are on a rotating cycle for elections and it is possible for a board to have a new member every two years. Reasons for leaving office mirror those of the superintendent: not re-elected, too much politics involved, family/medical issues, too much time spent on the job, and demographic shifts (Hess & Meeks, 2011; Peterson & Williams, 2005). Wickerham (2009) stated that special interest groups are another cause of school board turn off. Board members also cite differences between board members as another reason to leave (Manna, McGuinn & McGuinn, 2013). Keedy and Bjork (2002) found that of the 2,096 school board presidents from across the United States, 30 percent stated that they would not run for another term on the school board. So with such turnover happening in the superintendent’s office and on the board, how does a system provide stability within its ranks (Richardson, 2005)?


Former Georgia school superintendent Dr. Jack Parish (personal communication, October 4, 2013) describes working with school board members:
as the most challenging task a school superintendent can perform is trying to decide how
much information to give the members. Some members want just a little, while others want it
all. Keeping board members abreast of current issues and trends is an issue, but it is
important that all members receive the same information at the same time in order to limit
favoritism on the board.

Parish would provide a weekly summary of what the system had encountered, upcoming events, and give the members a “heads up” of local issues that could reach board members.

Another way superintendents can help board member relations is to communicate impending educational leadership/board member training that would support a member’s working knowledge of school leadership (Manna, McGuinn & McGuinn, 2013). Maeroff, 2011) also suggests that board members should also learn from networking with other members who attend workshops and conferences. Reimer (2008) proposes that communication is an ongoing process and one that changes every time a new board member is elected or a superintendent is replaced.

Board members must communicate with the superintendent in order to have a functional system that is dedicated to student achievement (Bagley, 2013). According to Jay Wansley (personal communication, September 30, 2013), Associative Director of AdvancEd in Georgia, board members can cause a system to lose accreditation by micromanaging the school system and by acting as the superintendent instead of a board member. One county in Georgia lost accreditation in 2008, one of three counties in the nation to lose accreditation since 1969 (Wickerham, 2009). The Georgia governor removed four board members for violating their oath of office and for ethics misconduct.

In order to function as a progressive board, members must work together in unison to provide strong leadership for the district (Brewer, Killeen & Welsh, 2013; Davies, 2011; Houston, 2001; Kirst, 2008; Mizzell; 2011; Reimer, 2008; Usdan, 2010) . Superintendents and board members should work together in communicating their vision for the system (Johnson, 2013). Board members and the superintendent should have an open means of communication that is evaluated often (Bagley, 2013; Duvall, 2005; Eadie, 2009; Frankenberg & Diem, 2013). They should hold board retreats that are off the school system site in order to develop a relaxed atmosphere for working on board matters, and attend workshops that will help new board members understand their roles and responsibilities to the school system (Ehrensal & First, 2008; Hirsh & Foster, 2013; Keedy & Bjork, 2002). Communication is the key to nurture a positive school board/superintendent relationship and provide student achievement that is constant and systemic (Grissom, 2010; Hirsh & Foster, 2013; Simpson, 2013). Dysfunctional boards do not have clear goals and beliefs and board members often disagree with other board members in public (Kirst, 2008).

Shared vision

Hirsh and Foster (2013), state that the school board and the superintendent should have a shared vision on how the system is to advance. Reimer (2008) described an effective school board as one that the vision was not about personal gain or being re-elected; it must be about student achievement and to develop goals that would help each child to reach his/her full potential. Biffault (2005) also stated that board members need to be reminded that they represent the entire district, not just an area. In addition, board members and superintendents must gather data from staff, parents, students, state and national institutions before making any decision that will impact student learning (Saatcioglu & Sargut, 2014).

Brewer, Killen and Welsh (2013 reported on the importance of developing a climate that is positive and proactive for sharing the vision of board members and superintendent. If the vision is not embraced by each member and the superintendent, then the likelihood of the vision working is relatively low (Peterson & Williams, 2005). A superintendent should invite board members to have an input in the design while stakeholders should seek out trends, research, and new developments in order to increase and revise shared visions (Farrell, Nayfack, Smith & Wohlstetter, 2014).

Understanding roles and responsibilities

It is understandable that school board members do not understand their roles as members of the local school board (Fowler, 2009). Board members act as judicial, executive, and legislative officers in their county. They are legislative body members when they adopt budgets, pass regulations and enact new policies for the school system (Bryan & Resnick, 2011; Kirst, 2008). The board acts as a judicial member when they act on student disciplinary hearings, teacher terminations, and personnel transfers (Davies, 2011). These roles are typically reserved for legal counsel; knowing legal issues are not something common to a lay person (Usdan, 2010). The board acts as an executive member when they approve policies that have been reviewed by the stakeholders (Saenz, 2005). These tasks become even more frustrating for board members who are new and old alike when they do not have clearly defined roles that are understood by all (Hooever, 2008).

It is when a board member tries to micromanage a system or act as an individual in making policy decisions that roles and responsibilities become clouded (Bjork, 2008; Briffault, 2005; Eadie, 2009; Ehrensal & First, 2008; Fowler, 2009; Hoyle, Bjork, Collier & Glass, 2005; Kowalski, 2006). According to Grissom (2010), effective school systems are led by superintendents and school boards who unite with a common cause and develop a deep mutual trust and respect for each other and the system they support (Reimer, 2008). Developing ongoing learning experiences for both new and veteran board members keeps each member abreast of new trends from the Federal and State government, allows networking with other board members across the state in developing solutions to problem issues, and allows board members to work together in gaining better understanding to local issues (Fowler, 2009; Grissom, 2010; Malen, 2011; Simpson, 2013).

All of these functions require extensive knowledge of the system and thus training in these areas is essential for good governance (Maeroff, 2011). New school board members in Georgia are required to attend 15 hours of school board training; and veteran members are required to attend nine hours of board training (GSBA, 2006). Board members are trained in policy orientation, legal issues, roles and responsibilities, communications, student achievement, and other workshops that may be requested by the system (GSBA, 2006). No board member, not even the chair, has any more power than another (Usdan, 2010). Bjork (2008) writes that no board member has any legal authority to act as an individual on any issue and that all board actions must consider the betterment of the entire system, not just a specific location or group.

Focus on student achievement

According to the Simpson (2013), one of the characteristics of an effective school board/superintendent relationship is a focus on student achievement. Focusing on policies and not the day to day operations of the schools by the board members helps to guide the system to a high functioning status when the board holds high expectations of student achievement district wide (Bagley, 2013). High student achievement should be communicated at parent meetings, school board meetings, on the websites, public functions, and with each other (Feinberg, 2013).


Working together as an educational team really does not matter if student achievement is not the main focus of the jobs. Team building, role enhancement, and budget seminars mean nothing if the two groups are not dedicated to academic success. The only way to ensure academic success for the students is to hold each board member accountable for hiring a superintendent that shares the same goals, focus and vision for the best interest of the community.

Focusing on school leadership is important but can only happen when those at the top have a clear vision, set goals, and are constantly evaluating the success of the projects. Board members must not overlook the need for self evaluation when programs and process are not effective. Superintendents must provide the board with enough information to make decisions that are beneficial for all students and not just the ones in their own district.

Even though learning takes place in the classroom with talented and gifted teachers, their effectiveness will only be seen when working in a system that has a functioning school board, and a visionary as a superintendent who is more interested in developing policies that advance learning than getting bogged down in the daily happenings of the system. Developing practices that reach out to the community and invite two-way communication will build a foundation for a high performing school system.


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Kenneth E. Lane; Southeastern Louisiana University
Michael D. Richardson
Pamela A. Lemoine
Thomas J. McCormack



The buyout of superintendent contracts by school boards has become the source of debate during the past decade. These buyouts most often are the result of conflicts of interest between the local school board and the superintendent. Reasons for these conflicts encompass issues of superintendent loyalties, board membership turnover, and both public and political pressures. Ramifications may include negative financial impact, turmoil within the district, derogatory public opinion, and legal considerations. Changes in school district leadership mandate realignment of district philosophy costing the district time, money, and public trust in the instructional programs provided by the school district. Furthermore, the new superintendent requires time to design and implement new programs that he/she believes will enhance the educational program.


The exponential increase in the contractual buyout of school superintendents since the early 1990s raises many significant concerns (Alsbury, 2003; Esparo & Rader, 2001). District-wide financial issues, consistency of district-wide management leadership, and community support of the school board are all affected by the length of time a superintendent remains in his or her contracted position (Grady & Bryant, 1991; Hewitt, 2002; Mountford, 2008). Recently, superintendents, wary of being bought out, are adding clauses to their contracts that protect them and provide for maximum compensation regardless of the school board’s opinion of their job performance (Alsbury, 2008; Fusarelli & Jackson, 2004; Ray & Marshall, 2005; Schmidt, 1995). On the other side, school boards recognize that a buyout is extremely expensive (Buchanan, 2006; Clark, 2011; Ehrenberg, Chaykowski & Ehrenberg, 1988).

Public trust may be compromised each time a school board elects to buyout a superintendent’s contract (Fusarelli, 2005). Often this is followed by a turnover in school board members which will ultimately affect student learning (Alsburg, 2008; Ray, 2005). With chronic turnover come expectations that turnover is inevitable, making the superintendent turnover story one of short-term focus with insufficient investment in long-range vision and infrastructure (Buchanan, 2006; Czaja & Harman, 1997; DeMitchell & Stipetic, 1995)). The importance of the district superintendent and the potential consequences of superintendent exits make understanding the factors that drive superintendent turnover a key topic for research (Gilman & Lanman-Givens, 2001; Glass, Bjork & Brunner, 2000; Glass & Franceschini, 2007).

Superintendent turnover is most often related to difficult relations between superintendents and school board members (Grissom, 2010; Grissom & Anderson, 2012). Superintendents and school board members experience similar pressures to implement change, respond to mandates, and address district finances (Hattar, 2013; Kowalski, 2003). Within the past decade, social and political pressures for educational reform has influenced the behaviors and motivation of superintendents, superintendent candidates, and school boards (Peterson & Fusarelli, 2008). Newly mandated state and federal initiatives have resulted in increased pressure on school board members to become involved with daily operations of the school district which impacts superintendent-school board relationships (Natkin, Cooper, Alborano, Padilla & Ghosh, 2003; Simpson, 2013).

Accountability of school boards

School boards play a big role in the community they are charged to supervise (Hosman, 1990; McCloud & Dukes, 1994).The school board is in charge of three major areas: (1) human resources/personnel, (2) educational programs, and (3) fiscal accountability (Mellon, 2012. Each area is very important to creating an effective school board in the community (Yee & Cuban, 1996). The school board’s responsibility in the human resources area is to ensure that the best possible people, including the superintendent, are working at their maximum capacity (Glass, 2001). In the area of educational programs, the school board is responsible for assessment in the district, alignment of curriculum with district goals and standards, excellent academic performance in the district, and informing the public of progress (Simpson, 2013). Finally, in the fiscal area, the school board is responsible for the following items: (1) establishing a budget; (2) making sure policies are helping guide fiscal activities; (3) supporting and monitoring the implementation of the budget; (4) conducting annual audits; and (5) providing feedback regarding the financial condition of the district (Brubaker & Shelton, 1995; Prezas, 2013).

Board Members

Researchers have indicated that due to the disparate agendas brought to the table, superintendents come under intense criticism, resulting in the degeneration when working with board (Alligood, 2005; Melver, 2011; Meyer, 2013; Parker, 1996), which most often leads to early contract release for the superintendent and turmoil for the district (Brunner, Grogan & Prince, 2003; Tallerico, Poole & Burstyn, 1994). Glass and Bjork (2003), presented several options for addressing the situation, and largely focused upon training and/or screening of board candidates. Giaquinto (2011), sources of conflict between boards and superintendents. The author reported that the boards and superintendents agreed on some direct causes of dismissal: (1) board micromanagement, usually regarding personnel or budget; (2) poor understanding of role differences; (3) personal agendas; and (4) poor communication (Carlson, 1961; Eaton & Sharp, 1986; Grady & Bryant, 1990; Grogan, 2000; Harvey, 2003; Knox, 2013; McAdam & Gressman, 1997; Rasmussen, 2013; Ross & Kowal, 1994).


Sparks (2012), reviewed buyouts of superintendents' contracts and discussed the financial and political impact these buyouts had on the entire district’s morale. Search consultants reported great difficulty in placing bought-out superintendents and negotiating future contracts for them (Thompson, Thompson & Knight, 2013). School board members perceived that the process of buy-outs was painful and resulted in a poor public view of the entire process (Toom, Lugg & Bogotch, 2010).

Buyouts of superintendents are becoming more frequent due to several reasons (Rohlfing, 2013). Prime among these reasons is that the makeup of school boards has changed and the political climate in many districts has soured for the superintendent (Evert & Van Deuren, 2013. A superintendent may face buyout because of being a bad administrator or because of being too proactive (Domene, 2013). As more buyouts occur, the financial implications for school districts continue to mount. According to some researchers, superintendent buyouts are a waste of taxpayer’s money and can easily be avoided with careful planning, especially in the hiring stage (Harrington-Leuker, 1990; Trevino, Braley, Stallone-Brown & Slate; 2008; Samuels, 2011).

In a study of five Texas school districts that bought out the superintendent, Ray and Marshall (2006) discovered several negative results for the district. These negative results were the detrimental impact on the school district budget, a lowering of staff morale, a decrease in student achievement, and a lowering of community support. Why do school boards want the superintendent gone?

Superintendent Dismissal

One of the primary means of superintendent buyout is through dismissal (Brandolph, 2012; Bjork, Glass & Brunner, 2005). Baker (2010) and Samuels (2011) advised school board members of ways to avoid going to court to settle superintendent dismissals. They listed seven major areas of advice to avoid litigation, including following through on all formalities in a resignation, determining the superintendent’s ability to apply for a sabbatical upon non-renewal, avoidance of due process problems by waiting until contract termination, negotiating superintendent buyouts or severance packages, avoiding publishing reasons for termination, ensuring that sufficient evidence exists for termination, and referring contract to district attorneys for review prior to decision (Grissom & Anderson, 2012; Melver, 2011; Samuels, 2011).

The forgotten component is the shock and healing process for the superintendent who never saw the buyout coming (Grogan & Andrews, 2002). Goens (2005) addressed the issue of superintendents’ buyout in terms of the emotional fallout and the need for healing when the buyout occurs. The response is usually one of anger, flight, fight, or retreat and there are victims on both sides—the dismissed superintendent and the school district (Kamrath & Brunner, 2008; Kinsella, 2004).

So what causes superintendents to leave or be removed? Why do school boards want the superintendent to leave, or go to the extent of buying out the contract? Why would school boards be willing to pay three or four superintendents simultaneously?


Metzger (1997) studied the involuntary turnover of superintendents within California. Based on their self-reports, 66% left due to personnel issues, unpopular firings, transfers, poor evaluations of other employees, or inability to deal effectively with existing relationships among the board and employees. Other researchers reported leaving due to political agendas of board members and community advocacy groups (McKay & Grady, 1994; Rasmussen, 2013). Involuntary turnover generally resulted in turmoil within the district, legal involvement for the buyout, and the financial costs of the search for a new superintendent (Grissom, 2010).

Metzger (1997) stated that superintendents often arrived at their position thinking that they would never be involuntarily removed. Despite their early optimism, the political aspects of their job forced them into an involuntary resignation due to various factors (Natkin, Cooper, Fusarelli, Alborano, Padilla & Ghosh, 2002; Zepada & Mayers, 2013). The two most frequently cited factors were related to personnel issues and political agendas of board members. The situation described under political agendas of board members included such issues as frequent board member turnover (Talbert & Beach, 2013), power struggles among board members (Ortiz, 2000), special issues advocated by the board, disagreements about responsibilities, and past practices of superintendent turnover (Walter & Sharp, 1996). Other factors included union problems, financial problems, and making the superintendent the scapegoat for unpopular decisions (Melver, 2011). The involuntary turnover of superintendents often has a devastating effect on their personal lives (Hoyle, 2007).


One reason for high superintendent buyout is escalating pay for school leaders. Kowalski, McCord, Peterson, Young and Ellerson (2011), reported that the mean salary for a superintendent was $161,992 in 2010-11, up from $118,496 in 2000-01. There is wide variation within that group, though; superintendents of districts of between 300 to 2,500 students are at a salary mean of $119,613, while those in districts with 25,000 or more students are paid a mean salary of $226,651 (Goldberg, 2010).

The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of the nation's 66 largest school districts, said that 39 percent of big-city superintendents reported in 2010 that their contracts included performance bonuses, and the average benefits package was valued at about $141,000 (Buchanan, 2004; Buchanan, 2006’ Sparks, 2012). When taking into account salary, benefits, and accrued vacation time, the cost of contract buyouts can quickly rise (Byrd, Drews & Johnson, 2006; Wimpelberg, 1997). In Oregon, the state passed a law in 2007 prohibiting districts from entering into contracts that obligate the district to compensate school administrators for work that was not performed stating that the law would eliminate plush buyouts; but it hardly worked (Derrington & Sharratt, 2009; Kinsella, 2004; Samuels, 2011).


Ultimately, the researchers’ superficial analysis illustrates that superintendents exit positions for numerous reasons. This research was designed to examine the conceptual emphasis on the two-sided nature of turnover decisions which the labor market predicts. Some turnover is driven by factors that impinge on school boards’ decisions about future employment (e.g., superintendent performance) while other turnover comes from superintendents’ decisions to leave, which are informed by other factors (e.g., working conditions, external opportunities). Still other turnover is the result of retirement decisions, which appear to be driven primarily by age. School districts might use these results to improve superintendent retention by focusing attention or resources on its antecedents.


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Will the Past be Replaced? Elected Superintendents Versus Appointed Superintendents



Eddie Obleton
Pamela A. Lemoine
Michael D. Richardson
Thomas J. McCormack



The superintendent is the most important official in the progress, leadership, and direction of modern public education, school effectiveness, and student achievement. The superintendent is the most influential person in bringing about successful changes to public education and in creating effective schools. Many leading reformers agree that the superintendent has the greatest potential for leading reform and restructuring in public education (Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson, Orr, & Cohen, 2007; Elmore, 2000; Fullan, 2005; Haycock, 2007; Leithwood, Seashore-Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2010; Sergiovanni, 2005, 2006).

Modern researchers have been addressing the multifaceted role of the modern superintendent (Kennedy, 2008) and the complex type of leadership that promotes the changes required to prepare students adequately for the evolving world both today and in the future (Bjork, 2000, 2001;Bjork & Blasé, 2009; Bjork & Kowalski, 2005). Strong leadership within the educational organization is a foundation for high academic achievement; hence the role of superintendent is one of the most important roles in U.S. public schools. However, the question remains: Should superintendents be elected or appointed? Instead of taking a one of these opposing views and presenting a pros and cons on each side, the researchers present the positive aspects of both sides. They exhibit how each positive attribute for one side, correlates with a negative attribute for the other side.

Schools: A Constitutional Responsibility

The individual states of the United States inherited the responsibility of education through the Reserved Powers Clause found in the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This forced the financial and legislative burden of creating a system that would produce an educated citizenry upon the states. Although states have varied considerably in the pursuit of this task, there is one common thread among them. All state constitutions specifically address the legislative responsibility of establishing schools (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 1992). Once this state constitutional right was established, states had to formulate a plan to enact such a massive program. Every state, minus Hawaii, decided to delegate its authority in this manner to subordinate agencies. Thus, local school boards were created to implement the constitutional right for education that was established by the individual states. These school boards vary in size and districting procedures from state to state. Although it is a widely held perception that local boards of education control public education, the only powers held by local school boards are those conferred to them by the state (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 1992). The American court system has steadfastly supported this power structure in several rulings (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 1992).

Article VIII of the Georgia Constitution provides that a free “adequate education …shall be provided for by taxation” (1982). This document delegates the authority to “establish and maintain public schools” to local school boards created along county lines (Georgia Constitution, 1982). This mandate led to the creation of 159 separate county school systems, plus an additional eighteen independent school systems.

In Article VIII Section V, the Georgia Constitution outlined the educational system by placing each school system “under the management and control of a board of education” (1982), thus county boards of education act as political sub-divisions of the state (Georgia School Board Association, 1996). School boards’ functions are primarily legislative and evaluative in nature. The major duties of a board of education in Georgia include but are not limited to:

1. To interpret the educational needs of the school community;

2. To develop polices, in accordance with the law and in accordance with the educational
needs of the people;

3. To evaluate and act upon the nominations of personnel as presented by the

4. To approve the budget, financial reports, audits, [etc.] whereby the administration may
formulate procedures, regulations, and other guides for the orderly accomplishment of
school business;

5. To adopt regulations concerning the use of school property;

6. To appraise the efficiency of the schools and of the service rendered in terms of value to
the community;

7. To keep the citizenry intelligently informed of the purpose, value, conditions, and needs
of public education within the community;

8. To acquire the establishment and maintenance of records, accounts, archives,
management methods, and procedures considered essential to the efficient conduct of
school business. (Georgia School Board Association, 2000)

Members of a board of education only have authority while the board is in session, therefore, the board relies upon the superintendent to carry out its policies and the supervision of its employees.

Historical Background of the Superintendency

The role of the superintendency has been an evolving one (Fuchs, 2006). Several researchers provide an historical overview of the superintendency (Bjork, 2000, 2001; Bjork & Kowalski, 2005; Bjork & Lindle, 2001; Browne-Ferrigno & Glass, 2005; Fuchs, 2006; Leone, Warnimont, & Zimmerman, 2007; Porter & Nohria, 2010; Schlechty, 2009). Fuchs (2006) posits these studies portray the superintendency as a position which is greatly influenced by the industrial revolution and one that allowed superintendents a great deal of authority and autonomy. According to Callahan (1962), two major factors led to the creation of a superintendent of schools: the need to educate the masses and to firmly establish secondary education. The superintendent from 1865 through early 1900s was an educator (Kowalski, Ellerson, McCord, Peterson, Young, and American Association of School Administrators, 2011a). The superintendent was the “teacher of teachers” (Cuban, 1988, p. 120). The first role conception of the superintendent was that of a teacher-scholar (Kowalski & Bjork, 2005;; Kowalski, McCord, Peterson, Young, & Ellerson, 2011b; Kowalski, Fusarelli, & Peterson, 2009). Fuchs (2006) contends the superintendent’s role in its early 19th century evolution was extremely influential in the community where the superintendent was seen as an authority, in control of instruction, curricular planning, and efficient management (Cuban, 1988). By 1930, school administrators’ roles changed from being a scholar and educational philosopher to that of business manager with school boards contending schools should be run like a business (Fuchs, 2006; Kowalski et al., 2011a, 2011b). “A rapidly changing economy and an industrial framework transformed the superintendent from scholar and educator to chief executive officer” (Fuchs, 2006, p. 4), along with two other responsibilities: management of resources, and development and planning of curriculum.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the job responsibilities of the superintendent shifted once more moving the emphasis to democracy and democratic schooling (Fuchs, 2006) who also posited, “The superintendent became a negotiator and statesman, cultivating community relations in order to gain the moral and financial support of the community” ( p. 4). Cuban (1988) provides two major reasons for this shift: the lack of job security and the desire to achieve personal and professional goals.

Sputnik, the space race, and other political changes influenced education and changed the focus of the superintendency; American schools were charged with “producing scientists and mathematicians that would sustain America’s prominence as a world power” (Fuchs, 2006, p. 4). Social unrest in the1960s and 1970s further changed the superintendency as local school board members shifted from businessmen and professionals to include blue-collar workers, homemakers, and other representatives of diverse groups. Alsbury (2003) suggested special interests consideration became a major factor in school board membership, thus affecting the superintendency.

The Superintendent: Role, Function and Expectations

Now, more than ever, the work portfolio of America’s school superintendents is
Increasingly diverse: they are responsible for student progress and achievement
while balancing the diversification of the student and staff populations, the
explosion of technology and the digital divide, an expanded set of expectations
and involvement from the federal level, the media, and board and community
relations, all in the context of an increasingly globalized education system.
(Kowalski, 2011b, p. i)

Researchers have not sufficiently accounted for the role of the superintendent in influencing school success through leadership practices as they influence and affect school team leadership and the development of school culture and climate. Bandura (1984), Barth (1988), and Tschannen-Moran & Gareis (2004) suggest while the interactions of school-site individuals affect school effectiveness, the superintendent’s role as the school district leader or school district director can have a positive or negative influence on principal’s sense of self-efficacy – affecting principals’ motivation, leadership, and attitude which trickle down to affect teachers and other school-site personnel, thereby affecting the quality of school and success of its pupils through a collective efficacy effect (Glass, Bjork, & Brunner, 2000).

Leadership is central in school improvement processes because “almost everything depends on leadership” (Stover, 2005, p. 1), and especially the prevailing district culture and school climate that develop over time as leadership practices affect the behaviors of principals, teachers, staff, and students (Glass & Franceschini, 2007).
Leadership emanating from superintendents will determine the type of culture that develops as leadership practices affect principal and teacher behaviors, and shape the climate as one which is supportive or unsupportive (Hirsh & Foster, 2013). There is a direct linear relationship between district level leadership effectiveness, school level leadership effectiveness, and instructional (teacher) leadership effectiveness and student achievement (Bentley & Rempel, 1980; Liu & Meyer, 2005; Rowland, 2008; Tye & O’Brien, 2002).

With the emphasis on school reform in the 1980s, the superintendent’s role became one of corporate leadership with political strategizing as a mainstay (Hoyle, Bjork, Collier, & Glass, 2005). Researchers (Fuchs, 2006; Stover, 2005), also point out the superintendency of the 1980s was mainly influenced by the calls for school reforms. During this period, “the superintendent became a change agent” (Fuchs, 2006, p. 6). In the 2000s Houston (2001) suggests, the superintendent’s role brought more challenges and changes with new waves of reform and an accountability focus with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002. According to Fuchs, this period required the superintendent to be “an educational leader whose vision will foster school reform” (p. 7).

Cooper, Fusarelli, and Carella (2000, 2002), Fuchs (2006), contends the role of the 21st century superintendent involves balancing politics and education, and with demands on superintendents growing along with an increase rate of turnover of superintendents. The complexity of the job of the superintendent will continue to be shaped by a variety of factors; the political dimensions of their job will not diminish (Bird & Wang, 2013; Bird, Dunaway, Hancock, & Wang, 2013).

Researchers do not agree on any specific factors or attributes that make for an effective superintendent (Chance, Lignon, Bulter, & Cole, 1992). “The 21st century superintendent is an educational leader who must foster school reform and implement educational policy that is frequently driven by state and federal mandates” (Fuchs, 2006, p. 219). Dealing with politics intertwined with educational policies complex is a major challenge for the 21st century superintendent of schools (Bjork & Lindle, 2001; Cooper et al. 2000; Hannay, Jaafer, & Earl, 2013). The complexities of the job and the demands being placed on today’s superintendents will continue to grow as America’s schools seek more effective leaders for systemic change and reform of public education (Bjork & Lindle, 2001; Fuchs, 2006).

Current State of the Superintendency

Political situations such as these are not uncommon in the public education
system, as it is a demanding job rife with conflict and public accountability. Its public
nature means that public dissatisfaction will likely be leveled against the office, Georgia Constitution (1982). As the chief executive of the school system, the superintendent has many duties, making the superintendent a powerful and influential person.

1. The carrying out of all rules, regulation and instructions of the board;
2. To deliver all employment and assignment recommendations to the board;
3. To properly record all receipt and disbursement of school funds;
4. To report the use of state money and compliance with state laws and regulations to the
Georgia Department of Education;
5. To record all board meetings in a manner that the minutes are open to public review.
(Georgia School Board Association, 1996)

Arguments at the heart of superintendent selection, center on what type of person should fill the position and how the position should be filled. Some believe that the superintendent’s position should be filled by an elected position. Others believe the position should be appointed by an elected board of education. Those who hold the view that the superintendent needs to be an elected official have a base belief that this person should be a reflection of the people of the district. This allows every eligible person in that district to vote on who they choose. The opposing view is that the superintendent should be a non-political office filled by a qualified professional, appointed by the school board to fill the position.

Superintendent Positions

Elected Superintendents

Throughout United States history, Americans have been suspicious of political appointments and the election of powerful officials by the general public. Although the Revolutionary War was fought to end the perceived tyranny of the British colonial government and allow the colonies to represent themselves in government, the framers of the United States government did not completely trust the general population to elect officials (Powell, 2000).

The office of President of the United States received great opposition because of the underlying fear that the position might evolve into a monarchy and the belief that the general public did not have enough education to make such an important decision (Powell, 2000). These fears were eventually quelled by the checks and balances system established in the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral College created for Presidential Elections. The Electoral College’s role was to as act a buffer between the popular vote and the will of the political parties vying for election (Powell, 2000). Though the Electoral College still exists today, its members usually vote the same as the constituents they represent, though members of the College have cast votes contrary to the vote of the public they represent..

The office of United States Senator was an appointed position when the Constitution was first established. This allowed powerful political leaders, mainly large landowners, to keep a check on the potentially harmful voter elected United States Representatives (Powell, 2000). However, this practice ended with the passing of the Seventeenth Amendment.

Allowing the general voting population more power in American government seem to have reversed itself at the local level. In the South, several states have taken away the traditionally elected position of superintendent to make it an local school board appointed position (Jacobs, 2013). Support for an elected superintendent is fueled by a decrease in local politics, accountability to the education community and a strong belief in a democratic society (Brewer, Killeen, Welsh, 2013).

It seems to be a misstatement for someone to say that an elected official will decrease the political games as opposed to an appointed position (Davies, 2011). However, the statement holds true. With the accountability that the superintendency must have, it is impossible to escape the aspect of politics. Shielding the superintendent’s position from political pressure is not possible (Kowalski, 2004; Kolwalski et al., 2011a, 2011b; Kowalski, Fusarelli, Peterson, 2009; Kowalski, Young & Peterson, 2013). Thus, the question becomes at what level does the electorate want politics to enter the office?

An appointed superintendent faces more political pressure than an elected official (Kowalski, 2003). With the superintendent held accountable to a small group, the political game entails high stakes (Marron & Cunniff, 2014; Murray, 2013). Political wars can lead to the removal of a superintendent, having a domino effect throughout the district all the way down to the students (Johnson, 1996). Often times, an appointed superintendent will call for major changes in a short period of time (Partridge & Sass, 2011; Prezas, 2013). This makes constituents question motives for moving quickly and speculate on political ambitions (Johnson, 1996).

With an elected official, the politics are spread throughout the district (Orr, 2006; Schmidt, 1989; Simpson, 2013). Every eligible voter has the potential to cast a vote to determine the winner of the election. Special interest groups will rise and influence the superintendent; however, their influence is limited because of the body of the electorate (Rasmussen, 2013). The superintendent cannot afford to allow one or two special interest groups to control every move (Brown-Ferrigno & Glass, 2005; Kowalski, 2006). The superintendent has to convince the majority of voters to vote in his/her favor. Thus, when the superintendent is elected, there is an inherent check and balance system.

Electing the superintendent makes this position more accountable to the people and to the educators within the system (Katz, 1993; Rallis, Tedder, Lachman, & Elmore, 2006). School systems are major employers within most school districts. The majority of those educators live in the area where they teach (Kowalski, 2006). This means a significant proportion of voters within a district are the people most affected by the policies the superintendent is enforcing (Kovack, 2013). He/she has to take into account that he/she may lose the votes and support of the educators in the county (Houston & Bryant, 1997). This sort of accountability forces the superintendent to listen to his subordinates and try to appease their concerns (Kowalski & Glass, 2002; Kowalski & Keedy, 2005).

Houston (2007) states, “Superintendents of a bygone era would not recognize the job today” (p. 30). The relationship between superintendents and their constituents is a collaborative one, not one of command and compliance (Johnson, 2013; Knox, 2013). The superintendent would be forced to work for the betterment of the educational process in his district, not the political powers or special interest groups within the district (Kowalski, 2005, 2011; Peterson & Barnett, 2005)

Lastly, the election of the superintendent allows all people to become part of the government (Callahan, 1962; Kowalski, Young, & Peterson, 2013), unlike the appointed system that distrusts the general public, the elected system embraces the public’s wisdom. Anyone who meets local requirements may run for the position and gain the office (Copela, 2013; Hartley, 2013; Hatrick, 2010). This makes everyone in the community only one step away from being the superintendent (Peterson & Barnett, 2003). When the position is appointed, only those who are in favor with the board are allowed in to the position (Kowalski & Glass, 2002). What happens when the board is ill prepared to make a sound decision on who should be the school superintendent (Bjork & Lindle, 2001)?

By making the superintendent accountable to everyone, all parties remain interested in the workings of the office and the educational system of their district (Copeland, 2013; Peterson & Barnett, 2003). This process also allows people who are not professional educators to become part of the educational system of their community (Cooper, Fusarelli, & Carella, 2000, 2002). Although this does not seem to be a positive aspect at first glance, it allows people with views who have not been indoctrinated by the educational system to help with the education of children (Bagley, 2013). In many instances, the answer to a problem is too close for the people directly involved to see (Boyd, 2013). An outsider is needed to point out solutions that no one inside the organization had thought of before (Manna, McGuinn, & McGuinn, 2013). Children benefit from this process because it gives the educational system a wide variety of resources in order to solve its problems. There is a clear historical pattern of removing appointed officials from the legislative and executive branches of government (Vukotich, 2014). However, this pattern ends at the local level of government. It is odd then that many Southern states have taken away a traditionally elected position, with relatively little fight from the electorate (Harp, 1995; Lindsay, 1996; Maxwell, Locke, & Scheurich, 2013; Perry, 2013).

Appointed Superintendents

The Founding Fathers understood that some positions in government were too important to be filled by the process of general election (Powell, 2000). They knew that some positions demanded certain levels of intellect and professionalism. These qualifications may or may not be met, if the voting public was allowed to elect whoever was most popular with them at the time. Although many of the systems that appointed government officials no longer operate like they were intended, many Americans still believe the Founding Fathers were correct in their assumption (Cunningham, 2003). These people understand the effects a popularity contest can have on a political office. They have seen how underqualified, but popular people have created an inefficient government, a government that is slow to react to the needs of its citizenry but moves quickly to meet the desires of special interest groups. This group of people understands that the battle to regain the balance between elected and appointed positions in the governmental system will be long and hard. They also understand that this battle has to begin on the local level (Rohlfing, 2013). The appointment of school superintendents, which is often times the most powerful local government position, is a great starting point (Tripses, Hunt, & Watkins, 2013). Having a better education and qualified leader, maintaining a lower profile within the community and being less politically influenced are three of the benefits of an elected superintendent (Gabbard, 2013).

When local boards of education chose a superintendent, they look for qualified individuals; whereas, voters traditionally put in office a well-liked principal or winning football coach (Eadie, 2003; Lindsay, 1996). Unlike a situation where the superintendent is elected, an appointed superintendent is usually a person who has the credentials to do the job (de Santa Ana, 2008; Kowalski & Keedy, 2005; Severns & Combs, 2013). Some boards of education have decided to go outside the traditional source of educational leaders and have chosen to look toward the military for a superintendent (Thompson, Thompson, & Knight, 2013). Duval Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida selected retired Air Force Major General John Fryer Jr. as their Superintendent. General Fryer called upon his military training in the areas of leadership and management to lead the school district. He found that the politics of the superintendent’s office far outweighs that of the military (Education World, 2010; Goldsmith & Hui, 2010).

An appointed superintendent has a lower profile job than that of an elected official (Tomal, Schilling, & Trybus, 2013). This type of superintendent only has to answer to the board (Freeman & Randolph, 2013). This means he can spend his time working on the job that needs to be done, not politicking across the district (Feinberg, 2013). This system also empowers the superintendent to perform his job in a more effective manner, which means a better education for the students of that system (Clifford, 2013; Waters & Marzano, 2006). There may not be much difference in the day to day decision making process between the two systems; however, when major decisions have to be made, especially in a short time frame, there is clear winner between the two systems (Feuerstein, 2013). Whereas the elected superintendent gets bogged down trying to feel out his options by polling constituents, the appointed superintendent simply needs to call a meeting or call individual members of the board to understand the options the district has before it (Trujillo, 2013). For example, if a superintendent has been notified that the district needs to cut personnel cost 5% by next year or the district will not be able to operate with a balanced budget, which superintendent will be able to act in a more decisive manner (Furman, 2013)? The elected official will be counting votes and may decide that operating with a deficit may not be such a bad idea; while the appointed official will not have to worry about political backlash and will be able to perform in the manner that is most appropriate. The superintendent’s job is tough enough without adding pressure by trying to meet never-ending public demands (Glass & Bjork, 2003).

When boards of education appoint the superintendent, the amount of politics that enter the office may be reduced (Schmidt, 1989). In a public office that has the direct accountability that the superintendency holds, it is impossible to escape the aspect of politics. No matter how people may want to shield this position from political pressure it cannot happen. Thus, the question becomes at what level does the electorate want politics to enter the office (Lane-Washington & Wilson-Jones, 2010)? Elected officials have too many people to whom they have to answer. They are always trying to count votes when making decisions (Schuh & Herrington, 1990). Once in office, superintendents would not have to waste valuable time campaigning, but would be held continually accountable to school boards (Schmidt, 1992). Appointed superintendents know the individual board members, how each one stands on certain issues and understands his standing with each one (Turner, 2013). Instead of having twenty-five thousand people to answer to, the superintendent only has to answer to only has to answer to school board members (Sello, 1987).

Proponents of appointment say that elected superintendents are less accountable because they frequently sacrifice long-term goals for short-term political gains (Shuttleworth, 2013). Special interest groups’ power is diminished with the appointment system; thus, the likelihood of individuals controlling the political network of the district is reduced (Jordan, 2013). Some researchers have claimed that is not unusual for elected superintendents to demote or fire staff members considered disloyal, coddle ineffective but politically powerful administrators, and pay potential challengers not run for the office (Wells, 2013).


There is little doubt that the Founding Fathers had great insight into how a government should be run. Americans have trusted their judgment for over two hundred years, and yet many still doubt the usefulness of appointed officials. Is it not time to end the myth that the masses know what is best for them? Is it not time to depoliticize some government offices, so some much needed work can be done? The answer to both questions is –YES.
Does one type of superintendent have a clear advantage over the other? Depending upon the political climate of the district both systems can work. In situations where the district is very stable with little controversy, an elected official would work nicely. It would give the constituents a chance to take an active part in picking the most powerful figure in their educational system.

However, in an unstable situation where a lot of growth or change is occurring, an appointed superintendent is a better option. It is imperative to the success of a school district to have a qualified individual in the superintendent’s position. The best system to promote this outcome is the appointment method. A leader has to be able to react quickly and decisively to his environment in order to effectively cope with change. An appointed superintendent has the capability to react in more decisively than an elected official, because the board is the only body to which he is held accountable.

Today’s superintendent needs to understand what it’s like to teach in a classroom and administrate a school. The burden of responsibility is so varied for these people that it is imperative they have a good grasp on all aspects of a school district. The knowledge gained from personal experiences is invaluable when dealing with personnel or curriculum decisions that will affect an entire school district. Someone who does not understand the ins and outs of education could be easily manipulated to act in manner that ultimately harms the district.


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Supporting School Facility Planning: How School Boards Act



Tak Cheung Chan
Professor of Educational Leadership; Kennesaw State University



In this manuscript, the author highlights the significant roles of school board members in each of the six phases of planning a new school building. Additional tips are also given to call the attention of school board members to engage in active participation of school facility planning. The manuscript concludes in encouraging school board members to take initiative in preparing themselves for sensible decision making in the school facility planning process.


The school board is heavily involved in the planning of a new school building. In many phases of the facility planning process, the school board plays a major approving role so that the planning and construction process can continue smoothly. The approval process by the school board is not rubber-stamping to satisfy formalities. It is a serious commitment by school board members to ensure that the proper procedure of school facility planning is followed and that the new school building really supports the educational program it houses. In this manuscript, the author displays the six phases of planning a new school building. The roles of the school board in support of school facility planning are explored in-depth in each of the six facility planning phases.

Phases of School Facility Planning

Planning for a new school can be divided into six phases of work starting from
the Preparation Phase, to the Programming Phase, the Design Phase, the Bidding and Contracting Phase, the Construction Phase and the Warranty Phase (Chan, 1999). The work of each phase is unique and is followed one after another in a timely sequence.

In the Preparation Phase, the most important task is to justify the initiation of the new facility project. This can be done by first inventorying and evaluating existing facilities. Then, building capacities can be matched with the updated student enrollment forecasting data. The second important task is to perform a cost estimate of the new facility and to secure the sources of possible funding. With the selection of the design architect and the school site, the preparation work is completed.

The Programming Phase involves work of the facility planning committee to include principal, teachers, curriculum consultants, district office facility directors, architects, parents and community representatives. As a result of the committee’s work, an summary of educational specifications is created to serve as guidelines for the architects to design the school building for its intended use.

Architects and engineers work together in the Design Phase to produce schematic designs of the school building for discussion. Upon school district instructions, designers are given a free hand to develop a full set of drawings and technical specifications for project bidding.

Public bidding usually results in identifying an apparent low-bidder. Bid analysis will further confirm the low-bidder to award the construction contract. When the proper licenses, bonds, insurances and permits are verified, a notice to proceed with construction will be issued by the school district to the contractor.

Activities during the Construction Phase include mobilization, site preparation, construction scheduling, inspection, supervision, change orders, equipment delivery and installation, and occupancy procedures. When all the pieces are falling in place, the school building will be opened on time.

School buildings are usually under one year warranty from time when the occupancy permit is issued. In the Warranty Phase, any malfunction of the new school building will be reported to the contractor who will be responsible for fixing it.

A new school building, after going through these six developmental phases, will be under the regular maintenance program of the school district. Some construction materials may carry extended factory warranties. But, in general, daily operations of the school building have become the school district responsibilities.

The Roles of School Board in Facility Planning Phases

The Preparation Phase

When request is made by the district administration to approve the construction of a new school building, the school board needs to carefully examine the justifications of the new school construction and the sources of funding. Student enrollment forecasting figures need to be reviewed school by school for accuracy. Before approving the request for constructing a new school building, the school board needs to look at the other alternative methods of resolving school crowding problems. In financing for the new school construction, the board needs to ask the availability and the dependability of the sources of funding: State capital outlay? Proposed bonds? SPLOST? Lotteries? Trust Fund? Donations? (Baker, Green, & Richards, 2008; Guthrie, Hart, Ray, Candoli, & Hack, 2008) The school board also needs to understand the district policies on school site selection and architect selection and oversee that the policies are strictly followed.

The Programming Phase

The programming part of school facility planning allows an opportunity for educators and facility designers to spend some time in discussing what educational program is the new school building going to house. The focus is on how the design of this new structure could help support the intended educational activities that are going to be performed in the new school (Earthman, 2009). Before the time for formal presentation and approval of the school construction proposal, the school board could ask for a special work session to meet with the staff of the administration. During the work session, board members would have time to understand the proposal in greater details and to raise questions for clarification. In this way, board members would be better prepared to vote during the formal board meeting.

The Design Phase

While the technical design of the school building is mainly the responsibilities of the architects and engineers, the approval of the work of different design phases falls back to the school district, the owner of the proposed school building. The school board will be presented with the preliminary plan and the final plan for approval. Work sessions will be scheduled to present with the drawing details to get board members familiar with the new school design (Tanner & Lackney, 2006). Before approving the plans, school board members need to ask two questions: How do the designs reflect upon meeting the requirements of the educational program needs? How does the budget estimate be managed within the school board approved funding allowance?

The Bidding and Contracting Phase

The school board has the responsibility to oversee the strict implementation of the state policies of public bidding and contracting. Results of the bidding and contracting will be presented to the school board for review and approval. The board needs to ensure that the bidding and contracting policies have been properly followed. With the assistance of the staff, the board needs to have a good understanding the process of how the apparent low bidder is finally recommended for awarding the contract. Board members can question the reasons behind the acceptance and rejection of all the bidding alternatives and how these alternatives affect the construction budget (Chan & Richardson, 2005). Before signing the construction contract, the board may want to ask if a background check of the contractor has been performed.

The Construction Phase

Things happening during the construction phase could easily change the scope of the project. Inclement weather, strikes, site conditions, material deliveries, change orders, disputes, community concerns, scheduling, inspection, and supervision are major activities in this phase (Castaldi, 1994). The district staff and the project architects are mainly responsible for taking care of the construction issues. However, the board needs to stay on top of the construction progress by reviewing updated reports from the administration. Any anticipated budget overrun or change order exceeding certain amount needs to be approved by the school board before application. Also, the school board needs to be informed immediately for any possibilities of school completion delays and alternative plans for school opening.

Warranty Phase

In this warranty phase, the staff and the architects will follow upon issues that arise from school building malfunctions. It is a good time for school board members to visit the school to see how a state-of-the-art school building supports teaching and learning (Earthman, 2009). The school board needs to request for a summary report from the staff to finalize the construction project focusing on the successful and not-so-successful experiences that we all learn together. This important feedback will help planning staff to plan better school buildings for the school district in the future.

Tips for School Board Members

School facility planning is a complicated process. It needs a team of administrators, designers, educators, contractors, and financial planners with the support of parents and communities to work together to make things happen. When some school board members are not familiar with any of these work areas, they would easily be led astray. In the following paragraphs, a few points are offered to call the attention of school board members in making decisions in the school facility planning:

Site Selection

Site selection for the construction of a new school building involves many considerations. It cannot rely on the result of a mathematical formula. Factors to be considered include student locations, transportation, road safety, property availability and affordability, utility access, attendance zone and the feeding schools, and the future population growth in the area. It is suggested that the school board appoints a site selection committee to evaluate the different possible sites and come back with a site recommendation after data analysis. The state has school site selection procedures that need to be followed when state capital outlay funding is involved. The site has to be acquired with a fair market price.

Architect Selection

In the architect selection process, professional qualifications, experiences, financial status of firm, bonding capacity, past records and references are factors to be considered. When architects have expressed their interest in designing a new school building, care has to be exercised in evaluating their credentials to give everyone a fair chance for competition (Earthman, 2009). When the board makes an assignment decision, it is ready to defend its decision with solid evidence of the evaluation process.

Bond Referendum

If bond referendum is considered favorable to fund the school construction project, then, the board really needs to schedule a special meeting with the school district financial director to discuss the likelihood of raising a bond referendum. The climate has to be right to get the bond referendum approved. A failing bond referendum is absolutely devastating to the reputation of the school district (Flanigan, Richardson, & Stollar, 1995).

Construction Budget

Extreme care has to be taken for the school board to approve a school construction budget. Every item on the budget estimate has to be fully justifiable. A reasonable amount of contingency dollars has to be reserved in the budget to take care of emergencies. Estimated construction cost per square foot can be compared with the construction cost per square foot of similar projects completed recently in the surrounding districts (Kowalski, 2002). Watch for any over-built designs and excessive requests that could drive the budget up.

Cash Flow

The school board has to ask the district financial director to prepare an estimate of the school district cash flow with the starting of the construction project. The monthly projected revenues during the school construction period have to be substantial enough to cover the monthly draws from both the architectural firm and the general contractor without hurting the fiscal status of the district (Guthrie, Springer, Rolle, & Houch, 2007).

Technology development

With the rapid development of technology, technology integration to the instructional process has always been getting behind and trying hard to catch up with other businesses. The risk is that when a new school building is finally completed, it is already three years from the time of planning. The planned technology three years ago may become obsolete (Tanner & Lackney, 2006). The school board needs to appoint a special technology committee headed by the district technology consultant to review the trend of technology development and the type of technology the school district needs. Feedback from this technology committee will be most helpful in ensuring that technology planned for in the new school building will not go off track.

Issues with bidding process

Issues relating to bidding for school construction could arise between bidding closure and contract award. Questions on bidding are centered on bidding procedures, bidder qualifications, product substitutions, unclear drawings and specifications. The board needs to ask the district administration for a detailed a analysis of all the bids with
decisions on the bid alternatives (Guthrie, Hart, Ray, Candoli, & Hack, 2008). The bidding process has to be handled with strict professionalism. The board stands behind its contract award decision.

Green school initiative

Environmental protection with green school design is the building trend of the time (Beddow, 2013). Some of the green school designs may be costing more initially but will pay back in the long run and will eventually save dollars (Chan, 2013). School board members need to understand the design intention of saving the environment, a notion strongly supported by the community in educating the next generation.

Updates with communities

The construction of a new school always brings in new excitement to the community where the new school is located. Parents and community representatives could not wait for the completion and opening of the school. Board members need to stay on top of the latest development of the construction progress to report to the community (Dolan, 1996). Delay in project completion is sad news to the community. The school board needs to work with the administration to come up with acceptable alternative plan before making public announcement of delayed school opening (Pawlas, 2005). As a matter of fact, board members need to be familiar with all the school facility improvement projects in the district particularly those in their own areas.

Assignment of Principal to new school building

Assignment of principal to the new school building needs to be done at least one year before scheduled school opening. This will allow the new principal time to plan for the organization of school opening. Preference consideration should be given to current school principals who have had new school opening experiences.


The school board with its governing function makes major educational decisions to guide the direction to which the school district is heading. While school board members work in different fields with diverse background, they work very hard to place themselves in the educators’ shoes so that they are in better positions to understand the school facility planning issues. With the assistance of the capable staff of the district administration, school board members are ready to make very sensible decisions to the best benefit of the school district. Understanding the significant roles they play in this school facility planning process, school board members do not need to wait for paperwork to review. They can play an active role by initiating a checklist of events that are going to happen in school facility planning. They can work with the school superintendent to assign committees of special functions to facilitate planning and construction. They can request to organize work sessions facilitated by administrative staff to prepare for board actions. They can serve as a liaison between the school district and the community to disseminate the latest school construction news. In fact, a school board member today is deeply engaged in the decision making process of school facility planning. He or she wants to know the “what”, the “how”, the “why” and the “what if “ before he or she casts the vote. The gradual change of board members’ behaviors from passive to active participation in the facility planning process certainly sends a positive message in strong support of improving student achievement through the state-of-art facilities.


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school business administration. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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Teacher Tenure: Needed Protection for Teachers or an Obstacle to Progress



Dr. Samuel B. Hardy, III
Dr. Thomas E. Deering

Georgia Regents University


Does tenure for K-12 teachers enhance or inhibit student achievement, and discourage teacher innovation and creativity by serving to protect incompetent teachers? The facts are not as encouraging as some might like.


The clamor arising from the discourse over K-12 teacher tenure has reached a level of
intensity such that either side in the discussion has their view drowned-out by the general din. To be sure, the issue will not be settled to either’s satisfaction directly by those involved in the debate, but rather by those who are witness to the racket – citizens and politicians. It is highly unlikely that neither the average citizen nor elected official is completely certain as to the origin of tenure for K-12 teachers, or why it seems to raise such choler between those involved in the debate. But it is likely that the legislative actions taken by state elected officials regarding the disposition of teacher tenure will be affected by the tone and deportment of those persons in favor of tenure and those against. And it does appear now however, that the actions of those supporting tenure are not serving to endear their cause to these same citizens and elected officials.


Tenure is often bestowed on a teacher after she has worked a minimum number of years, usually three, has received satisfactory performance evaluations during this initial employment period, and is recommended for continued employment after her three year probation. The advantage of tenure is that it affords the teacher certain due process procedures surrounding the dismissal process, which she is not generally accorded during her first three years (Alexander & Alexander, 2005). The origin of K-12 teacher tenure dates to the mid-1800’s from Massachusetts where communities enacted tenure laws to protect teachers from reprisals and politically motivated dismissals. Unfortunately there have been periods in our history where tenure protection was vital to teachers. In the 1930’s in Philadelphia and later during the 1950’s in Los Angles, for instance, employment was threatened for teachers accused of being communists (Chesley, 2011). Without tenure teachers face dismissal for arbitrary reasons from boards of education and administrators who place cronyism and political favor ahead of student needs. However, public school teacher tenure differs from tenure for college faculty.

People acquainted with the concept of tenure understand it from the college setting. Tenure for college faculty dates from 1915 (Thompson, 2008) and is considered one of the three pillars of higher education - along with academic freedom, and faculty governance. To receive tenure, a college professor must meet certain criteria before he is recommended for tenure by a review board. The process takes five to seven years during which there are annual performance evaluations, and a mid-term assessment (either at the second or third year) by a department review board. The faculty member must make progress and provide documentation to that effect in three areas: teaching, service, and professional development. The final review at the end of the fifth, or seventh year, begins at the department/college level and continues through in some cases to a campus wide promotion and tenure committee review. The entire process is quite rigorous. Tenure is considered critical in higher education because college students are taught to question their personal beliefs or long-held societal beliefs during the assimilation of new knowledge. Professors must be able to facilitate this learning process without fear of being fired, and tenure provides that protection. Comparing college tenure with K-12 teacher tenure is a false comparison.

Unlike college tenure-track faculty requirements, K-12 teacher tenure takes much less time – three years usually, and does not involve the rigor as does the higher education regimen. Although K-12 teachers have annual performance reviews, and some may even be required to submit a portfolio, they can obtain tenure in essence by default. All they really need do is not commit an egregious offense during their pre-tenure employment and stay one step ahead of their principal so that he does not mark any evaluation element as unsatisfactory. Once a teacher is granted tenure, for whatever reason, it then becomes very difficult to dismiss her for cause without the administration undergoing an extended procedural process. So, if a K-12 teacher is a bad teacher and one with tenure, for the most part he can avoid dismissal for reason of being a bad teacher simply by not committing gross acts of misconduct, or failing to maintain his license. Tenure then becomes a negative right or a means of protecting the teacher from an outside force – in this case the administration, and thus allows the teacher protection from harm for reason of being a poor practioner. At least this is how many in the public domain view the issue of K-12 teacher tenure.

The public’s perception of K-12 teacher tenure is also shaped by teachers’ unions. The word tenure is derived from the Latin tenere, meaning “to hold”, or “to keep” (Chesley, 2011, ¶2). Teachers’ unions can create contractual procedures which serve as barriers school administrators must overcome when trying to dismiss an underperforming teacher, thereby allowing the poor teacher “to hold” her position until a remediation plan is developed for the teacher. In addition to whatever hurdles the union can devise to protect or “to keep” its members, statutory due process procedures also serve as hurdles for school administrators (Thompson, 2011). Union rules and due process procedures are often looked upon by administrators as being just too troublesome and time consuming to bother with. Administrators would rather try and transfer the poor teacher, or otherwise have her decide to leave the school. Whether it be too many cumbersome rules and procedures, or a lack of building administrator fortitude, or even a lack of central office appetite for the often expensive and time consuming ordeal of dismissing a teacher – often requiring years and thousands of dollars to resolve – too many poor teachers remain in the classroom. The costs of ineffective, underperforming teachers are borne by the students.

Like it or not, students are not being served when a less than capably teacher, often protected by tenure, is allowed to remain on the job. It is incalculable the loss to a child when he must spend a year in class with an incompetent teacher. Even the better students are hobbled academically by the experience, but they can catch up later, and many do, but other students cannot overcome the lost year(s), and that is a shame. A shame all of us in the profession have to bear because we are all responsible in some ways, whether we are still in the classroom or in administration. If we are in the classroom and we witness poor workmanship – and we all know it when we see it, and we do not address it with our chair, or lead teacher, we are to blame. If we are in administration and we do not work through the process of removing a poor teacher – the amount on paperwork required notwithstanding, we are to blame as well, more so than a classroom teacher. The students are the innocent party to the adults squabble over tenure and teacher protections.


In 2008, Michelle Rhee the then chancellor of Washington, DC’s public schools was quoted in a New York Times article (Dillon, 2008) that, “Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions, but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults” (p.2). At the time she had the backing of the public in her attempts to better DC’s schools, to include then candidate Barack Obama, who called her Washington’s “wonderful new superintendent” (Dillon, p.2). The then president of the Washington Teachers’ Union as you might expect was not overly supportive of Ms. Rhee. In the same article he stated that DC’s problems did not stem wholly from poor teachers; that the district had multiple superintendents over the previous decade and the district had not paid attention to student truancy and discipline. As an example of the differences in positions between Ms. Rhee and Mr. Parker, when Ms. Rhee announced that she would begin an effort to allow principals to dismiss poor teachers, even those with tenure, after a 90-day mandatory improvement plan, Mr. Parker responded that his union would use all procedures to protect his teachers’ jobs. No mention was made in the article about Mr. Parker’s union position on educating children.

In an interview dated February 11, 2011, Michel Martin of National Public Radio spoke with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and later Ms. Randi Weingarten the head of the American Federation of Teachers the nation’s second largest teachers’ union on the topic of public school teacher tenure. Mayor Villaraigosa who once worked as a union organizer himself, spoke out against tenure calling it antiquated, and that the concept cried out for reform. He said, “The issue of seniority and tenure – teachers and unions and principals are assigned, transferred and laid off strictly on seniority. There’s something missing there. You got to have performance as a driver in the decisions we make about our children” (p.2). He went on to say that seniority is the only factor considered in hiring, assignments, transfers, etc. and that performance is not part of the equation. When Mr. Martin pointed out that without tenure teachers would be subject to the whims of politicians, and the pressures of budget cuts would mean the lay-off of the highest paid teachers first, the Mayor replied, ”Reform it. Amend it. Or over time, there will be the political will to end it” (p.3).

After the Mayor’s interview, Ms. Weingarten was asked to comment of his statements. She said, “So, I did listen to the mayor’s interview. And, you know, what I was thinking about was that talk is cheap and that I am these days all about the “hows.” She continued, “So, he’s absolutely right. Performance should be the driver. That’s why the AFT has been fixated on how do we fix the evaluation system?” She talked further about how cumbersome due process is and that it and teacher performance evaluations needed reforming, and that her union’s job was “to get the tools and conditions for teachers” (p.2); “so, ultimately, our job is to make sure that kids have the best learning environment possible and that teachers are treated with respect.” She ended her remarks by outlining a solution for teacher evaluations by establishing a peer review system similar to a local district near Los Angeles. In that district, according to her, teachers and administrators work together; she claims, toward improving instruction. Ms. Weingarten’s reply did not mention how the collaboration works on teacher dismissals.

What is noticeable in Ms. Weingarten’s remarks is that she did not address directly the issue of tenure protection for an incompetent teacher. She did mention that it (tenure) was in need of reform – but, talk is cheap. It is the author’s opinion that this is really the crux of the matter for unionized and non-union teachers alike, the desire to hold fast to the negative right of tenure as a means to guard teachers from discipline for lax classroom instruction, either caused by a lack of teaching ability or due to just plain laziness.

Public’s View

To get somewhat of an idea of the public’s view, the September, 2011 issue of Phi Delta Kappan contains the results of PDK’s 43rd annual poll on the public’s attitude toward public schools. Two questions cover the subject and the results are in Tables 10, and 11. When asked if they thought unions helped, hurt, or made no difference in the quality of public education, respondents replied: Helped 26%, Hurt 47%, No difference 25%; Didn’t know 2%. A majority of Republicans and Independents felt unions hurt, whereas only 23% of Democrats felt the same way. Interestingly, however, only 43% of Democrats felt unions helped – considerably less than a majority (p.13). When asked whom they agreed with in the dispute over collective bargaining – either governors or unions, respondents replied: Governors 44%, teacher unions 52%; Didn’t know 4%. As one would expect the majority supporting the governors was made up of Republicans and Independents, and the vast majority of Democrats – 80% - sided with the teacher unions (p.3). What can we determine from these results?

It is no surprise to the authors of this paper (and it shouldn’t be to the reader) that Democrats support unions – teachers’ or otherwise. It is also no surprise that Republicans have a different view of unions. But it is significant that a large percentage of Independents think unions hurt public schools, and side with the governors. Independent voters swing elections, and politicians are keen on this fact. So it seems likely given today’s political environment, and considering the PDK poll, that political change is in the wind for the concept of tenure for K-12 teachers. If that is true, what can be expected and how can teachers and administrators control events?


Brimley & Garfield (2008) in their book on school finance list several factors that affect student achievement; including, but not limited to: the quality of the family, the intelligence of the student, school leadership, time on task, school climate and culture, community attitudes, parental support, high teacher expectations, curriculum, and instructional strategies (p.62-63). Although written within the context of school funding, and thus money, this list is interesting considering the factors to which a teacher can have a direct and indirect affect on student learning. Directly, the teacher can influence time on task, the classroom climate, hold students to high expectations, and certainly impact instructional strategies. Indirectly, a teacher can influence parents through outreach efforts, although not family quality and family income level, and through personal contact with parents have somewhat of an effect on the community’s attitude toward the school, and collectively the faculty serves to foster the school’s culture. This leaves just two factors from the above list for which a teacher has no influence, and those are the natural intelligence the child brings to the classroom and the state’s curriculum. Now, if the teacher looks upon her job as including all these factors, and she works to succeed and do her part in support and achievement of each, why does she need tenure protection? Wouldn’t it be enough that she is successful as a professional; someone using their talents, training, and creativity to adopt and adapt to innovations which further improve her craft? Or does tenure remove the impetus?

Anyone can search the literature (for some distance back) and find work that has specific or general reference to tenure – and in some instances unions - as an impediment to both student achievement and teacher removal (Allis, 1991, Anton, 1996, Vo, 1996, Cech, 2008, Kersten, 2006, and Nixon, Packard & Douvanis, 2010) and other work can be found proposing that the real problem for removing poor teachers does not arise from tenure but stems from ill trained, ineffective administrators using poor teacher evaluation methods/instruments, to excessive systemic procedural requirements, e.g. mountainous documentation ( Olson, 2008; Zirkel, 2010). Some of these writers, and others, offer suggestions to better the tenure process and/or replace it with a process centered on facilitating teacher effectiveness with the ultimate aim of boosting student performance.

A New Plan

Michael Fullan (cited by Olson, 2008) argues that governments can affect change using three tools: accountability, incentives, and capacity building through improving teacher knowledge and skills. Using Fullan’s triad explicit to teacher performance in those areas from the list by Brimley & Garfield (2008) delineated earlier will set the conceptual framework for a new design. The new design will tie teacher performance, and hence evaluation, to those areas from the Brimley & Garfield list upon which the teacher has a direct impact on student performance, and which should be directly assessed by teacher evaluators: instructional strategies, time-on-task, classroom climate – to include classroom management, and setting expectations. Secondarily, the areas for which a teacher can have an indirect impact on student achievement will also be evaluated: parent and community outreach. The reader will note that boiler plate evaluation items are understood to be included i.e. degree/certification, criminal background check, and related employment requirements, and the reader will also note that no list is exhaustive. Districts are in unique settings and any evaluation system should allow for modifications – but the district should add to this evaluation system, and not deleted from it, so to better serve the teachers and students.

Currently tenure as we know it is primarily a system based upon time served; it too often requires a minimal amount of evidence and artifacts prepared by the teacher as proof she has developed the needed skills and dispositions. To change this and retain the word tenure to suit some, a new system should require the beginning teacher to serve more than three years of a probationary period. This is not unlike college faculty with an initial five year pre-tenure work requirement. The pre-tenure public school teacher employment period should likewise cover five years. If teaching is an art more so than a science, the beginning teacher needs time to develop her craft – which means sometimes trying and failing - and administrators need time for proper evaluation and where needed remediation (Bernstein, 2006). Evaluation should be on-the job and not only within the purview of administrators. Peer evaluations must be part of the pre-tenure process for a 360º evaluation regimen, including: a trained district evaluator (not part of the school’s faculty), the school principal and AP’s evaluations, and at least two master teacher evaluations, from faculty within the school. Evaluations must be performed at least once by each evaluator (four total) per semester during at least the first three years. If after the first three years of work the teacher’s performance is deemed satisfactory, the evaluations can be performed by just the principal/AP and in-school master teachers. Again, those areas evaluated would include at the minimum: time-on-task, expectations, instruction (strategies), and classroom climate/management. Of course anything else the district/school expected of the new teacher with regard to skills and dispositions would be included. Community outreach activities would be planned beforehand by the district/school, and evaluated accordingly.

Suggestions for evidence and artifacts would include: the teacher write a number of plan and unit assessments, prepare and deliver a number of units of instruction, prepare a classroom management plan, develop a plan for assessing the academic level of students as well as how to accommodate diverse learning styles, to name several (Chesley, 2011). In addition the teacher should prove her dedication to the profession by creating a portfolio of professional development activities, to include work toward an advanced degree - as is required of college faculty.

The list can go on, but a meaningful evaluation process is the seminal element of an evaluation system based upon performance (“Blueprint,” 2010). Extending the time for a new teacher to hone her craft has arrived; simply granting tenure after three years – which protects a teacher’s job for life - is out dated and wasteful when measured in dollars and time. Dismissal of an incompetent teacher should be based upon a continuous evaluation process beyond the first five years. During each five year period of employment after initial tenure is granted, teachers should continue to perform satisfactorily in the areas of teaching, professional development, and community service. At the end of each five year interval, the teacher will submit a portfolio including annual performance evaluations, student progress data, evidence of community involvement, etc. to a post-tenure review panel for approval for five more years’ tenure. The district could work out the details on any remediation plan should the post-tenure panel deny continued tenure for the teacher. For example, an unsatisfactory post-tenure will result in the teacher losing tenure and will require the teacher to be placed under a professional development plan co-designed by the principal, the teacher, and a master teacher during which the teacher has one year to correct all deficiencies/show improvement. If she cannot complete the plan satisfactorily, her contract will not be renewed. A system so designed may provide the needed peer pressure which Kwalwasser (2011) cites as a motivator for ineffective teachers to leave the district.

Depending upon the financial wherewithal of the district appropriate – and meaningful –incentives can be established for successful teachers. A every good incentive would be for the district to work with an area college or university on a tuition reduction/elimination plan for teachers meeting certain milestones along the way toward tenure. For example, teachers would receive one free graduate class for each semester they receive an overall satisfactory evaluation. This way the teacher is rewarded for her efforts while satisfying her professional development requirements for tenure. In the opinion of the authors of this paper, incentives are the easiest part of the plan.

More should be done so ineffective teachers cannot hide behind tenure, and quite frankly, tenure should not serve as a barrier for administrators to dismiss poor teachers. Professional development should be ongoing for teachers throughout their career. Far too many teachers cite their many years of experience as reason for their ability, and thus justification for tenure protection. But does the mere fact of longevity matter? The authors would offer that those same teachers simply have one year of experience which they have repeated for however many years they have been in the profession! In general, teacher ineffectiveness should be grounds for dismissal in addition to the traditional reasons, those being: immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency, disloyalty, neglect of duty, willful and persistent insubordination, and reductions in force (“Blueprint,” 2010, p.5). Measuring teacher effectiveness can be accomplished using elements as mentioned in this paper, together with measure of student achievement. Because whether tenure protects poor teachers – for whatever the reason(s) cited, the cost of poor teaching is borne by children.


This article is not an attempt to provide a comprehensive prescription to correct abuses of tenure by teachers or to offer a comprehensive plan for on-the-job teacher preparation. It is, however, an attempt to call to the attention of the reader that tenure is outmoded and protecting it either by union protests or other labor actions only serves to hasten the day when it is done away with by state legislatures. If those in our profession wish to protect any semblance of tenure – for whatever, in our opinion, outdated reason – then those same people should realize that incompetent teachers and the damage they wrought on children casts a pall on the rest of us who teach in the public schools.


Alexander, K. and Alexander, M. (2005). American Public School Law. (6th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Allis, S. (1991). Laying siege to seniority. Time, Vol. 138(25), p.64.

Anton, T. (1996, Feb/Mar). Modifying teacher tenure to regain public confidence. Trust for
Educational Leadership, 25(5), p.34-37.

Bernstein, M. (2006, May). Delaying teacher tenure for educations’ good. School Administrator. Retrieved from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_moJSD/is_5_63/ai_n16375214/

Brimley, V. and Garfield, R. (2008). Financing education in a climate of change (10th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Cech, S. (2008, May). Poll finds U.S. Teachers Split on Role of Unions, Pay Incentives, Tenure. Education Week, 27(37), p.9.

Chesley, G. (2011, April). Now is the Time to Redefine Teacher Tenure. Education Week, 30(29), p.44-45.

Dillon,S. (November 13, 2008). A School Chief Takes On Tenure, Stirring a Fight. New York Times.

Kersten, T. (2006, Fall/Win). Teacher Tenure: Illinois School Board President’s Perspectives and Suggestions for Improvement. Planning and Change, 37(3-4), p. 234-257.

Kwalwasser, H. (2011, Jan). Overselling the myth of the bad teacher and tenure. School Administrator.

National Council for Teacher Quality, (2010). Blueprint for Change In Delaware.

National Public Radio, (February 11, 2011). Teacher Tenure Under Fire As Educational Reform Reviewed. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/11/133684819/Teacher-Tenure- Under-Fire-As-Education-Reform-Reviewed.

National Public Radio, (February 11, 2011). Teacher Tenure Necessary, Says Teachers’ Unions.
Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/11/133684823/Teacher-Tenure-Necessary- Says-Teachers’-Union.

Nixon, A., Packard, A., and Douvanis B. (2010, Fall). Non-Renewal of Probationary Teachers: Negative Retention. Education 131(1), p.43-52.

Olson, L. (2008, January). Human Resources a Weak Spot. Education Week, 27(18), p.12-19.

Phi Delta Kappan, (2011, September). Betting on Teachers: The 43rd PDK/Gallup Poll. V93, N1 p.8-26.

Thompson, S. (2008). Teacher Tenure. An Essay from EBSCO Research Starters.
Vo, C. ( 1996). Assault on a sacred right? Techniques: Making Education & Career Connections, 71(7), p.22-27.

Zirkel, P. (2010, September). Teacher Tenure Is Not the Real Problem. Phi Delta Kappan, V92, N1, p.76-77.



Vol. 4 Issue 2

Ghana Teacher College Principals:

Self-Perception of Their Roles and Responsibilities




Sena Kpeglo, Ph.D

Deputy Registrar, Division of Academic Affairs
University of Cape Coast, Ghana
E-mail: Senakpeglo11@yahoo.com

Tak Cheung Chan, Ed.D.
Professor of Educational Leadership
Kennesaw State University
E-mail: tchan@kennesaw.edu

Robert Morris, ED.D.
Professor of Educational Leadership
University of West Georgia
E-mail: rmorris@westga.edu



Educational reforms of elementary and secondary education of Ghana in recent years call for urgent need for preparing many highly qualified teachers in every teaching field. In response to this development, the government has taken action to transform the former teacher training institutes into colleges of education that hold a higher tertiary status in teacher preparation. Teacher college principals have been assigned with greater responsibilities to meet new challenges of the future. Much work in teacher preparation has to be done with very limited resources. An understanding of how teacher college principals perceive their principalship will certainly provide resourceful information to help government and the public in planning to support the colleges of education to achieve their mission.

Background of Teacher Education in Ghana

Since its independence in 1957, Ghana has gone through five educational reforms and three major reviews of its educational system. As a result, massive and constant curriculum restructuring and strategy implementation have accompanied these reforms. The goal of these reforms and reviews was to make education more innovatively responsive to the needs of the labor market (Baah-Gyimah, 2010). What it means to teacher education is that new approaches need to be launched to prepare teachers to meet with new challenges.

Teacher training in Ghana has a history of its own. It was first associated with the work of the various religious denominations. Because of the rapid expansion of the education system, the need for teachers increased to the extent that people with tenth grade education were recruited as teachers. In 1966, only 37 percent of the nation’s primary school teachers were certified. The rapid expansion of teacher training colleges throughout the country happened in the 1960’s. Teacher training candidates were required to spend considerable hours doing in-field practice teaching. Different levels of initial teacher certification were established to encourage participation in the teaching career. By 1971, approximately 71 percent of all primary school teachers were certified (Ghana – teaching profession, 2011). While the colleges of education have worked hard to recruit well qualified candidates to be teachers, the shortage of teachers have become serious in the field due to deaths, retirements, dismissals, resignations and study leave without return (Akyeampong, 2003; Mereku, 2000).

Teacher education in Ghana has passed through many stages. Currently, the training of teachers is located in the colleges of education and two universities. The colleges of education are responsible for training teachers for the Preschool to Grade 9 level while the universities prepare teachers for all levels. The duration for teacher training in the colleges of education is three years while, in the universities, from two semesters to four years depending on the academic status of the candidates when they are admitted to the program. The emphasis of training is on both subject area and teaching methodology. (Adu-Yeboah, 2011)

Current challenges of the colleges of education include the inability to attract high-caliber-candidates to teacher training (Adu-Yeboah, 2011; Akyeampong, 2003), the imbalanced ratio of male teachers over female teacher candidates (Adegoke, 2003; Adu-Yeboah, 2011; Akyeampong, 2003), and upgrading the qualifications and competencies of the tutors to meet the requirements for tertiary teaching (Adegoke, 2003; Adu-Yeboah, 2011).

Recent development in teacher education has been focused on student teaching practice in schools. The four week practice duration has been extended to cover the entire last year of teacher education. Despite criticism that the duration was too long, the program has started well with proven success in the first cohort of practicing teachers (Akyeampong, 2003; Amedeker, 2005).

Serving in their beginning years, new teachers were detected with several issues. First, many new teachers did not expect to stay in their teaching positions for a long term. They were looking for opportunities for better paid jobs outside education or a higher level education position. Second, new teachers seemed to be less capable of implementing what they learned in college to enhance student achievement. Third, new teachers found their beginning years of teaching difficult because of lack of adequate professional support. (Akyeampong, 2003)

In educational leadership, the task of leaders in primary and secondary schools in Ghana is to enroll and keep school children in school. They will have to observe the circumstances prevailing and develop plans of action that will facilitate their leadership and bring about solutions to the problems. They must demonstrate their strong leadership through a combination of theory, practical experiences and positive attitudes to achieve positive educational outcomes (Kpeglo, 2010). Recent studies of school principalship in Ghana indicated a need for professional training of current principals to manage complex tasks of principalship (Chan & Kpeglo, 2011; Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, 2009; World Bank, 2004; Zame, Hope & Respress, 2008). In training for school administrators, colleges of education and universities carry indisputable responsibilities. In addition, Oduro (2009) argued that the training for school leaders needed to be a sustained program of in-service throughout the duration of principalship.

Evidently, not much has been said in literature about the work and challenges of teacher college principals in Ghana. Is the nature of teacher college principals different from that of elementary and secondary school principals? The job description of a teacher college principal advertisement in the following may throw light into understanding of the nature of their work:

The position.

The College Principal is the chief academic, administrative and disciplinary officer and

in that capacity, shall, subject to the general direction of Council of the College, or policies that the Council may give:

* Ensure the implementation of the decisions of Council;

* Exercise general authority over staff of the College.

Be responsible for:

· Admission of students

· Discipline and supervision of staff and students

· Preparation of the annual estimates of income and expenditure

· Providing Council with returns, reports and other relevant information as required.

Required Skills or Experience.

The candidate must have:

· Advanced degree with a research component

· Rank Not below Senior Lecturer/Deputy Director

· Relevant senior management experiences of at least five years

· Proven leadership skills and be a team leader

· Ability to provide confidence as well as direct and motivate staff

· Must be 55 years at the time of application. Extensive knowledge and experience in the tertiary education landscape will be an added advantage.

(Tamale Jobs 2011: Principal, College of Education, 2011)

These are the expectations of the job of a teacher college principal in Ghana as shown in the advertisement. How do teacher college principals meet these expectations? How do they perceive their roles and responsibilities in encountering all the new challenges of the fast growing development of teacher education in Ghana? Many questions remain to be answered.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to construct a profile of teacher college principals in Ghana by examining the self-perception of their roles and job responsibilities. As teacher education in Ghana is undergoing major changes in recent years. Supplying sufficient quality teachers to meet the education demand has become an imminent challenge to all teacher college principals. Results of this study would contribute to a better understanding of how teacher colleges in Ghana were administered under their experienced and well-educated principals.

Research questions

The major research questions in this study were: (1) How do teacher college principals of Ghana perceive themselves in serving their roles and responsibilities as principals? (2) Do teacher college principals’ gender, age and experience make any difference in the perceptions of their roles and responsibilities? (3) What are the major challenges in teacher education colleges as perceived by the teacher college principals? (4) What are the fulfillments of serving as a teacher college principal?


Research Design

This study took a descriptive design with the use of survey questionnaires. Quantitative and qualitative survey data were collected through soliciting responses from current school principals located in Ghana.

Research Participants

All the thirty-eight teacher college principals in Ghana were invited to participate in the research project with 34 returned responses containing complete information needed for the research.


A thirty-item Liker-scale questionnaire was designed by the researchers to survey teach college principals in Ghana. The questions were derived from current literature of school principalship. It was designed to cover the principals’ profiles in seven leadership areas: character, professional knowledge, professional skill, administrative style, administrative duties, personnel management, and student affairs management. The instrument was tested for validity through a panel of ten school principals who critically reviewed its contents, format, and language. Internal consistency of the instrument was tested by using Cronbach Alpha Test (Overall Alpha = .854). In addition, a questionnaire with three open-ended questions was also constructed to solicit principals’ perceptions on their major responsibilities, their challenges, and the fulfillment in their positions as teacher college principals.

Data Analysis

Quantitative data collected from the survey were analyzed by total average of responses and also by subsets of character, professional knowledge, professional skill, administrative style, administrative duties, personnel management, and student affairs management to determine the extent of the principals’ responses. Data from

teacher college principals’ profiles were examined by using descriptive statistics of means and standard deviations. The impact of their gender, age and experience on

their perceptions of work as teacher college principals was examined by using T-Test and One-Way Analysis of Variance. A parallel comparison of qualitative data collected from the survey was based on answers to the three open-ended questions. Observation was made to consistencies in themes and patterns as prevailed among the principals’ responses. The most representative responses were quoted to indicate the general tendencies of responses.


Analysis of Quantitative Data

Demographic information about the college principals was analyzed. Out of the 38 participants, 34 of them provided a complete set of data for statistical analysis. Twenty-three (67.6%) principals were male and 11 (32.4%) were female. In age, a majority of the principals (81.8%) were between 51 to 60 years old. Most of them had 21 or more years of education experiences. (See Table 1.)

Participants’ responses to the 27 Liker-scaled questions were summarized into seven categories, namely Character, Knowledge, Skill, Style, Duties, Personnel Management, and Student Affairs Management. Descriptive statistics were used to display the results of the statistical analysis. (See Table 2.) The total mean average of all the responses was 4.53 out of a 5-point Liker-scale. The means of the sub-scales were 4.636 for Character (N=33; SD=.358), 3.881 for Knowledge (N=32; SD=.313), 4.68 for Skill (N=34; SD=.483), 4.691 for Style (N=34; SD=.370), 4.494 for Duties (N=33; SD=.388), 4.632 for Personnel Management (N=34; SD=.370), and 4.500 for Student Affairs Management (N=33; SD=.400). All the means of the sub-scales were above average in a 5-point scale with the highest in Style (M=4.691) and the lowest in Knowledge (M=3.881).

Perceptions of all the participants to the seven areas of principal leadership (character, knowledge, skill, style, duties, personnel management and student affairs management) were analyzed by the participants’ gender, age and educational experiences. Results of T-Test and One-Way Analyses of Variance showed no significant difference in the perceptions among the sub-groups of gender, age and educational experiences.

Analyses of Qualitative Data

Qualitative data of the study were collected along in the same survey by asking four open-ended questions to the participants. Participants’ responses were compiled by category in the order of the questions asked. Themes and patterns of the qualitative responses were closely observed, monitored and recorded.

Major responsibilities:

The responses of the principals were focused on three major responsibilities:

First, most principals agreed that their most important responsibility was to accomplish the mission, the goals and the objectives of their respective colleges. As one principal put it, his main goal was “to produce the right caliber of teachers for the nation”. Another principal said, “As chief executive leader of the college, I make decisions on behalf of the college to achieve the goals of the college.”

The second major leadership responsibility identified by the principals was the management of financial resources for the advancement of the colleges. Since resources are limited, college principals’ task was “to manage all resources efficiently and effectively to achieve college goals”. Another principal also emphasized the importance of “resources for high performance and productivity”.

Striving for academic excellence has always been a major responsibility of a teacher college principal in Ghana. One principal simply named it as “academic leadership”. This was further elaborated by another principal as “improving professional development of faculty and academic development of students”. Academic leadership was also defined by one principal as “involvement in the management of the academic processes in the college”.

Major challenges:

Almost all the principals identified that short of financial resources created the greatest challenge for them. This resulted in “the absence of teaching/learning materials for both staff and student use”. The impact on college facilities was serious. “Poor science laboratories and inadequate classrooms” were typical examples of out-of-date physical settings. Consequently, it was difficult “to manage inadequate resources to meet the aspirations of the college”. “Lack of appropriate infrastructure …… would not enable a principal to perform his or her duties satisfactorily.”

The lack of qualified staff was another challenge to the teacher college principals. The “unmotivated and uncooperative attitudes of some academic and staff members” were worrisome. The reason for poor staff quality was explained by one principal as “the lack of funds and poor remuneration to staff which affected their willingness to work”. There was also “a lack of some key personnel for certain duties” in the college operation. This was again the result of insufficient funding to staff these positions.

The system of the teacher colleges did not lean itself toward supporting principals to act independently to the best of their judgment. “Everything comes from groups of know-how and the central government.” “Today, a college principal’s capacity should be built in such a way that he or she could become effective and efficient” in the execution of his or her daily duties.

Fulfillment of work:

The greatest fulfillment of a teacher college principal was to witness the well prepared teachers to serve the country. As evidenced by one principal: “What is fulfilling about the work of a principal is to see his or her products equipped with the necessary skills to be able to perform in basic schools.” “Students leave the four walls of the college each year to prove that principalship has been fulfilled.” “Graduates function effectively in the world of work to promote the image of the college.”

Many principals commented that a fulfillment of work was to see that the goals set for the college had been met. As claimed by one of the principals, “the satisfaction derived from the fact that one has achieved the goals he or she set for himself or herself both academically and socially.” A principal enjoyed his or her “ability to ensure that what is expected to be done is done and done well”.

Additional comments:

A few comments were made relating to the professional knowledge and skills of a teacher college principal. “The principal is the leader and can lead the school to a successful end if his or her character, professional knowledge and skills, administrative and management skills are combined.” Another principal called for “regular in-service training to improve their performance”.

The issue of principal remuneration was brought up for discussion. One principal stated the fact that “principalship is a very challenging position without commensurate remuneration”. Another principal echoed that principals should be remunerated by “responsibility allowance”.

A few principals addressed the complexity of principalship in teacher colleges. “A college principal is faced with a lot of challenges as he or she manages the tertiary status of the college. Most of these challenges are beyond his or her control.”

Answers to research questions

(1) How do teacher college principals of Ghana perceive themselves in serving their roles and responsibilities as principals?

Analyses of quantitative and qualitative data indicated that the teacher college principals were in strong agreement with the positive statements describing the roles and responsibilities of college principals. Out of the seven areas of rating (Character, Knowledge, Skill, Style, Duties, Personnel Management, and Student Affairs Management), they perceived themselves to perform very well in their management skill and style but knowledge was admittedly not their strong area of leadership. Some of them even proposed some kind of in-service professional development for college principals. The majority of them identified that their major responsibilities as college principals were to set goals for college development, to manage sufficient resources for college growth, and to uphold college academic standard.

(2) Do teacher college principals’ gender, age and experience make any difference in their perceptions of their roles and responsibilities?

Teacher college principals’ gender, age and experience do not make any difference in their perceptions of their roles and responsibilities as principals. The perceptions of the sub-group categories were very close.

(3) What are the major challenges in teacher education colleges as perceived by the teacher college principals?

Most of the teacher college principals identified the lack of financial resources, lack of well qualified staff and lack of appropriate authority as the greatest challenges of their job. It is certainly not an easy task to meet these challenges to accomplish what needs to be done. However, the college principals seemed to understand the cores of the issues many of which they had no control.

(4) What are the fulfillments of serving as a teacher college principal?

The greatest job fulfillment of a teacher college principal was to witness the college graduates to serve effectively in their school teaching positions. They were also overjoyed with the accomplishment of the goals they set for the development of their respective colleges.


The findings of this study though not surprising create quite many interesting points worthy of further discussion. Some of these findings can be related to current literature and some provoke new thoughts in the development of teacher education in Ghana. They are discussed in the following:

First, the findings showed that about two-third of the teacher college principals were male. This is no doubt a confirmation of previous studies by

Adegoke (2003), Adu-Yeboah (2011) and Akyeampong (2003) that male teachers and administrators in Ghana outnumbered females to a great extent. In age and experience, 81.8 percent of the teacher college principals were between 51 to 60 years old with 21 or more years of education experiences. This is exactly what was required in the teacher college principal job advertisement as previously cited (Tamale Jobs 2011: Principal, College of Education, 2011).

Second, teacher college principals were asked to respond to all seven areas of leadership in the survey and had indicated an above average agreement with all the positive statements in each of the seven areas. Their agreement rating of educational leadership was even higher than other public school principals (Chan & Kpeglo, 2011). Surely, their overall highly positive responses to the survey items are indications of their professional maturity as reflected in age and educational experiences.

Third, a previous study of elementary school principals in Ghana by Chan and Kpeglo (2011) showed that school principals rated themselves low in leadership knowledge acquisition. This study of teacher college principals also indicated the same. This is not a coincidence. It surely pinpoints the need for school principals in Ghana for updated knowledge in professional development as claimed by Oduro (2009).

Fourth, the teacher college principals complained that sometimes no matter how hard they tried to assume their roles and responsibilities as principals, things were beyond their control. Systems established by Central Government need to be followed. Principals are not empowered to act beyond the set rules. This is a typical example of bureaucracy that needs to be changed.

Fifth, Akyeampong (2003) claimed that teachers were constantly looking for other positions of higher salary. Low teacher salary is responsibility for the loss of high quality teachers in school (Adu-Yeboah, 2011; Akyeampong, 2003). The same problem is appearing in principals of teacher colleges. Many teacher college principals in this study had openly requested better remuneration for the high challenge position they assumed.

Sixth, the teacher college principals expressed a determination to uphold the academic standing of the teacher colleges, now having been upgraded to tertiary institutions. This is reflecting the same trend of improving the requirements of student practice teaching to two semesters as illustrated by Akyeampong (2003) and Amedeker (2005).


The findings of this study clearly indicated that the teacher college principals were highly qualified educators in the country. They knew well the roles and responsibilities of teacher college principals. As all of them pointed out, the greatest challenge of their job was struggling with limited resources to get the work accomplished. This is certainly not an easy task. They were certainly respectful educational professionals who assumed a low pay position and committed themselves to the accomplishment of their students. In support of the work of the teacher college principals, the following recommendations are made:

(1) Educational investments. Dollars spent in education have traditionally been described as educational expenditures. The paradigm has to be shifted to consider educational dollars as investment to the mentality of the future. In fact, every penny spent in education helps build a stronger human capital for the country. The deserving teacher colleges and their principals have waited long enough for increased resources to do an outstanding job.

(2) Empowerment. The Ghana Government may want to seriously consider restructure the organizational system of the teacher colleges to allow their principals greater flexibility in carrying out their daily duties. Obviously, instructions from Central Government have to be strictly followed. However, teacher college principals may perform a better job if they are given the authority in their professional judgment to deal with exceptional cases beyond the rules.

(3) Remuneration. The teacher college principals expressed worries over the quality of faculty in the teacher colleges. Salaries offered by the teacher colleges are simply not attractive enough to discourage them to apply for other jobs of higher pay. Comparatively reasonable salary will help build a strong team of highly qualified faculty in place.

(4) Professional development. In recent years, professional learning communities have been rapidly developing in American schools (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker (2008). This initiative calls for faculty of common interests to form a learning community to share their professional experiences. Professional learning communities have proved to be very effective in fostering professional learning activities among faculty members. Teacher college principals are encouraged to try this out in their colleges to pull college instructors together for a common good.


Adegoke, K. A. (2003). Capacity building of lead teacher training institutions in Sub-SaharanAfrica: Ghana. Retrieved from Adu-Yeboah, C (2011). International education (CIE) – Ghana. Retrieved December 14, 2011 from http://www.sussex.ac.uk/education/cie/projectscompleted/tpa/ghana

Akyeampong, K. (2003). Teacher training in Ghana – Does it count? Retrieved from http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/12867/1/er03049b.pdf

Amedeker, M. K. (2005). Reforming Ghanaian teacher education towards preparing an effectivepre-service teacher. Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research andPedagogy, 31(2), 99-110.

Baah-Gyimah, K. (2010). Issues: Concerning education in Ghana. The Statesman (February 17,2010.) Retrived from
http://www.thestatesmanonline.com/pages/columns_details.php?aid=55&cid=233 )

Chan, T. C., & Kpeglo, S. (2011, October). Profiles of elementary school principals: Comparing Ghana and the United States. A paper presented at the 51st Annual Conference of the International Society of Educational Planning, Budapest, Hungary.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Ghana – teaching profession (2011). Retrieved from http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/537/Ghana-TEACHING PROFESSION.html

Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (2009). A collaborative initiative in building head teachers’ leadership capacity for enhancing quality teaching and learning in Ghanaian basic schools. A proposal document submitted to Cambridge Commonwealth Center for Leadership for Learning, University of Cape Coast.

Kpeglo, S. (2010, October). Providing educational leadership for achieving educationaloutcomes: Images from Ghana. Paper presented at the 51st Annual Conference of the Southern Regional Council for Educational Administration, Savannah, GA.

Mereku, D. K. (2000). Demand and supply of basic school teachers in Ghana. Retrieved from http://wikieducator.org/images/4/4f/DEMAND_present.pdf

Oduro, G. (2009). Critical issues in the implementation of Quality basic Education in Ghana.Unpublished paper. Tamale Jobs 2011: Principal, College of Education. Retrieved http://joblistghana.com/tamale-jobs-2011-principal-college-of-education.html

World Bank (2004). Improving primary education in Ghanaian impact evaluation. Washington,D.C.: World Bank.

Zame, M. Y., Hope, W. C., & Respress, T. (2008). Educational reform in Ghana: The leadershipchallenge. International Journal of Educational Management, 22(2), 115-128.



Table 1

Descriptive Statistics – Demographic Information of Research Participants

Gender : Male 23 (67.6%)

Female 11 (32.4%)

Age: 41 – 50 years old 3 ( 9.1%)

51 – 60 years old 27 (81.8%)

61 – 70 years old 3 ( 9.1%)

Educational Experiences: 6 – 10 years 1 ( 3.4%)

11 - 15 years 1 ( 3.4%)

16 – 20 years 2 ( 6.9%)

21 or more years 25 (86.2%)



Table 2

Descriptive Statistics – Principals’ Perceptions of Their Roles and Responsibilities

Category N Minimum Maximum Mean SD

Character 33 4.00 5.00 4.636 .385

Knowledge 32 3.20 4.40 3.881 .313

Skill 34 2.80 5.00 4.682 .483

Style 34 4.00 5.00 4.691 .370

Duties 33 3.71 5.00 4.493 .388

Personnel Management 34 4.00 5.00 4.632 .370

Student Affairs

Management 33 4.00 5.00 4.500 .400

Total Average 3.91 4.91 4.530 .285



Gender: Male ______ Female _____

Age: 21-30______ 31-40______ 41-50______

51-60______ 61-70______

Years in education: 1- 5 _____ 6 -10 ______ 11-15 _____

16–20 _____ 21 or more ____

Part I. Indicatethe extent to which you agree or disagree with these statements inside the parenthesis of the corresponding statement. Use the following rating scale:

1 = Strongly Disagree 2 = Disagree 3 = No opinion

4 = Agree 5 = Strongly Agree

A school principal………………………................................................................................................................................................


1. ( ) leads the school with strong ethical standards.

2. ( ) models ethical behavior in his/her daily administrative duties.

3. ( ) establishes his/her creditability at work.


4. ( ) understands the politics of working successfully with government agencies.

5. ( ) applies educational philosophies in assisting student academic development.

6. ( ) has a strong background in strategies that improve student academic


7. ( ) does not need administrative preparation to lead a school.

8. ( ) improves his/her leadership skills by pursuing professional development



9. ( ) assigns faculty and staff to responsible positions compatible with their abilities.

10. ( ) coordinates the work of different departments in the school.

11. ( ) possesses strong analytical skills to manage daily school business.

12. ( ) makes effective decisions for school improvement.

13. ( ) manages his/her time appropriately to achieve the highest work efficiency.


14. ( ) promotes democracy in school by involving stakeholders in shared decision-making.

15. ( ) conducts self-evaluation of his/her performance.


16. ( ) develops attainable goals and objectives for school improvement plans.

17. ( ) places instructional activities as a first priority.

18. ( ) prepares his/her school to meet future challenges.

19. ( ) manages all school resources to support instructional activities.

20. ( ) implements educational policies by thoroughly understanding their significance.

21. ( ) develops the curriculum based on developmental stages of the students.

22. ( ) creates and supports a conducive environment for learning.


23. ( ) encourages faculty and staff to continually improve their areas of specialization.

24. ( ) assists faculty and staff to accomplish their professional goals.

25. ( ) encourages faculty and staff to actively participate in managing the school’s resources.

26. ( ) assists professional development of faculty and staff by evaluating their performance.


27. ( ) develops a counseling program to assist students with their academic needs.

28. ( ) develops a positive school-wide student behavior management plan and enforces

it consistently

29. ( ) promotes positive learning attitudes among students.

30. ( ) develops student interest in responsible citizenship and civic affairs.

Part II. Please respond to the following questions about school principalship:

What do you perceive as the major responsibility of a school principal?

What are the major challenges of a school principal today?

What is fulfilling about the work of a school principal?

Other comments:




The Common Core May Not Be For the Common Good: A Whole-Child Approach to School Improvement



John Fischetti
Head of School, Professor of Education, University of Newcastle, Australia

Kathleen Schlichting
Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington

June Williams
Associate Professor, Southeastern Louisiana University

The Common Core May Not Be For the Common Good:
A Whole-Child Approach to School Improvement

No one can argue successfully that America’s public school curriculum has stood the test of time, in content, rigor or relevance. PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2013) compared the United States unfavorably internationally in most demographic categories to the data that showed Singapore, South Korea, sections of China and Finland (and other countries) out-performing the U.S. Raising achievement across all subgroups of learners is essential for the U.S. to be successful at a higher level than ever before to stay viable in the global economy and “flat world” described by Thomas Friedman (2005).

The Race to the Top initiative, and particularly the development of the Common Core State Standards, provides national content, agreed upon curricular frameworks and national assessments that make sense (ED.gov, 2013). Countries with national curricula can be more facile in change, using more accurate data on performance to determine strengths and weaknesses and identify high and low performers. Our current 50-state curriculum and 50-state assessments have been watered down to a level of proficiency that is well below world-class. In some states, a level of “3” on a four-point scale is called proficient (the rough equivalent of a “B” in a letter grade). However, in many states that same measure indicates that students answered fewer than half of up to 75 questions correct on the multiple choice proficiency tests administered at a fixed point in the school year. Scale scores and psychometric wizardry mask the real data beneath the “3” for fear that citizens would hold policy makers and educators accountable if we knew the actual low standards that are being perpetuated. Over the last 20 years, mediocre has been redefined as college-ready.

So, on its surface, the move to the Common Core and the emerging potential of enabling a national view of all states both in total and then disaggregated across multiple student groups is a good thing. Algebra in Arkansas is or should be the same as in Maine. Third grade reading proficiency in Minnesota is or should be the same as in Hawaii. However, on our way to national norms, an American phenomenon has emerged. Coke isn’t good enough. We needed Pepsi. Our founders’ well-grounded reluctance to nationalization has evolved in this case two major think tanks that are developing two different “national assessments” for two groups of states that in some ways mirror the red and blue division of our political landscape. Twenty-four states are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and 28 states have adopted Smarter Balanced and their assessments. Both are moving forward to full implementation with tremendous political backing, funding and a momentum of timelines for rollout of the new assessments based on the Common Core Standards, which means that American public school students are on the verge of a major recalibration of the results of their efforts. Scores will inevitably go down as rigor is increased. Teachers will feel more pressure to get struggling students caught up than ever before. Several states have adopted both frameworks in an effort to determine later which one or a hybrid might best fit their needs, or they may be hoping eventually the two will merge to form one effort as SIRIUS and XM did to form one satellite radio company. Did the market really need two?

One of the major areas of focus of the Common Core Standards is teaching to mastery. That is, teachers are asked to teach a concept or skill so powerfully that it does not need to be re-taught every year—as is the case in some skillsets now. By eliminating redundancy, we can increase and expand the curriculum. For example, 7 x 6 = 42. 2x+ x= 3x. Got it… now, let’s move on and build on those concepts. The repetition and duplication in our curriculum has even affected the quality of a college education. Because high schools have had to lower standards to re-teach middle grades curriculum, colleges have been forced to change much of the first two years of their curriculum to repeat what students should have learned in high school. What if in college you learned college level math rather than the math you didn’t learn in middle school repeated again in high school? We have many young people in ninth grade who are still doing multiplication on their fingers. Computing 7x6 is a slow process of on your fingers. With the slower pace, many students do not finish timed examinations and perform poorly on them as much because they did not finish as because of their understanding of the content. So, the concept of mastery of fundamental skills early on is a really good idea, in theory, for those students who “catch on” quickly, have support systems at home, do not have a language barrier and whose proper nutrition and basic needs are being met.

However, for students who learn differently, need extra time, have family issues and concerns that impact their ability to learn, have a diagnosed special need or challenge, enter school with significant gaps in their literacy development, are homeless, are fostered, struggle with mental health issues, or have never had even the most basic medical care or been to a dentist, etc., the notion of second and third grade mastery may be overly ambitious, if not unrealistic. Given the recent emphasis on tougher assessments, we are on the verge of increasing the ever-widening gaps between those who have access to quality pre-K, and those who do not. We are at risk of finding new ways to blame teachers who are working with children who reside in the most challenging situations for these gaps and for failing to overcome poverty and all the issues our children face, when, in reality, they are heroes.

In our work with schools and teachers in our partner school districts across two states, we have formally identified myriad problems associated with a ‘testing first’ mentality. These problems are exacerbated by the push to implement the Common Core.

In many cases, teachers in the early grades spend a majority of their day in pre-test, test prep and testing mode. During the spring 2013 semester, in one school where we sponsored multiple student teachers, the teacher spent the first month of school sitting in the hall testing individual children while her teaching assistant used worksheets based on the forthcoming tests to drill students. Much of the instruction, interaction with students and classroom management was handled by the teacher assistant and parent volunteers. Novice teachers placed in that school observed no formal instruction during this timeframe. We see this universally across all the schools we work with, where the test prep and testing center mentality has marginalized the life of the school, which leads to:

· The elimination of conversation in the learning process between and among students and teachers

· The loss of teachable moments, the chance to go on a seeming tangent, based on the passion of children to take an idea and run with it that spurs further intellectual curiosity (Language Arts, 2009). The inability of teachers to be the informed and intuitive ‘kid-watchers’ that we know they are (and need to be) because they are no longer looking for the authentic, spontaneous moments of learning, sharing and interaction between children, but, rather, they are forced to put on blinders and see only that which informs their assessment, charts and data

· The lack of modeling by teachers, who can demonstrate “good” and “poor” and who, by their examples, can reteach and explain/demonstrate in new ways, key concepts. Teachers are unable to be ‘in-the-moment’ with their students because they are under pressure and on someone else’s timeframe to perform a certain way, to produce a certain level and to achieve a predetermined result. (Time pressure to cover material and practice for tests minimizes elaboration, examples, integration of subjects and the arts, etc.) (Casey, 2011). Young children need to see and experience learning by observing a teacher or a proficient peer engaging in a skill or attempting a task. “Modeling is a necessary stage of effective instruction that helps students to conceptualize and apply new skills and strategies (Regan & Berkeley, 2012)

· The changing nature of practice. Practice is a key concept in mastering any skill or concept. Yet, practice in engaging, deep ways is removed when the practice becomes practice testing. Children, in this era of testing, don’t even know what learning is. They begin to see learning as a decontextualized, artificial interaction between text and the learner – and not as an authentic engagement that occurs as a result of a genuine desire to know, explore, experience and question

· The lack of integration means certain subjects are marginalized since they are not tested. Social studies, the visual and performing arts, and often, recess are sacrificed for those students who did not complete worksheets or online tutorials in the name of rigor, rather than in promoting learning

· The loss of passion, excitement and engagement of the adults in a school who assist in the learning process because of the fear of testing and its repercussions.

Indeed the Common Core may not be for the common good. Unless…

Student Success Targets

In Louisiana, teachers are required to develop Student Learning Targets (SLTs) under a new teacher evaluation system put in place as part of the Race to the Top/Common Core requirements. SLTs are measurable yearly objectives for specific classes that are negotiated between each teacher and his or her principal. (Other states are developing similar processes using different acronyms). They specify the kind of and level of growth that individual teachers expect and agree on assessment of that growth. This is particularly crucial to identify tangible results in courses that are not part of the state testing system or in grades or levels that are not tested. For example, Kindergarten, the arts, physical education, and some areas of math, science, social studies and English/Language Arts that are not tested or not tested as part of the PARCC or Smarter Balanced regimen. Other states call these different things. The goal of the SLTs is to factor directly into teacher evaluation systems (louisianabelieves.com, 2013).

One problematic aspect of the SLT process is that it holds constant all of the variables impacting student performance. Teachers who work in schools with a majority of young people who come from poverty may have ambitious SLTs, great content and the best pedagogy, but face a daily battle with the stressors of poverty. Literacy gaps are as much gaps in nutrition, health care, mental health, special needs and so on. Yet teachers are going to be held accountable as much for those needs as they are for their students’ test-taking prowess.

If teachers are responsible for SLTs, principals and their school improvement team are responsible for meeting what we call SSTs—Student Success Targets. SSTs are teacher, counselor, social worker and other experts’ assessment of issues that inhibit a teacher’s ability to reach their stretch SLTs. What if when a teacher presented her SLTs to her principal, she also presented her SSTs, a set of child and family issues that the school commits to work with the district and community to address.

These include understanding the stressors of poverty and the issues that manifest coming from families with low resources. It includes students having a permanent home, sufficient resources for technology, books and materials at home, healthy nutrition at home and school, medical (including eye and dental care), high quality after school care and summer support, adult mentors in and out of school, mental health counseling, parent education, and access to the Internet.

School Counselors as Co-Facilitating School Improvement

What if a school’s annual improvement plan was a match between student SLTs and school-aggregated SSTs? This could lead to an increased valuing of school counselor-led conversations related to providing backpacks of food for children to take home on the weekend when we know they will be hungry, partnerships with the private sector to provide health care (including eye and dental) at school sites, grants to provide internet access for students at home or community centers open on nights and weekends, opportunities for mental health counseling for children in need (and their parents as appropriate), etc. And for students ahead of their peers, providing access to advanced materials, supplemental readings, curricular extensions that keep them motivated toward excellence rather than waiting for the students who need remediation to catch up. We envision a revamping of the School Improvement Plan process adding a committee of the whole to direct student success. The committee would be co-chaired by a building leader and a school counselor and include a parent member and community member representing the social service agencies in the community.

Although the important role of school counselors in implementing the Common Core has been discussed in the literature, two documents specifically address the role of school counselors (ACA, n.d.; Achieve et al., 2012). We propose that the school counselor should play a central role in framing a perspective focusing on the whole child as the prerequisite to the academic success strategies established by school improvement team. Students who have few challenges to learning will likely be successful in achieving the established learning targets; however, students with academic, social, emotional, and health-related needs will likely struggle to keep up and be left further behind. Barna (2011) recognized that “pressure from high-stakes testing has created an overemphasis on interventions that exclusively focus on improving students' academic competence, resulting in a failure to appreciate programs and services that strengthen areas of academic success for all students” (p. 242).

The American Association of School Counselors (ASCA, 2012) published a comprehensive national model for school counseling centered on four themes: leadership, advocacy, collaboration, and systemic change. The national model also emphasizes “enhancing the learning process for all students” and “guides the development of effective school counseling programs around three domains: academic, career and personal/social development. School counselors should also consider how other student standards important to state and district initiatives complement and inform their school counseling program” (p. xiii). No specific mention is made of the Common Core; therefore, school counselors are challenged to use the ASCA the model as a guide for determining exactly how to exert leadership, advocate for all students, form collaborative structures, focus on systemic change in a manner that supports student success in academic, career, and personal/social domains. Being part of the student success target process sanctions that vital role.

The most detailed document addressing the role of the school counselor (Achieve, 2012) focuses solely on the academic and career aspects of the school counselor role while neglecting the personal/social domain. Although the authors recognized the critical role that school counselors play in the successful implementation of the Common Core Standards, the perspective is that of administrators seeking to improve school rest scores rather than school counselors trying to promote overall health and well-being and academic success.

The American Counseling Association (ACA, n.d.) posted on its website a document entitled “Common Core State Standards: Essential Information for School Counselors.” This document provides an excellent overview and emphasizes the role of the school counselor in advocating for all students and removing barriers to college and career successes for all students; however, leaves open is the pathway in determining specifically how to meet the needs in the personal/social domain. The document unfortunately leaves the emphasis of building leaders on test scores and career choices of students, not the whole child.

The Professional School Counseling Journal, of the American School Counselor Association, published two of three special issues on the school counselor and student mental health. The authors addressed such topics as anxiety, ADHD, disruptive behavior disorders, Autism spectrum disorders, children from low-income families, and parental involvement of children from Latino immigrant families. The information provided in these special issues, coupled with the ASCA National Model (ASCA, 2012), will provide critical content to assist in the development of student success targets (SSTs) for the school improvement team.

Steen & Noguera (2010) proposed a “broader, bolder approach to education,” one that requires that “all school stakeholders, including student services personnel such as school counselors as well as families and community members work together to address children's needs and eliminate the barriers to children's learning” (pg. 43-44). They proposed expanded partnerships and highlighted three priority areas to address social, economic and other barriers to student learning, particularly among poor and minority students: “(a) engage families and community members in their children's education, (b) partner to provide high quality P-12 enrichment and out-of-school programs, and (c) collaborate to connect children to health services” (p. 42).

As we move forward in the implementation of the Common Core standards, the works of Barna (2011), Steen & Noguera (2010), ASCA (2012), and the special issues of the Professional School Counseling Journal are critical resources in the development of student success targets (SSTs) that will help to guide school leaders, school counselors and school improvement teams.

The first part of the school improvement team planning process for a year would be to develop the Student Success Targets based on the needs of the children and families who attend the school. The second part of the plan would be the academic blueprint guiding the school to success for all learners. The third part is a set of resource and budgetary needs to implement both Part A and Part B. The current process by default makes most school improvement plan to increase test scores rather than a plan for whole-child success that will lead to learning mastery and improved student well-being and academic success.

The following initial rubric could be used to determine if students have needs beyond instructional that can be networked by the school. The School Improvement Plan would be a blueprint for enabling all children to have success in and out of the classroom and focus on taking them where they are to where they need, rather than reducing them to a test score which will further exacerbate achievement gaps between children who catch on quickly and the rest of their classmates. The real risk of the implementation of the Common Core standards is that they will lead us to a new era of blaming educators for the wide diversity of learning needs of children and further erode public education’s opportunity to enable all our citizens access to hope and opportunity that all of our families dreamed for us.

Sample Rubric for Student Success Targets (SSTs)

Student Code______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Student Success Target 1-very poor level of access 2-poor level of access 3-good level of access 4-very good level of access
Permanent home
At least 25 age- appropriate books at home
Students’ special needs addressed with appropriate modifications and adaptations at home
Food at home
Overall nutrition
Emotional support
Eye care
Dental care
Sufficient and appropriate clothing for all seasons and types of events
Sufficient exercise and play time during the day
Access to the Internet
High-Quality After-School Care/ Enrichment
High-quality summer care and enrichment
Parent/Guardian education
In-school school adult mentor
Out of school adult mentor
Student generally masters content immediately and is ahead of classmates in pre-tests and other assessments


Achieve, Inc.; College Summit; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of Elementary School Principals (2013). Implementing the common core state standards: The role of the school counselor. Retrieved from http://www.achieve.org/publications/implementing-common-core-state-standards-role-school-counselor-action-brief

American Counseling Association (ACA; n.d.). Common core state standards: Essential information for school counselors. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/resources---school-counselors/common-core-state-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

American School Counselor Association (ASCA) (2012). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.

Auger, R.W., DeKruyf, L., & Trice-Black (Eds.) (2013). Special Issue on School Counselors and Student Mental Health, Part I. [Special issue]. Professional School Counseling Journal, 16(3 & 4), 1-268.

Casey, K. (2011). Modeling lessons. Educational Leadership, 69(2), 24-29.

Barna, J.S. (2011). How important is personal/social development to academic achievement? The elementary school counselor’s perspective. Professional School Counseling Journal, 14, 242-249.

ED.gov. (2013). Race to the top. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York: NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Louisianabelieves.com (2013). Student learning targets. Retrieved from http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/classroom-support-toolbox/teacher-support-toolbox/student-learning-targets

OECD. (2013). Program for International Student Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/

Regan, K., & Berkeley, S. (2012). Effective reading and writing instruction: A focus on modeling. Intervention in School & Clinic, 47, 276-282.

Steen, S., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). A broader and bolder approach to school reform: Expanded partnership roles for school counselors. Professional School Counseling Journal, 14, 42-52.






Michael D. Richardson
Robert E. Waller

A manuscript prepared for publication and submitted to:

Michael D. Richardson is endowed professor of Educational Leadership at Columbus State University and Robert E. Waller is an
assistant professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Georgia.


Accountability has been a concern for educators for as long as schools have existed (Sleeter, 2008). Ancient records indicate that government officials were concerned about the productivity of farmers who clearly understood that farm output was dependent upon labor input. In today’s environment, the globalization of the 21st century fuels the current interest in accountability because the future of America is tied inextricably to education (Weiner, 2007).

The long-range purpose of accountability is to enhance productivity (Timar, 2003). A second powerful application of accountability is comparing productivity across individuals, grade levels, schools and even competitors in private schools. Accountability is necessary to measure quantitatively the investment of education because education is about the utilization of human resources. In practical accountability measures, an output represents results (Ranson, 2003). Efficiency and effectiveness must go together in accountable, educational organizations (Wrigley, 2003). In such organizations there exists an incongruity between the expectations of outside agencies and the realities of educational institutions (Kyriakides & Tsangaridou, 2008). Organizations can temporarily survive without perfect efficiency; they usually die if they are ineffective (Creemers & Kyriakides, 2008). Efficiency typically implies a short-term response to accountability, while effectiveness specifies a long-term reaction (Kyriakides & Creemers, 2008).

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Education in American culture displays a dangerous and imbalanced devotion to the cult of efficiency and effectiveness (Moller, 2008). Educators are forced to objectify measure and quantify persons,
programs, and processes (Darling-Hammond, 2004). This discrepancy of quantity over quality creates an unhealthy ethos in the educational institution that threatens to destroy the very persons and programs that the efficiency is designed to measure (Kim & Sunderman, 2005). The threat of measuring and improving aspects of operation not essentially vital to overall organization productivity is called the threat of "suboptimization"--optimizing the performance of secondary, or even irrelevant, aspects of operation (Raywid, 2002). The sub-optimization threat is especially valid in today's large and complex educational institutions where there are literally hundreds of units (Hanuskek & Raymond, 2005). Educators want to be accountable for what they do for children, not what politicians think they should do for children. The currently accepted model of educational accountability, therefore, becomes one of political posturing, not one of sound educational practice (Hursh, 2007).


America’s educational institutions have been subjected to externally driven demands for accountability that have not proven to be effective (Finnigan & Gross, 2007). Regardless of the ineffectiveness popularly elected state politicians in numerous states have advocated strong external accountability without understanding the low organizational capacity of the educational institutions to deliver critical productivity (Peterson & Hess, 2008). The size of the accountability movement indicates that the survival of public education may very well hinge on the ability of educators to demonstrate productivity and accountability in a chaotic marketplace (Leigh, 2010).


Accountability gives an educational institution the evidence it needs to make substantial changes to enhance productivity. The key concept is determining how to measure productivity in service organizations like schools and colleges (Ladwig & Gore, 2005). Originally intended to serve as diagnostic/prescriptive tools, accountability instruments have become tools for the justification of punitive actions aimed at teachers, principals, and school systems (Neal & Schanzenbach, 2010).

In most accountability systems, rules and regulations are handed down from the state or federal level (Bales, 2006). Since every state is a different educational system, the federal government has tried repeatedly to influence education at the state and local levels for the express purpose of holding them accountable for performance and productivity (Raywid, 2002; Sunderman & Orfield, 2006). This change of accountability has been widely characterized by researchers and educators as a bureaucratic requirement, spurred by No Child Left Behind Act (Apple, 2007). Such inputs have little to do with the real world (reality) in educational institutions (Nichols, Glass & Berliner, 2006).

Equity and Equality

In their haste to become more accountable, educational administrators must not lose sight of the capacity of the school to deal with accountability issues (Au, 2007). Change is difficult and often produces results that are not intended (Wrigley, 2003). Organizational capacity to meet accountability demands must be examined in light of the demands on all school clients (Diamond & Spillane, 2004). Consequently, educational leaders need to understand accountability (Daly, 2009), know their organizational capacity (Neal & Schanzenbach, 2010) and
be able to clearly articulate the role accountability plays in their organization (Moller, 2008). Accountability is here to stay, but it must be understood in relation to the contextual reality of schools and not just in the abstract thinking of theorists and politicians (Valli & Busese, 2007). So goes the new policy debate: What is the role of accountability in educational organizations and how can educators respond?


Apple, M. W. (2007). Ideological success, educational failure? On the politics of No Child Left Behind. Journal of Teacher Education58(2), 108-116.

Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative
metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.

Bales, B. (2006). Teacher education policies in the United States: The accountability shift since 1980. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(4), 395-407.

Creemers, B. P. M., & Kyriakides, L. (2008). The dynamics of educational effectiveness: A contribution to policy,
practice and theory in contemporary schools. London: Routledge.

Daly, A. J. (2009). 
Rigid response in an age of accountability: The potential of leadership and trust. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(2), 168-216.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2004). Standards, accountability, and school reform. Teachers College Record, 106(6), 1047-85.

Diamond, J. B., & Spillane, J. P. (2004). High-Stakes accountability in urban elementary schools: Challenging or reproducing inequality? Teacher College Record, 106(6), 1145-1176.

Finnigan, K., & Gross, B. (2007). Do accountability policy sanctions influence teacher motivation? Lessons from Chicago’s low-performing school. American Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 594-629.

Hanushek, E. A., & Raymond, M. E. (2005). Does school accountability lead to improved performance? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24(2), 297-327.

Hursh, D. (2007). Assessing No Child Left Behind and the rise of neoliberal education policies. American Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 493-518.

Kim, J. S., & Sunderman, G. L. (2005). Measuring academic proficiency under the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for educational equity. Educational Researcher 34(8), 34-13.

Kyriakides, L., & Creemers, B. P. M. (2008). Using a multidimensional approach to
measure the impact of classroom-level factors upon student achievement: A study testing the validity of the dynamic model. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 19(2), 183–205.

Kyriakides, L., & Tsangaridou, N. (2008). Towards the development of generic and differentiated models of educational effectiveness: A
studyon school and teacher effectiveness in physical education.

British Educational Research Journal, 34(6), 807–838.

Ladwig, J. G., & Gore, J. M. (2005). Measuring teacher quality and student achievement. Professional Educator, 4(2), 26–29.

Leigh, A. (2010). Estimating teacher effectiveness from two-year changes in students’ test scores. Economics of Education Review, 29(3), 480-488.

Moller, J. (2008). School leadership in an age of accountability: Tensions between managerial and professional accountability. Journal of Educational Change, 10(1), 37-46.

Neal, D., & Schanzenbach, D. W. (2010). Left behind by design: Proficiency counts and test-based accountability. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(2), 263-283.

Nichols, S. L., Glass, G. V., & Berliner, D. C. (2006). High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability pressure increase student learning? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 14Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/

Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L. (2004). How large are teacher effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 237-257.

Peterson, P. E., & Hess, F. M. (2008). Few states set world-class standards: In fact, most render the notion of proficiency meaningless. Education Next, 8(3), 70-73.

Ranson, S. (2003). Public accountability in the age of neo-liberal governance.
Journal of Education Policy, 18(5), 459–80.

Raywid, M. A. (2002). Accountability: What’s worth measuring? Phi Delta Kappan, 83(6), 433-437.

Sleeter, C. (2008). Equity, democracy, and neoliberal assaults on teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(8), 1947-1957.

Sunderman, G. L., & Orfield, G. (2006). Domesticating a revolution: No Child Left Behind and state administrative response. Harvard Educational Review, 76(4), 526-556.

Timar, T. B. (2003). The “new accountability” and school governance in California. Peabody Journal of Education, 78(4), 177–200.

Valli, L., & Buese, D. (2007). The changing roles of teachers in an era of high-stakes accountability. American Educational ResearchJournal, 44(3), 519–558.

Weiner, L. (2007). A lethal threat to US teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(4), 274-286.

Wrigley, T. (2003). Is ‘school effectiveness’ anti-democratic? British Journal of Education, 51(2), 89–112.



The Molding of Data-Driven Educational Decision Makers: Educational Leadership Programs Reconsidered




Evan G. Mense; Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA


Every day across America, schools are impacting the education of millions of students and the future of our country. Principals as educational leaders have one of the most difficult jobs in America. Educational leaders are consistently under pressure to improve student academic performance. Even with the high level of pressure that the No Child Left Behind Act has created, children are and will always be, in need of a quality education. Men and women are needed to fill the principal ranks and take on the challenge…the challenge of making our schools better.

The initial stage in this change of school improvement has been widely characterized by researchers and educators alike as a move toward data-driven decision making spurred by No Child Left Behind (2001). Hanushek and Raymond (2002) argue that accountability systems will help reshape local practices:

[A] focus on student outcomes will lead to behavioral changes by students, teachers, and schools to align with the performance goals of the system. Part of this is presumed to be more or less automatic (i.e. public reporting of outcomes will bring everybody onto course with those outcomes). But part also comes from the development of explicit incentives that will lead to innovation, efficiency, and fixes to any observed performance problems. (p. 81)

Victoria L.
Benhardt states, “the use of data can make an enormous difference in school reform efforts by helping, schools see how to improve school processes and student learning” (Bernhardt, 2004, p. 17).

The NCLB Act has presented new opportunities and incentives for data use in education by providing schools and districts with additional data for analysis, as well as increasing the pressure on them to improve student test scores (Massell, 2001). As a result, data are becoming more abundant at the state, district, and school levels, some even suggest that educators are “drowning” in too much data (Celio & Harvey, 2005; Ingram, Louis, & Schroeder, 2004).

While data-based decision making is practiced in different ways at all levels of the educational system, recent studies have focused on how data are used by the entire school community to guide decisions at the school level (Feldman &Tung 2001). Empirical studies of data-based decision making have consistently found that strong school leadership is a necessary factor for successful implementation of data-based decision making. Instructional leaders that are able to effectively use data for inquiry and decision making, are knowledgeable about and committed to data use, build a strong vision for data use in their schools reshape local practices for the better will enhance student achievement (Feldman & Tung 2001; Gribbons & Herman 2001; Choppin 2002; Mason 2002; Lachat and Smith 2005; Mieles and Foley 2005).

Murphy and Hallinger state in the introduction to their anthology Approaches to Administrative Training in Education, “a consensus has developed concerning the inefficacy of traditional training programs in educational administration” (1987, p. 5). Griffiths, Stout, and Forsyth state in their anthology Leaders for America’s Schools, “preparation for educational administration is in ferment” (1988, p. 3).

This leads to the establishment of Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). The ISLLC (2002) standards state that school leadership roles require professional practice be driven by criteria and standards focused on the development of effective leadership.

Now with the Educational Leadership Council for Accreditation Standards (ELCC), developed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has changed its focus from the content of a program’s syllabi to “how well graduates are prepared to perform in the workplace” (NPBEA 2002).

According to Joe Schneider (2002),

“These new standards will enable institutions of higher education to revise their graduate programs in educational leadership to ensure that their graduates have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide quality leadership for schools and school districts ... The standards strongly suggest that universities and colleges prepare administrators who are, first and foremost, concerned with improving teaching and learning.” (p. 87)

This requires the curriculum to be “professionally anchored” (Coghlan & Brannick,2005, p. 234) meaning

“that each course is situated among real-world challenges faced by practitioners during the course of their daily work. Though course titles may seem similar to courses offered in a typical administrator preparation program, pedagogically they are quite different. Coursework focuses on problem finding within organizations—specifically identifying the “correct” problems, avoiding misdiagnosis of core problems, and parsing those

organizational dilemmas into something that can be addressed systematically. (Caboni & Proper, 2009, p. 65)

Transferring learning from a classroom context to the “real world” is frequently difficult for students (Butterfield & Nelson, 1989). However, if instruction is delivered in such a way that students grapple with problems that emerge from the challenges of a school or university, solve those problems using the tools they would use in practice, and eventually produce final products with relevance to, and usefulness for, the site from which the problem came, learning is more likely to be obviously transferable (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). This requires faculty to

teach in such a way that knowledge is both usable and adaptable.


Schools and school leaders are changing and are likely to continue doing so. Principals need to learn to adapt to, as well as serve as, change agents. They must realize that they can acquire information, and can learn innovative ways for managing data. Principals have often been taught creative ways for disaggregating data and then reorganizing the information and knowledge to create something new, but for the principal, it is necessary, to begin
with information and then enhance it with skill and talent.

It will be necessary for the future principal to develop increasingly complex knowledge and skills in administrative management (data-driven), instructional leadership and evaluation. Principals must have knowledge sufficient to refocus school operations that often emerge from habit, tradition, or political pressures and not from the realities of organizational needs. Principals will continue to be required to deal with multiple and often conflicting purposes of reformers and politicians.

Not only will the principals of the next decade deal with a vastly expanded knowledge base relating to data collection, data use, and data evaluation, they will need the necessary preparation to make change happen. The principal must be a part of the total community, including its pressure, prejudices, and power plays. The principal will need to create a set of school-wide norms to facilitate diversity of learning and teaching methods and accountability procedures for students and teachers. Future principals will need to be change agents as well as resource developers. The principal will grapple with many problems, but the administrative leadership and educational bureaucracy must remove principals from the balancing act they are now required to perform when dealing with conflicting expectations relating to data collection and use.


Bernhardt, V. (2004). Data analysis for continuous school improvement. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18, 32–42.

Butterfield, E., & Nelson, G. (1989). Theory and practice of teaching for transfer. EducationalTechnology Research and Development, 37(3), 5–38.

Caboni, T. C. & Proper, E. (2009). Re-envisioning the Professional Doctorate
for Educational Leadership and Higher Education Leadership: Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College Ed.D. Program. Peabody Journal of Education, 84, 61–68.

Celio, M. B., & Harvey, (2005), Buried treasure: Developing an effective management guide from mountains of educational data. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Choppin, J. (2002, April). Data use in practice: Examples from the school level. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans, LA.

Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. (2005). Doing action research in your own organization (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Feldman, J., & Tung, R. (2001, April). Whole school reform: How schools use the
databased inquiry and decision making process. A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Seattle, WA.

Griffiths, D. E., Stout, R.T. & Forsyth, P.B. (Ed.). (1988). Leaders for America’s schools.Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

Hanushek, E. & Raymond, M. (2002). Sorting out accountability systems. In W. M.Evers & H. J. Wahlberg, School accountability. New York, NY: Hoover Press.

Herman, J., & Gribbons, B. (2001). Lessons learned in using data to support school inquiry and continuous improvement: Final Report to the Stuart Foundation. Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

Lachat, M. A., & Smith, S. (2005). Practices that support data use in urban high schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 10 (3), 333–49.

Mason, S. (2002). Turning data into knowledge: Lessons from Six Milwaukee PublicSchools. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Ingram, D., Louis, K. S., & Schroeder R. G. (2004)., Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. Teachers College Record, 106(6), 1258–1287.

Massell, D. (2001). The theory & practice of using data to build capacity: State and local strategies and their effects. In S. H. Fuhrman,( ed.), From the capitol to the classroom: Standards-based reform in the states. Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press.

Mieles, T., & Foley, E. (2005). From data to decisions: Lessons from school districts using data warehousing. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Murphy, J., & Hallinger, P. (1987). Approaches to administrative training in education. NewYork, NY: State University of New York Press.

Murphy, J., &Vriesenga, M. (2005). Developing professionally anchored dissertations: Lessons from innovative programs. School Leadership Review, 1(1), 33–57.

Schneider, M. (2002). Public school facilities and teaching. New York, NY: Ford Foundation.

Principal Preparation: VUCA Versus Resilience




Pamela Lemoine
Michael D. Richardson

A manuscript prepared for publication and submitted to:

Pamela Lemoine is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University and Michael D. Richardson is endowed professor of Educational Leadership at Columbus State University.



What is the primary role of the educational leader: effecting a safe school, student performance, building teacher capacity, effective management, or responding to the culture of students, parents, school, and community? Educational leaders live in a VUCA world-volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (Apollo Research Institute Staff, 2012; 
Kingsinger, & Walch, 2012)). The volatility is typified by the unceasing wave of changes; political edicts for student achievement to increase or teachers and leaders will face job loss (Kavanaugh, & Strecker, 2012). Uncertainty comes as educational leaders face demands for student achievement to increase while workforce reductions of classroom teachers and budget cuts affect the process of increasing student performance (Kail, 2010). Technological complexities cause confusion as schools are increasingly tied to the use of technology. And, ambiguity reigns as program mandates increase, adding to demands, not decreasing demands (Kail, 2011).

Fortitude, energy, long working hours, perspicacity in addressing moments of doubt and indecision, fearlessness in addressing challenges, and a sense of indomitability are part of the unarticulated job description of an effective school leader. With 5% of schools in the United States identified as chronic, persistent failures, and a prediction that this number can double within the next five years, Americans have a vested interest in establishing effective school leadership: their children (Kutash et al., 2010). Schools that are bankrupt, non-performing persistent failures need the same help that businesses get when in trouble, a person and a method to turn around the business.

Steiner and Hassell’s (2011) Using Competencies to Improve Principal Success define competencies as “behavior characteristics that predict performance” (p. 4). Further, the authors state that it is important to know leadership competencies when schools are “in a state of entrenched failure (p. 1). Current researchers, Leithwood, Louis, Anderson and Wahlstrom (2004), Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, and Anderson (2010), Leithwood and Sun (2012), and Waters, Marzano, and McNulty (2003) report effective school leadership is critical to student achievement and is even more important in turning around low-performing schools (Darling-Hammond, Meyerson, LaPointe & Orr, 2002; Wallace Foundation, 2006, 2011). The current emphasis in educational reform is the necessity to have highly capable school leadership to change educational outcomes (Cheney, Davis, Garrett, & Holleran, 2010).



Vol. 3 No. 1 Spring 2013

Teacher Pay for Performance Plans: Pitfalls and Possibilities



Dr. Samuel B. Hardy, III
Dr. Thomas E. Deering

Georgia Regents University

The authors of this paper wish to state at the outset that our work was not directed at evaluating existing teacher pay for performance (PFP) plans. Several states have such plans in operation. Nor will the authors propose their own opinions on the matter. What we did want to do in preparing this work was to take a step back from the issue and examine what others have done in establishing PFP type plans, and since it happens that incentive-based employee compensation plans originated from the private sector, and there is literature available – a lot actually – on the subject, we will start there. We feel, therefore, that it is a good idea for teachers and school administrators to learn from others so to become familiar with how to establish a PFP in a manner to improve its chances for success, because an improperly designed and implemented teacher incentive pay plan can quickly become a disincentive plan – and a costly mistake.

The standard teacher pay system dates from the early 1920’s (Delisio, n.d.). This pay system for teachers is not atypical of other civil service pay scales whereby the two factors central to salary increases are set by pay grade and step. For teachers, pay increases can be achieved generally be acquiring a higher level degree – moving from a bachelor’s to an masters degree (a pay grade increase) or simply by living another year (a step increase). There are instances where states will raise a teacher’s pay for taking a certain number of hours beyond the previous degree earned; South Carolina is an example, but usually degree attainment moves the teacher up the pay grade scale. The remaining increases in teacher pay will come annually as the teacher moves along with her life (career). Apart from the incentive a new degree holds for a salary increase, and presumably more skills attained by the teacher as a result, the standard pay scale with its annually step increases has no motivational value. Under this type pay system, which 95% of school districts in the U.S. use, a typical teacher receives a pay increase regardless of her efforts in the classroom the previous year, or her students’ performance on whatever tests the state uses for assessing student/school/district performance. Under this pay system all teachers with the same number of years of service and the same degree or number of advanced hours are paid equally – regardless of output.

A uniform pay system contains within it no increased compensation for hard work. A teacher’s salary is a function of years worked and level of education; performance is not factored in (Harris, 2008). There are also other faults to this type teacher pay system: A teacher may feel undervalued and her efforts in improving student performance vain because she knows low-performing teachers receive the same pay, and this type pay system does not attract the best and brightest to the profession when better paying opportunities lie outside of public education (Harris, 2008). At a time when public schools need to attract and retain high quality teachers, it is incumbent upon districts’ administrations to be aware of what businesses propose as the best structures to motive employees, and hopefully reward those same employees for their good work and keep them in the schools.

The sales professions need little elaboration as to how workers are compensated. Their level of overall productivity is the determinant of their pay. Teaching is too unlike sales to allow for a direct comparison, but other for-profit occupations utilize incentives. Bankers for instance receive a base pay and are paid on an incremental basis for whatever extra bank services they sell the customer. The bank sets the price by whichever service is more valued by the management of the bank. For example, an annuity sale has a higher value than a safe deposit box sale. This is easy to understand since an annuity sale brings in more revenue than the safe deposit box sale. But some incentives are not directed toward improving output alone. Manufacturing jobs will include pay incentives for reductions in lost time due to employee injury or machine breakdowns. Still other jobs will reward employees for improved delivery times and reductions in breakage. The fact is that incentives do work. The challenge for those of us in public education is to understand that this is true and to prepare now for the time to come when our district proposes to launch a PFP. To help with this, the authors will list plans’ suggestions on what to consider and why when designing a PFP plan and then offer a suggestion for plan design drawn from the similar components of each.

PFP Plan Components

In an article dated January 13,2007
titled Designing an incentive compensation plan excerpted from the West Virginia Employment Law Letter by M. Lee Smith Publishers, the writers, all attorneys, list the elements of an incentive compensation plan.

Cash is king. Increases in salary may stop employees from leaving, but it is important to make sure that money by itself is not a long-term incentive.

What’s your
vision. The goals of the plan should be aligned as well with the vision of the company.

Seeing eye to eye with the employee. The incentive plan must be understood by all employees and rewards made clear: The reward should match the effort, both short-term and long-term.

Monitor the plan. It is critical that employees do not develop bad behaviors for the sake of the incentive plan. Employees should not work toward the incentive and forsake the other functions of their job.

Other things to consider. Important to any plans success is the ability of the employer to fund the plan. In developing an incentive plan the employer must be certain that the company’s cash flow is sufficient to make the pay-outs.

In Incentive Programs: The Five Pillars of Successful Implementation, by Mike
Honnet (n.d.) the author lists what he feels are the five essential elements of incentive schemes, which he writes increase the probability of successful implementation.

Vision. The incentive scheme must be designed to fit the strategy and culture of the company and the employees must be involved in the design of the plan to secure buy-in from both management and staff.

Innovation and risk taking. Incentive programs should be daring to succeed. If not, the incentive may be treated as any other cost which management must control. If an incentive is treated as a cost, it is doomed to failure (Honnet, n.d.). Management must be prepared to pay-out incentives at the level of employee output and beyond if the case warrants

Fixed Duration. The more successful incentive plans have a short-term and fixed duration. Peak performance requires peak effort and cannot be sustained for the long-term.

Decentralized Design. Remember, one size does not fit all. Many plans are uniform for the sake of equality among employees, but management must remember to allow different units to design plans unique to their unit’s needs.

Separation from base pay. Incentive pay plans should always allow for the separation of base salary and incentive pay. Employees must be aware that incentive pay is not base pay in another form.

Ragusa in, How to Develop Incentive Plans for Employees (n.d.), found similar components of performance programs that best motivate employees.

Identify a clear set of goals. Upper management should meet with unit/area/section managers and create a concrete list of goals the company must meet per month, quarter, year, etc. and these goals should be consistent with the company’s strategic plan. Next, decide how to include employees’ input on how they can together contribute to the company’s goals.

Meet with employees to introduce goals. Present corporate goals during an employee meeting and include all data such as percentage sales increases, etc

Survey the employees to determine which incentive are motivating.

Ask employees to develop a listing of incentives ranging from money to a company party, and ask the employees to place a value on the incentives from highest to lowest.

Design an incentive plan outline that matches goals to incentives using the employee survey. Assign the incentives developed by the employees to each of the corporate-wide goals which have been assigned to the department.

Launch the incentive plan during an all-employee party. Mention during the kick-off how employee input set the incentives’ order and value. This gives the employees a sense of ownership and empowerment. And print a small handbook for each employee detailing the plan.

Ragusa also noted some tips and warnings. First, post progress charts and graphs in employee common areas so to keep the incentive plan in front of the employees. Second, revisit/review the plan during the year to make sure it is effective or needs to be adjusted. And three, make sure employee training is ongoing so that employees have the required skills necessary to participate in the incentive plan.

Bill Schoeffler (2005) writes: “A well-designed employee incentive compensation plan will make each department or individual focus on things they can control. The best plans encourage the behaviors that create successful results” (p.2). He continues by listing his components of a successful plan.

Recognize the ideal end results for the business. Management should map-out the critical steps in achieving the department’s goals. Management needs to review what the employees actually need to do, or not do, or what needs to be changed.

KISS keep it simple and special. Good plans are easy to understand and to follow. Employees should know what it is they should do to earn them an incentive and they must know what that reward will be.

Reward only for surpassing business goals. Incentive plans should begin only after
average/expected performance is exceeded.

Reward great individual effort. Management should be mindful that when an employee does something exceptional, that all in the office should be made aware of it.

Encourage team results.  Teamwork is essential to an effective plan. Line and staff together are responsible for the success of department/company goals.

Noticeable rewards. Rewards should be between 8 to 12% of an employee’s base pay as a rule of thumb. This doesn’t mean a reward has to be this high, only that to be noticeable and appreciated.

Be creative. Employees of today look for more than just money as a reward. Non-cash rewards too can be an effective way to motivate employees. Challenges, recognition, and empowerment are examples of what employees often are looking for.

Long-term incentives. A good incentive plan will have monthly or quarterly pay-outs; a great plan will include long-term incentives.

A final thought. Management should not underestimate the power of incentive plans. When employees can make the connection between performance and reward, a great incentive plan is a powerful tool

The above four references with their individual steps for implementation of incentive plans are indicative of the many to be found in the business literature. However , PFP’s, for all their worth, are not without critics and cautions. Stephen Miller in an article titled Incentive Compensation Tips and Pitfalls Shared written June 1, 2012, for the Society for Human Resource Management cites presentations by various persons at the 2012 WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference in Orlando, Florida during May 2012. Miller first cites Jason Adwin and Elyse Lyons in warning of certain cautions in implementing a PFP.

Confusing Metrics. Lyons warns that incentives do not work once employees see them as an entitlement, or if the program is too complicated. Management should, cautions Lyons, make sure incentives are not structured in a way whereby departments actually compete with each other rather than cooperate toward achieving company goals.

Everyday excellence. Adwin points to a common management mistake of requiring effort beyond everyday job responsibilities to receive incentive pay. He feels incentives should reward excellent performance of the employees’ normal duties if such performance makes an effective contribution to the company’s success.

Learning from the sales force. Miller cites Alan Gibbons for telling HR directors to learn from salesmen how to motivate others in the organization since, according to Gibbons, incentives do change behaviors. Sales incentives set clear links between what an employee does and what he/she gets in return. Gibbons cautions, however, to be certain that incentives should recognize achievement and not just effort. Effort itself should not be rewarded.

Miller continues in citing Gibbons who adds that incentives should be directed toward high-performing individuals who are in mission-critical jobs and away from lower employees in less strategic jobs or who are performing at a lower level.

Communications. Ann Bares as cited by Miller, stressed the importance of effective communications in avoiding pitfalls with implementing an incentive plan. Bares stresses clear communications as the critical piece of a plan’s design. Bay Jordan founder of Zealise Limited has extensive experience in designing motivation programs. Jordan in Improving Morale and Organisational Performance (n.d.) explains why employee incentive programs may not result in increased productivity: First, money tends to become an ineffective motivator for people over time. Second, together with the first point, there is a diminishing marginal value to money as a person’s income increases. Third, employees cannot truly take ownership of their jobs unless they are empowered to work with others to overcome the day-to-day barriers to effective performance. Fourth, because money has only limited motivational value, once employees sense that the incentives are threatened by economic conditions or other reasons, the value of the entire incentive is wasted since there exists nothing to stimulate the employee toward extra effort. Finally, Jordan mentions the irony in establishing a PFP scheme that may be viewed by a skeptical and distrusting workforce as a means by which management is really trying to squeeze more work from them.

The information presented so far on PFP’s provides the reader with a representative sample of the material which is to be found on plan design and implementation, together with some cautions and criticisms. This information, however, has comes from the business world and not from K-12 education. Some of the same positions from persons connected to K-12 schools with regard to support for PFP’s and criticisms should be included, and does follow, to add further perspective to this specific issue for today’s teachers. The reader will note similarities.

Rothman (2009) writing for The Center for Public Education stresses that many teacher PFP schemes have failed, but nevertheless the controversial issue is still in the public eye. He suggests we learn from the mistakes of others and avoid what did not work in the past. He writes:

Ÿ Research though thin indicates that PFP’s can have a positive effect on student achievement – though only a modest effect, and according to him, there is little long-term research that PFP’s can attract better qualified teachers and keep them in the field.

Ÿ Failed plans did so because of poor design. Often-cited problems include insufficient compensation that did not motivate teachers to change, insufficient funding for the program itself, or the process whereby awards seemed arbitrary and unfair to teachers.

Ÿ Successful plans such as Denver’s ProComp and the well-known Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) which both reward teachers for higher student test scores were found by an independent study to only show gains on scores in elementary schools.

Ÿ Another study of the awards program in Dallas indicted an improvement in student performance, but it hinted that there were negative practices in place such as curriculum narrowing and high turnover in schools that did not win awards.

Rothman ends his article by offering school districts suggestions on how to design a PFP. The suggestions are summarized below:

Guarantee stable and adequate funding. Once teachers feel there are no funds available for the PFP – there’ll be no incentive value.

Provide competitive compensation. Perform due diligence as to how large awards need to be structured to create a true incentive for teachers to change and also to attract new teachers to the district.

Build strong measurement systems. Rothman proposes a value-added scheme which measures student gains over the previous year and not overall achievement. This type system can be used to monitor the PFP’s effectiveness.

Include principals, administrators, and teachers in the design process.

Implementation will be smoothed when all those involved have input into the PFP.

Like Rothman, Milanowski (2008) and Heneman, Milanowski & Kimball (2007) have compiled research and written on how to establish and implement teacher PFP’s. The aforementioned authors’ work is extensive and very detailed. The authors of this article will distill from the above references only the steps and reasons cited for inclusion in a PFP. The authors of this article refer the reader to the work of Heneman, Milanowski (both articles cited) and Kimball for more specific material. We will list the suggested steps from each work beginning with Milanowski (2008) but not in any particular order:

Establish what the district wants to accomplish by paying for improved student achievement. The district must first think through how its paying for improved student achievement will support the other performance goals of the district.

Define student achievement. Regardless of what method is used to define student achievement, whether using student test scores, a change in grade level attainment either individually or by cohort, or a value-added approach, or some type of combination, emphasis should be on a theory of action whereby the incentives are aimed to influence student achievement together with alignment to district improvement strategies.

Establish a meaningful incentive rate. Begin by establishing a minimum pay-out amount to get teachers’ attention. Circumstances will vary by district but factors to consider are the level of the reward (individual or school), the difficulty in goal attainment, the level of trust between teachers and the administration, and, of course, the district’s ability to meet the pay-outs.

Create a design process to maximize the chance of success. Depending upon the district’s goals and abilities, a PFP may take from one to two school years. The district should, therefore, create a design committee made up of all the stakeholder groups that are to be affected by the plan –including administrators, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. A key objective of the design team is to clearly state the vision which the PFP is to achieve.

Review participating teachers’ compensation packages and assess the district’s ability to pay.  Without the district’s financial capability to continue funding a PFP, it will quickly fade away.

Assess the readiness of participants to take part in a PFP. PFP’s can result in conflict and confusion among teachers. Such a change in compensation will affect the culture of a school. A successful change to a PFP depends upon the level of trust teachers have for the administration and the support systems in place to ease the transition to the new system. The support system must give teachers the tools to understand and earn the reward.

Make sure the district has sufficient measurement and data collection systems in place. Without the correct data whatever system is implemented will fail. Teachers will not buy in to a system they believe is arbitrary or based on any feature that is not performance based.

Plan for the long-term. Once the PFP is designed, the design team must design an implementation plan. Poor implementation schemes will kill the effectiveness of the plan.

Develop a comprehensive PFP that includes more than simply paying for student achievement. Top management should be involved with and committed to the plan and this commitment should show in everything they do and say. An effective means of showing management’s commitment is by the inclusion of incentives that are deemed exceptional other than improvements in student test scores.

The guidelines for policy and practice from the work of Heneman, Milankowski & Kimball (2007) will be summarized below. We have not provided any narrative for overlapping steps with the work of Milankowski (2008).

Guarantee stable and adequate funding.

Provide competitive total compensation. The total compensation package for teachers (pay and benefits) should be competitive before starting on a PFP. Beginning a PFP on top of a non-competitive pay package is a non-starter.

Build a strong measurement system. A strong and accurate measurement system is essential in building trust in the process.

Gauge likely teacher reactions to the new PFP. There are four types of teacher reactions to PFP’s: differentiation, performance motivation, fairness, and acceptance. Districts must first gauge whether teachers are ready for a PFP. Readiness may be determined from teachers’ perceptions of the viability of PFP’s in both principle and practice. Alterations may be called for such as exempting senior teachers. But barriers to readiness must be determined or the PFP effort may be for naught. If the PFP is intended to motivate teachers, then the PFP must be structured to conform to motivation theory: by first, teachers valuing the reward, second, teachers must see the pay-for-performance link, and third, teachers must see an effort-performance link. This last link refers to teacher expectancy of achieving the reward vs. the effort involved. It is a subjective measure of difficulty and varies with the individual, their skill set, and the reward. Fairness is an essential ingredient for teacher acceptance of a PFP. If teachers perceive the formula for pay-outs is unfair, or that the PFP is being implemented unfairly, they will not accept the PFP. Acceptance, therefore, depends upon on all that has been written above!

Develop a performance improvement strategy and plan. As mentioned previously, the PFP should be embedded within the overall strategy of the district and its HR planning

Engage the teachers association. The teachers association may be legally required to become involved and it can become a performance enabler for the PFP through its support and effective communication.

Build capacity. Heneman, Milankowski & Kimball share that in their collective experience they find that administrators, teacher association leaders, and teachers themselves lack the required skills and knowledge to implement a PFP. This is not surprising since the traditional pay system is pervasive throughout the nation.

Distinguish the PFP’s design from its implementation. A careful design does not mean a successful implementation.

Begin with a pilot program. Considering all that has been written concerning PFP’s the referenced authors suggest a pilot study to allow capacity building, scaling up, and the opportunity for all affected to learn about the PFP and how it will work in practice. Also, lessons learned from the pilot can be beneficial and go a long way toward making the actual PFP launch a successful one.

Our Ten Step Plan

Considering all that we have cited and drawing from own experience, we now offer 10 steps for the implementation of a teacher PFP together with a rationale for each.

Adequate, sustained funding for a PFP must be available. More than enough evidence is available in the literature to indicate that if sufficient incentive money is not appropriated for the PFP, the initiative is “dead on arrival.” Without this critical piece, there’s no need to bother!

Obtain the full commitment of the board and its administration. All levels of district administration must be committed to the success of the PFP –starting with the superintendent. Beginning with the initial phases of fact finding and design, upper management should always speak positively about the plan and its worth. All too often plans – whether PFP’s or otherwise – start with a rush of enthusiasm and then fade as other issues arise for administrators to consider. Administrator training about PFP’s must be a prerequisite to the plan initiative.

The district’s vision and mission should provide the basis for the PFP. A PFP should have goals congruent with those of the district. As the teachers strive to achieve their individual goals, they should simultaneously achieve the district’s goals. Goals are of two types: end goals and instrumental goals. End goals are those the district expects to be achieved by the district as a whole, and instrumental goals are those needed to be achieved along the way to reach the end goals. All goals should be clearly defined.

Communications. The overall object of the PFP should be student achievement. The plan itself has to be communicated to all stakeholders so that each is aware of the intent – and the intent is clearly delineated to all parties – parents too. This is an important piece since a PFP may represent a radical change from the current pay system and teachers will naturally be skeptical. Meetings between administrators and teachers should begin at least one year before a PFP is designed, and teachers should have a voice in its final form. Plan goals should be in writing and provided to each member of the district, as well as posted in teachers’ lounges and work areas. The PFP should be mentioned at each faculty meeting. And, remember KISS: keep it simple and special; avoid a too cumbersome and bureaucratic plan.

Allow for teacher input and training. Teachers should have input into the design of the PFP to include the pay-out values and the actual goals to be measured for those pay-outs. If the overarching goal of the district is to raise student test scores, perhaps the PFP should take on a value-added design. For example, instead of an incentive pay-out for a certain percentage increase in passing test scores, an incentive can be made for student increases in test scores from year to year. District administrations must be certain that teachers have the skills and resources needed to participate and succeed in the PFP; after all, when the teachers succeed, the district succeeds. All have a stake in the plan’s success.

Create a total incentive package.A PFP can be more than a one issue plan. Incentive pay-outs (value) should be aligned with the value the district places on the outcome. High valued outcomes, e.g. test scores, should have higher pay-outs than lower valued outcomes. Survey teachers to determine their preferences for incentives. The administration may discover that incentives could take the form of non-cash “payments” such as a better parking place, or flip-flop Friday. Add some fun into the plan.

Allow for individual differences between schools. Do not develop a single, rigid pay-out plan for all grades. Recognize that elementary, middle, and high school grades have different circumstances. Allow for plan flexibility within the overall goals of the PFP.

Rewards must be meaningful and aligned with the results both short - and long-term. The administration must be trained on goals/reward alignment. All administrators must understand how motivation applies in the workplace. An unachievable goal despite the reward is not a motivator! Teacher input for this step is very helpful. There must be a clear path understood by the teacher and created by the administration toward goals’ achievement, and thus an incentive reward. Rewards should have one month or one semester pay-outs for short-term incremental goals, and annual pay-outs for long-term goals. Finally, and incentive pay-outs must be separate from normal teacher pay.

Be flexible. Recognize that the PFP will always be a dynamic process. Management should realize that times change and so does public policy at the macro level. Within the district there will always be circumstances which call for a revisit to the PFP. An effective monitoring system and data collection system is vital to the long-term success of the plan.

Start slowly and build consensus. All stakeholder groups should be allowed input into the PFP. Starting at least one year before the design of the PFP is sufficient time for meetings and FAQ’s. The process must be orderly and under the direction of a committee representing teacher organizations, teachers themselves, administrators, college faculty members with appropriate knowledge and training, and influential members of the local community.

Design an implementation plan. The best plans are doomed from the start without an effective implementation strategy. An implementation committee is a good idea; one that exercises due diligence in researching successful PFP’s and failed PFP’s. In fact, a pilot launch is not a bad idea in itself.

“Final” Thoughts to Consider

It is evident that beginning an endeavor such as a PFP is a significant change for any school district, although many have made the transition. We do not purpose that our ten step plan is an end-all since circumstances differ among school districts. We offer a warning to any district considering developing a PFP program that the process is time consuming and must see seen as a multi set process with pit falls along the way. We also suggest that those developing a PFP program would be wise to venture outside educational literature and research two theories which we feel are relevant to a PFP plan design, and to the participants. Vroom’s Path-Goal Theory, and his work on goal setting should prove very helpful to everyone on the design committee. We also recommend the design committee look into the literature in the field of economics, and research Rational Expectations Theory which dates from the 1960’s. Also, we found the work of John Muth to be indispensible to us as we attempted to understand how the market works and people’s reaction to economic events. The latter theory concerns people’s reactions to events in markets based upon their own reactions and past experiences. If you ask, “Why this theory,” remember that teachers are consumers too and a PFP will be perceived in part as an economic transaction – so, why wouldn’t this theory apply? We are convinced an understanding of the theory will be helpful in anticipating negative reactions to the program. Finally, an understanding of a value-added approach to an incentive plan is worth the committee’s time. This type of PFP was mentioned often in materials we research for this article and it may be the “coming thing.”

Will following these suggestions and using the information we have supplied while developing a PFP plan guarantee success? No, but doing so will improve a district’s likelihood of developing and implementing a plan that will be embraced by teachers and administrators, and, most importantly, will improve student achievement.


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Heneman, H., Milanowski, A.and Kimball, S. (2007, February). Teacher Performance Pay: Synthesis of Plans, Research, and Guidelines for Practice. Consortium for Policy Research in Education. RB 46.

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Ragusa, G. (n.d). How to Develop Incentive Plans for Employees. eHow. Retrieved from http:www.ehow.com/how_6232984_develop-incentive-plans-employees.html

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Leadership Practices of School Principals as Perceived by their Assistant Principals



Albertus J. Isaacs
Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management
University of North Florida
2621 Vassar Road, Tallahassee, FL 32309
Email: albert.isaacs@unf.edu



The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the relationships between school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them. The study employs the survey method in its research design and surveyed 68 high school principals and 136 assistant principals selected from 6 school districts in the State of Florida. Hypothesis testing was introduced to determine statistical significance and the statistical significance level was set at p (probability) < .05. Based on the statistical analysis, the data suggested a difference between the principals’ self-assessments and their assistant principals’ peer assessments but the size of the differences showed no statistical significance. The implications of the investigation suggested that school principals can use the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Challenge model to assess their leadership strengths and weaknesses, and improve their leadership performance.

Keywords: leadership practices; educational leadership; leadership performance; empirical paper


Throughout history, good educational leadership has been the focus of intense, debate and speculation. Moreover, the importance of the principal as a key factor in the success of a school has rapidly become a major focus of current efforts to improve education. The principal of today and tomorrow faces a rapidly and continuously changing environment.

Schools are aware that they need to adapt to rapidly changing times. Therefore, principals must be more than administrators; they must facilitate change in the school by structuring challenges with reasonable risk to improve their leadership and management skills and the school’s progress and success (Osburn, 1993). According to Cunningham and Cordeiro (2000) leadership is about doing the right things, management is doing things right, and the administrator is responsible for both functions. Indeed, administrators are expected to be effective leaders and efficient managers.

Furthermore, principals should also demonstrate high levels of educational leadership to address complex and changing tasks (Whitaker & Turner, 2000). In order to respond creatively, flexibly and quickly to the changing realities of life outside the school, the principal requires certain skills to deal with their circumstances, oversee change and improve student achievement

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this investigation was to investigate the relationships between school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them The investigation asked both the principals and assistant principals to assess leadership actions and behaviors of the principal that reflect the quality of their leadership (Kouzes and Posner, 1995). Kouzes and Posner (1987, 1993) designed the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) questionnaire to measure leadership actions and behaviors based on five leadership practices: challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart.

The expectation is that there are significant differences of the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

Literature Review

The topic on leadership in education has been widely studied by scholars. Kouzes and Posner (2002) studied leadership behaviors for over two decades and found that leadership is the “art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations” (p. 21). According to Yukl (1989), leadership has been studied in different ways, depending on the researcher’s conception of leadership and the method of the research. Researchers in educational administration suggest that school leadership is imperative for school improvement. Today, education leaders find themselves leading groups, schools, and organizations across a rapidly changing environment and society toward a new destination in the twenty-first century (Cunningham & Cordeiro, 2000). Therefore, a new approach to leadership is critical, particularly in our educational institutions.

Although the study of leadership is considered a most fascinating topic, it is also viewed as a complex matter (Owens, 1991; Thomas & Davis, 1998). Researchers found that leadership is critical to the success of an organization and can exhibit tremendous influence (Parrish, 2001). School administrators have frequently been cited in research studies as key figures in bringing about needed school reform and student achievement in schools. Most of the reports on educational reform confirm that improved leadership could facilitate change and contribute to the achievement of excellence in schools (Bjork & Ginsberg, 1995). School improvement can also come from other sources; therefore, school principals should encourage faculty and staff to come up with ideas, innovations and proposals to support change throughout the school (Snowden & Gorton, 2002).

Over the years, considerable efforts have been made to identify specific responsibilities of the school principal. Among the most important responsibilities are the development of a vision and motivation of faculty and staff toward achievement of student success (Cunningham & Cordeiro, 2000). The principal of tomorrow’s schools must be a school leader, one who possesses the requisite skills, capacities, and commitment to deal with increased responsibilities and to lead the accountability parade. Without good leadership, the chances for systemic improvement in teaching and learning are not good. A commitment to effective leadership would help principals adapt significantly to the changing circumstances (Tirozzi, 2001).

Because of the nature of the school organization and its demanding environment, school administrators rely extensively on leadership as the primary vehicle for influencing faculty and students (Greenfield, 1995). Bass (1990) recognized that leadership can have a “determining effect” on the behaviors and activities of a group and those leaders can influence group members by their own examples (p.13-14). According to Owens (1991):

• Leadership is a function of groups, not individuals. Although individuals are being considered as leaders, leadership occurs only in the processes of two or more people interacting with each other. During the interaction process, one person is able to persuade the others to think and behave in certain ways.

• Leadership is the intention of exercising influence on the behavior of other people.

A 1999 report from the National Association of State Boards of Education stated that the principal’s job has become more complex and demanding (Tirozzi, 2001). With increasing populations came larger schools that compounded complex administrative duties. Although no two schools are alike, most school administrators experience common conditions, problems, responsibilities, uncertainties and concerns. Each faces the same constellation of parents, students, teachers, staff members, buildings, school board members, legal, budget and curriculum decisions, and the district office. And as principals try to mediate between growing needs and shrinking resources, they are faced with a public demand to account for every action taken. In fact, principals’ work has become a very complex and demanding job (Barth, 1980). The question remains, whether today’s principals have the leadership qualities, skills, and abilities to face this mammoth task.

Cunningham and Cordeiro (2000) believe that the “leader needs to be prepared to deal with the inevitable social, cultural, economic, technological, bureaucratic, and political obstacles that can block improvements efforts” (p. 137). On the other hand, Greenfield (1995) argued that an effective administration is not possible without efficient and effective leadership, and if school leadership is to be successful, it must deal with the five demands: moral, social, instructional, managerial, and political. Researchers concluded that effective schools hinge on the performance of the principal (Aitken, 1995).

Leadership is about motivating other people. But to motivate others, leaders should have certain leadership qualities or characteristics. Whitaker and Turner (2000) maintained that a successful school principal must possess many leadership characteristics. Observations by managers and human resource specialists, as well as dozens of research studies indicate that leaders have certain personality traits (Du Brain, 1998). According to Cunningham and Cordeiro (2000), the qualities of leadership are similar whether the discipline is education, business, health, government, criminal justice, higher education, engineering, or any other field. Based on their research, Kouzes and Posner (2002) stated that leadership consists of a set of skills and practices that enable them to get extraordinary things done, even through in rough or laborious times. Leaders should be prepared to take considerable risks to achieve their mission. Webster (2000) emphasized that leaders should have high expectations and high standards for themselves and their followers at all times.

Smircich and Morgan (1982) stated that leadership involves a process of negotiation through which certain individuals, conscious or unconscious, submit their power to define the nature of their experience to others. The leadership process is mostly visible in unstructured group situations where leadership emerges naturally and spontaneously. It is a process whereby individuals succeed in an attempt to frame and define the reality of others. According to Hollander (1986), the process could include functions like “decision-making, goal-setting, direction of the task, division of labor and communication patterns” (p.10). Moreover, he believes that leadership is not about the leader’s actions alone, but a system of relationships including the followers, their expectations, commitments, and task demands. Leaders are in charge of the situation and are more likely the ones who get things done. However, leadership would not succeed if there were not responsive followers who contribute to achieving the goal. Leaders and their followers are not bound into rigid roles. Instead, leaders sometimes assume the role as followers to some extent. He concluded, “good leadership is achieved by the active involvement of responsive followership” (p.12).

The common dominator in all definitions of leadership is the idea of influence a leader has over followers, in achieving goals or in shaping the organizational culture. Though, the influence of leaders over followers can have both positive and negative results (Yukl, 1989).

School leadership has always been viewed as critical to the success of the school (Parrish, 2001). Researchers on educational reform have viewed leadership of utmost importance for systemic improvement in teaching and learning in schools. Tirozzi (2001) contends that a commitment to leadership would help principals adapt significantly to the changing circumstances. Hence, this investigation should add information to the scholarly research and literature in the field of school leadership.

Kouzes and Posner(1995) stated that there is a need for leaders to lead us into the future. Consequently, they turn their research into practical ideas that leaders at all levels can use. The Leadership Challenge model of Kouzes and Posner, which is based on years of empirical research, provides practical guidance to leaders in every organization on how to lead, as well as practical suggestions of how to act during difficult situations. Roland Barth, educator, author, former teacher, principal and founding director of the Harvard University’s Principals’ Center, stated that The Leadership Challenge model provides school leaders with the qualities to become good leaders, and to enable them to improve public schools (Kouzes and Posner, 2002).

The operationalization of the construct of leadership for this investigation is based on conceptualization of the Kouzes and Posner leadership model. Their research, which they conducted over almost twenty-years, suggested that leadership is a reciprocal relationship between those who choose to lead and those who decide to follow. Leaders mobilize others to want to act because of the credibility they have. These followers want to believe in their leaders. They want to have faith and confidence in them. Whatever the leader says is viewed as the truth. These leaders must have the knowledge and skill to lead, and they, as the followers, are excited and enthusiastic about the leadership (Hartford, 2000).

Also, imbedded in Kouzes and Posner’s (1987, 1995, 2000) findings are the consensus that leaders must appreciate and articulate a shared vision of the future. It is important that leaders should have the ability to communicate the shared vision effectively. Leaders do not command and control but serve and support their people. They work as a family, and care about them. In their research into follower expectations, they found four elements that follower’s desire, namely, honesty, vision, inspiration and competence. They also view leadership not as a position, but as a collection of practices and behaviors. These practices serve as guidance for leaders to accomplish their achievements or “get extraordinary things done” (p.13). These practices are: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.

Posner and Kouzes (1988, 1993) reported construct validity evidence for the 30-item Leadership Practices Inventory(LPI) constructed to measure the five competencies in samples of N=2,168 and N=30,913. Results from the LPI have shown high face validity and predictive validity, meaning that the results not only make sense to people but also predict whether a leader’s performance is high, moderate, or low. Scores on the LPI are positively correlated with measures of a leader’s credibility, effectiveness with upper management, team-building skills, work-group norms, and actual levels of output (Kouzes and Posner, 1993, expanded edition).

Posner and Kouzes (1995) reported internal reliability with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from .80 to .91. Reliabilities for the LPI-Self (ranging between .71 and .85) are somewhat lower than those for the LPI-Observer (ranging between .82 and .92). Other studies have found similar levels of internal reliability. For example, reliabilities ranged from .80 to .92 in a study of engineering managers and their constituents’ and between .71 and .82 in a study of women in executive positions in banking and higher education. Overall, the LPI has shown sound psychometric properties.


Purpose of the Investigation

The purpose of this investigation was to investigate the relationships between school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them. The specific research question that will be answered is:

· Are there significant differences of the school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them?

Information derived from this investigation can be utilized to add to the scholarly literature in the field of school leadership toward strengthening principal’s leadership performance. The results of this investigation served as a basis for school principals to assess their leadership strengths and weaknesses, and use the findings toward the improvement of their leadership performance.

Research Design

This quantitative investigation employed the survey method as its research design. The survey was cross-sectional because the data were collected at one point in time. Creswell (1994) defines a survey design as a “quantitative or numeric description of some fraction of the population – the sample – through the data collection process of asking questions of people” (p. 117). According to Babbie (1990), the purpose of survey research is to generalize from a sample to a population so that inferences can be made about some characteristics, attitude, or behavior of the population. The survey research approval was elected for this investigation because it possesses all the qualities that are necessary for scientific research.

Considering all the factors, it was decided that an on-line survey method would be administered for this investigation.

Population and Sample

The participants (population), school principals and assistant principals, for this study were drawn from all the public high schools in six school districts in the State of Florida. The districts with the most schools were selected for this investigation. Furthermore, districts selected can be viewed as reasonably representative sample because it represents a balance of urban and rural schools in the State of Florida. For this investigation, the researcher selected the purposive sampling method, also referred to as judgment sampling, for selecting the school districts. According to Gay and Airasian (2000) purposive sampling is based on the researcher’s experience and knowledge of the group to be sampled. Thus, the sample of school districts selected for this investigation is based on the researcher’s information on the classification of urban and rural areas.

According to the United States Census Bureau, an “urban” area is one that has an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile, while rural areas have less than 500 people per square mile. The districts selected for this study, half urban and half rural, are based on this classification – Duval (1,007 per square mile), Hillsborough (951 per square mile), Orange (988 per square mile), Bay(182 per square mile), Volusia(360 per square mile), and Okaloosa (174 per square mile). Based on the Florida Department of Education 2002-2003 data, the schools listed in the 6 districts are Urban: Duval (19 high schools), Hillsborough (15 high schools), and Orange (15 high schools); Rural: Bay (6 high schools), Volusia (9 high schools), and Okaloosa (4 high schools). Only those schools that are designated as high schools were considered as appropriate for the purpose of this investigation.

Based on the number of principals and assistant principals in the six districts, it was determined that all of the principals and assistant principals in the six districts would be surveyed. These districts included 49 urban high school principals and 98 urban assistant principals; 19 rural high school principals and 38 rural assistant principals

Data Collection Instrument

The data for this investigation were collected using The Leadership Practice Inventory (Self) and The Leadership Practice (Observer). A human subject’s application was submitted to the Human Subjects Committee, and approval was given for the data collection. The questionnaires; The Leadership Practice Inventory (Self) was sent to 68 principals and the, The Leadership Practice (Observer) was sent to 136 assistant principals in six school districts in Florida (Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Bay, Volusia, and Okaloosa).

The Leadership Practice Inventory (Self) was completed by the principals to measure their leadership actions and behaviors, and The Leadership Practice Inventory (Observer) was completed by the assistant principals to measure the leadership actions and behaviors of their principals. Scores on this questionnaire were calculated to measure the leadership actions and behaviors of their principals. The instrument was developed by Kouzes and Posner (1987) to empirically measure the leadership actions and behaviors of a leader based on five leadership practices: challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modeling the way, and encouraging the heart.

Six statements are used to measure each of these practices using a five-point Likert scale. All statements are ranked as follows: rarely or very seldom; once in a while; sometimes; fairly often; very frequently or almost always, with a higher value representing greater use of the leadership practices. To determine the participant’s leadership practice, the value of the items marked for each scale will be totaled.

Using the participants’ total scores, group mean scores are calculated for each leadership

practices. The totals can range from a low of 6 to a high of 30. By ranking the scores from the highest to the lowest, it could be determined which leadership practice of the principal apply most often, second-most often, and so on ( Kouzes and Posner, 1993). These results could help school principals to assess their leadership strengths and weaknesses and improve their leadership performance.

Data Collection

Initially, personal contact was made with the 6 superintendents or their representatives in each of the selected school districts. After getting permission, properly informing all participants, and ensuring anonymity and confidentiality, the on-line instruments were addressed and send via the internet to each participating principal and assistant principal. They were asked to return the completed questionnaire via the internet.

Data Analysis

The data obtained from this investigation were analyzed with the two-tailed T-tests for independent groups (principals and assistant principals) using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). To determine the principals’ leadership practice on the LPI, the value of the items marked for each scale were totaled and the participants’ total scores and group means scores were calculated for each leadership practice. By ranking the scores from the highest to the lowest, it determined which leadership practices of the principals applied most often, second-most often, and so on (Kouzes and Posner, 1993).

The research question was analyzed as follows:

RQ: Are there significant differences between principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices (predictor variable) and their assistant principals’ peer assessments (predictor variable) of them?

Null hypothesis: There are no significant differences between the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

The statistical method, the two-tailed T-tests was selected to establish whether or not there were significant difference between the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them. If the statistical significance level has been achieved, the researcher rejects the null hypothesis, and accepts the hypothesis that there are significant differences between the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

The statistical significant level was set at p (probability) < .05, and the data used to analyze the research question were obtained from the LPI (Self) and the LPI (Observer).

Data Analysis and Results

Participant Response

Table 1 illustrates the distribution of the participants’ responses in the investigation.

The participants were each divided into rural and urban settings based on the school district they represented. The rural school districts were Bay, Volusia and Okaloosa Counties. From the sample of 19 rural school principals, 10 (52.6%) responded and completed the survey. From the sample of 38 rural assistant principals, 21 (55.3%) responded and completed the survey. The urban school districts selected for this study were Duval, Hillsborough and Orange Counties. From the sample of 49 urban high school principals, 18 (36.7%) responded and completed the survey. From the sample of 98 urban assistant principals, 32 (32.7%) responded and completed the survey.

Findings of the Research Question

RQ: Are there significant differences between school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices (predictor variable) and their assistant principals’ peer assessments (predictor variable) of them?

Null hypothesis: There are no significant differences between the school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

As indicated in Table 2, the T values of the leadership practices of challenging the process (T value .247, p=.805), inspiring a shared vision (T value.506, p=.614), enabling others to act (T value 1.096, p=.276), modeling the way (T value .005, p=.996), and encouraging the heart (T value .089, p=.929) suggested a difference between the principals’ self-assessments and their assistant principals’ peer assessments but the size of the differences showed nostatistical significant. Therefore, the researcher failed to reject the null hypothesis that there were no statistically significant differences between the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

Discussion and Implications

The purpose of this investigation was to investigate the relationships between school principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and their assistant principals’ peer assessments of them. Based on the research question, Are there significant differences between principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices (predictor variable) and their assistant principals’ peer assessments (predictor variable) of them? And the analysis of data, the following conclusion can be drawn as result of this investigation. The researcher found no significant difference between the principals’ self-assessments of their leadership practices and the assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

By using these leadership practices, principals can significantly increase teachers’ belief in their own ability to make a difference (Kouzes & Posner, 2002). Often principals act as a coach and an educator, helping teachers to learn and develop their skills, and providing the institutional support required for continuous learning. In essence, by leading their schools, principals transform their constituents into leaders themselves. Additionally, the results of this research can be used to aid and direct school leaders to better prepare principals to be positive influences on the job satisfaction of their staff and provide practical suggestions to assess their leadership strengths and weaknesses to improve their leadership performance. As part of their leadership performance, school principals need to:

  • value and support teachers (working with rather than through them);
  • buffer teachers against the excesses of the mounting and sometimes contradictory external

pressures; and, focus on sustaining school improvement by building teacher and school capacity through The Leadership Challenge model of Kouzes and Posner. The position of school leader needs to not only provide job satisfaction but also to be perceived by others as providing job satisfaction. More work is needed on making school leadership an attractive and ‘do-able’ task for all those who hold or aspire to such positions, including looking at the workload implications.

The unique nature of the State of Florida’s socioeconomic, ethnic and diverse culture may limit generalization of the conclusions of this study to other populations. As a result, caution should be taken in applying the investigation’s conclusions to the populations of other states and countries.

The following recommendations are made regarding the value of future research in this area:

1. School districts should more often engage principals in related research projects to enhance their professional development skills and strengthen their skills in effectively serving as school leaders.

2. School districts should conduct similar research on leadership development to assess their leadership strengths and weaknesses and improve their leadership performance.

3. This study should be replicated to include superintendents. This would enable them to strengthen their leadership skills to improve public schools.

Limitations of the study

1. In view of the small sample size, a similar follow-up study could be conducted on more schools and involving more school districts, and more school principals from schools and school districts.

2. The school districts were not randomly selected; therefore the study population may not be fully representative of the population.

3. The unique nature of the State of Florida’s socioeconomic, ethnic and diverse culture may limit generalization of the conclusions of this study to other populations. As a result, caution should be taken in applying the investigation’s conclusions to the populations of other states and countries.


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Table 1

Summary of Surveys Mailed, Number Responded and Percentage of Responses.

Participants Number mailed Number responded Percentage of Responses
Principals 68 28 41.2
Urban 49 18 36.7
Rural 19 10 52.6
Assistant Principals 136 53 39
Urban 98 32 32.7
Rural 38 21 55.3

Table 2

 Independent sample T-test between principals’ self-assessments of

their Leadership Practices and the assistant principals’ peer assessments of them.

Leadership Practices T df (2-tailed) Mean

Challenging the

Process: 0.247 79 0.805 0.0366

Inspiring a

shared vision: -0.506 79 0.614 -0.0769

Enabling others 1.096 79 0.276 0.1659

to act:

Modeling the way: -0.005 79 0.996 -0.0009

Encouraging 0.089 79 0.929 0.0153

the heart:

* p < .05



Vol 2 Issue 1 August 2012

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs:

Preparing leaders to implement strategies that support conditions for change



Mary A. Hooper
University of West Georgia
Department of Educational Leadership

Brent Heidorn
University of West Georgia
Department of Health and Physical Education



Leading an effective change initiative while maintaining an acceptable level of performance in all of the areas required of school leaders, requires demanding the physical, cognitive, and emotional effort that can, over time, exhaust even the most dedicated leader. To ensure that personal productivity is at its highest, leaders must create organizational conditions that ensure resiliency. One strategy to create such conditions is the adoption of a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP). The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the research related to CSPAP and the description of how leaders in one school district focused on initiating the implementation. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for educational leadership preparation programs.


Leading change is perhaps one of the most important functions of a principal, in the current environment of
high-stakes accountability and changing requirements. Principals are expected to improve the overall effectiveness of the school, lead teachers to meet the needs of each student, and raise the level of achievement for all students all within the context of greater and more complex challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is that principals must become effective change agents while performing all of their other roles. Leading an effective change initiative while maintaining an acceptable level of performance in all of the areas required of school leaders, requires demanding physical, cognitive, and emotional effort that can, over time, exhaust even the most dedicated leader. These same physical, cognitive and emotional efforts can also exhaust other stakeholders involved and/or impacted by the changes being initiated. To ensure that personal productivity is at its highest, leaders must ensure that they are creating the conditions that ensure resiliency.

Resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Merriam-Webster.com, 2012). Providing various health and wellness programs ensures opportunities for stakeholders to engage in healthy practices that promote resilience. This is critical because the complexities of any systemic school improvement initiative create a need for all stakeholders to be able to adapt and cope with the intensity of change (Patterson, Woods, Cook, & Render, 2007). “Principals must ensure organization wellness and resiliency while promoting personal productivity” to effectively lead and manage on-going change initiatives (Hooper, Bullard, & Ogletree, 2012 p. 48).

One strategy to ensure climate that promotes mental and physical well-being, is the adoption of a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP). The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (the leading organization for quality physical education) also supports the campaign and aims to give teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, and parents the support they need to help students become more physically educated and active in school (www.aahperd.org/naspe). The overall goal is to ensure that every school provides a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) with quality physical education as the foundation.

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the research related to CSPAP and the description of how leaders in one school district focused on initiating the implementation of a comprehensive approach to organizational wellness and personal productivity using the CSPAP model promoted by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). The article begins with an overview of the need for physical activity as a component of an overall organizational wellness approach through a review of research related to the role of wellness in achieving resiliency and productivity. Both resiliency and productivity are critical to sustaining the intense physical, cognitive, and emotional stress of change initiatives (Hooper, Bullard, & Ogletree, 2012). Following this overview, the authors introduce the model and describe the leadership actions taken in one school district to initiate a comprehensive physical activity and wellness program. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for improving the teaching and learning of educational leadership in the context of preparing school leaders to address the need to support and maintain a safe and caring climate that promotes mental and physical well-being (Hooper, Bullard, & Ogletree, 2012).

The need for physical activity

Perhaps the most critical health issue facing students in American schools today is the obesity epidemic. The number of overweight and obese children ages 6 to 11 has more than tripled over the past three decades (Hedley, Ogden, Johnson, Carroll, Curtin, & Flegal, 2004). It is predicted that children in today’s schools will be the first generation expected to live a shorter lifespan than their parents (Olshansky, et al., 2005). The current and future health of our nation is clearly at risk (Heidorn & Hall, 2010). When children do not receive enough physical activity or proper nutrition, it is likely they will be absent from school more often, will have less energy, low self-esteem, and will have difficulty concentrating (Grissom, 2005). Research also demonstrates that academic performance often decreases with less physical activity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010; Grissom, 2005; Pate, Davis, Robins, Stone, McKenzie, & Young, 2006; Pelligrini & Bohn, 2005).

The role of health in resiliency and productivity

The overall value of health on one’s quality of life is difficult to measure on a personal or societal level. Yet many individuals, schools, and corporations emphasize wellness as a key ingredient for success and productivity in a variety of ways. Research results encourage employers to talk with employees about the health issues that affect their well-being, productivity, and health care costs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012) since there is clear evidence that individuals with greater health risks are strongly associated with greater productivity loss (Boles, Pelletier, & Lynch, 2004). “Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health” (www.health.gov/paguidelines).

Introduction to the model

With a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP), school districts and schools utilize all opportunities for school-based physical activity. Ideally, the program aims to develop “physically educated students who participate in the nationally-recommended 60+ minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day, and develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime” (www.aahperd.org/naspe). A CSPAP is a coordinated effort to maximize knowledge and skills learned in physical education so that all students will be fully physically educated and well-equipped for a lifetime of physical activity.

Component 1: Quality Physical Education.

One of the components of a CSPAP is quality physical education, which is considered the cornerstone. Physical Education is the academic subject that provides standards-based instruction on motor and movement knowledge and skills, physical activity and fitness knowledge and skills, personal and social responsibility, and valuing physical activity for its many benefits. There is a distinct difference between physical education and physical activity. “The purpose of a good physical education program is to educate students for a physically active lifestyle. The purpose of a good physical activity program is to provide students with their daily needs for physical activity” (Rink, Hall, & Williams, 2010, p. 16).

Quality physical education provides learning opportunities, appropriate instruction, meaningful and challenging content, and conducts student and program assessment (NASPE, 2004). A quality physical education program improves physical skills and abilities, physical fitness, readiness and enthusiasm for learning, academic performance, mental alertness, and overall student health.

Component 2: Physical Activity During School.

There are typically four major areas to consider when providing additional amounts of physical activity for students during the school day, outside of regularly scheduled physical education class. These include recess, classroom-based physical activity breaks, physical activity integrated into classroom lessons, and drop-in physical activity opportunities (www.aahperd.org/naspe). Most occasions do not take an extensive amount of time and/or preparation, but over time, can significantly increase the amount of physical activity in which a student is engaged over the course of a school day. Since many students do not receive any physical activity once they leave the school grounds, it is imperative that students are engaged in physical activity during the school day.

Component 3: Physical Activity Before and After School.

Physical activity opportunities before and after school can significantly increase the amount of physical activity in which a student engages throughout the day (Beighle & Moore, 2012). It helps meet the goal of a minimum of 60 minutes per day of physical activity. Content and skills learned in a quality physical education program can be easily implemented (and improved) in before and/or after-school physical activity environments. Examples of ways many schools incorporate physical activity before and after school for all students include creating safe opportunities for students to walk and bike to school in collaboration with parents and community organizations; opening and supervising physical activity facilities for staff and student use before and after school; and organizing physical activity clubs and intramural sports to encourage physical activity participation by students of all abilities.

Component 4: Staff Involvement.

Schools benefit in many ways when a significant amount of faculty and staff members are concerned about their health and are committed to being physically active (Heidorn & Centeio, 2012). Examples of ways a school can increase faculty/staff wellness include conducting a staff needs assessment to identify health-related needs; holding walk and talk meetings with colleagues; organizing and managing a staff wellness program; continuing to provide professional development that focuses on health and wellness; providing opportunities and encouraging faculty/staff to participate in physical activity with students; providing extra physical activity opportunities (with possible incentives) for staff; developing and teaching nutrition education; incorporating brain breaks during staff meetings; offering group fitness classes (Zumba, Pilates, dance, boot camp, Weight Watchers, etc.); and providing opportunities for blood pressure checks; CPR training, and other healthy initiatives.

Component 5: Family and Community Involvement.

Family and community involvement in school-based physical activity provides many benefits. It is clear that youth participation in physical activity is influenced by participation and support of parents and siblings. Active families often spend additional time together and experience health benefits. Families can improve their health by supporting a comprehensive school physical activity program and participating in evening/weekend special events. Being active within the community also allows maximum use of school and community resources (e.g., facilities, personnel) and creates a connection between school- and community-based physical activity opportunities (www.aahperd.org/naspe). Examples include “promoting programs and facilities where people work, learn, live, play and worship (i.e., workplace, public, private, and non-profit recreational sites) to provide easy access to safe and affordable physical activity opportunities; developing partnerships with other sectors for the purpose of linking youth with physical activities opportunities in schools and communities; and providing access to and opportunities for physical activity before and after school” (2010 National Physical Activity Plan).

Implementing the Model

The authors have been working with one school district in southwest Texas that made the commitment to fully incorporate a CSPAP in the K-12 schools. While it may be difficult to immediately and fully implement each of five components (quality physical education, physical activity during school, physical activity before and after school, staff involvement, and family and community involvement), the district is prepared to engage in efforts for continued success. District administration and experts in the fields of leadership and physical activity organized a system for effective implementation of the model. The CSPAP has support from the physical education faculty, classroom teachers, school administrators, and local community members. School administrators have already seen changes in the attitudes about physical activity and academic learning among students. The two focal points for the immediate future include quality physical education and physical activity during the school day. The district is set up beautifully for specific attention given to each of those components of the model. As the program continues to develop, concentrated efforts will follow with staff involvement, physical activity before and after school, and family and community involvement. Enriched skill development in physical education, surveys, focus groups, student and faculty physical activity logs, classroom energizers, enhanced recess, school and community activities and other ways to develop a comprehensive school physical activity program will be used to improve the overall health, physical activity habits, student participation, and academic achievement in the district.

Implications for the teaching and learning of educational leaders

Leading change has become one of the most important functions of a principal, and at the core of change is the need for school improvement and increased student achievement. Principals are expected to improve the overall effectiveness of the school, lead teachers to meet the needs of each student, and raise the level of achievement for all students all within the context of greater and more complex challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is that principals must become effective change agents while performing all of their other roles. The expectation today is that schools must be redesigned, not just managed (Darling-Hammond, et al., 2007); thus, leading change is a necessary, complex competency that includes creating a shared vision, promoting change through effective coalitions, nurturing the school and the people in it throughout the change process, and engaging in data-driven decision making to ensure a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment. The depletion of physical, cognitive, and emotional energy inherent in change initiatives requires a proactive focus on wellness and resiliency (Schmitz, Clark, Heron, Sanson, Kuhn, et.al. 2012). The CSPAP model, promoted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, and the PPAW initiative described in this article provide excellent examples of leadership in action as it relates to organizational wellness. Faculty in leadership preparation and development programs could create performance-based tasks that mirror the organizational assessment used to evaluate a school district's current levels of well-being. This type of task would not only engage current and/or prospective leaders in understanding the core concepts of a CSAP but also provide the leaders with an excellent starting point for implementing such a program in their own schools.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Hooper, M.A., Bullard, M.H., and Ogletree, T. (2012). School leadership preparation competency model. Carrollton, GA: The University of West Georgia.

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Myron B. Labat, Jr., Ph.D., Ursula Whitehead, Ph.D.
The University of Southern Mississippi

Cherie A. Labat, Ph.D.

Bay Waveland School District



This research study examines whether a relationship exists between school culture and teacher retention among schools in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region. The study involved 279 certified teachers from various schools along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Teachers were surveyed to assess whether there was a relationship between perceived school culture and teacher retention. One might presume that the more positive the school culture as perceived by the teachers the less likely teachers are to pursue employment elsewhere. It would also stand to reason that those schools able retain a high percentage of their teachers from year to year, would be more likely to yield higher results in student achievement. Ingersoll (2001) shows support for this theory by stating that there is generally a positive relationship between teacher retention and the growth of test scores. Among the 279 teachers surveyed in this study, the results indicated a positive correlation between teachers’ perception of their school culture and teacher retention. The more positively teachers perceived their school culture, the less likely they were to report intentions to leave their present school. Teachers who reported a negative perception of their school’s culture were far more likely to express intentions to pursue employment elsewhere.


Researchers have long studied factors that contribute to high levels of teacher retention. This is because research shows that high teacher retention is a very important factor in student achievement (Ingersoll, 2001). The Gulf Coast Region is no different. Coast Region. Some schools are located as close as five miles from a school in a neighboring school district. With schools located in such close proximity, teachers are able to change schools and school districts without having to change their physical residence. Most school districts located in the gulf coast area are relatively competitive in terms of teacher salaries, with the larger school districts paying just slightly more than smaller school districts. This raises the question, why are some schools able to retain a large percentage of their teachers, while others experience high rates of attrition? This study will investigate the role that school culture plays in teacher retention.

School Culture

School culture is defined as “the basic assumptions, norms and values, and cultural artifacts that are shared by school members, which influence their functioning at school” (Maslowski, 2001, p. 9). Peterson (2002) refers to school culture as “the set of norms, values, beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols, and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school” (pg. 10). Stoll (1999) describes school culture as a system of meaning that influences how people think and act while at school. On the surface, it appears that schools with healthy organizational cultures tend to perform better and have a higher commitment level among staff (Sergiovanni, 2006).

Researchers have documented what an effective school culture looks like, and why teachers are more likely to remain in the field if the culture of their school is positive. Johnson and Kardoos (2007) refer to an “integrated school culture” as one that (a) has interaction between veteran and novice teachers, (b) acknowledges the needs of the beginning teachers, and (c) fosters a sense of shared responsibility for the school and its students. Furthermore, Humphrey, Wechsler, and Hough (2007) contend that alternatively certified teachers as well as traditionally certified teachers benefit greatly from the support of the principal, a positive school culture, and a collegial environment. A positive school culture leads to an environment where teachers, staff, students, and parents want to work, learn, and visit. On the other hand, a negative school culture can lead to teacher attrition as well as a lack of student achievement and parent participation (Deal & Peterson, 1999).

It has been well documented that principals have a significant influence on a school’s culture and the overall well-being and functioning of a school (Aelterman et al. 2002; Hallinger, 2003; Hallinger and Heck, 1996). The principal is the key figure within the school responsible for guiding and shaping the culture of the school. This shaping occurs gradually based upon the philosophy and approach taken by the school leader. Furthermore, the influence that the principal has on teaching and learning is dictated by the climate and culture of the school (Hallinger & Heck, 1998).

Morgan (1986) further explains that the culture is not imposed on the school, but rather it evolves through the course of social interactions. According to Adam and Heinecke(2005), everyone within the school setting is impacted positively or negatively by the culture of the school in which they work. Norms and traditions make up the foundation for shaping the culture of the school. These norms are developed over time and are shaped by the leadership over the years. Teacher leadership also plays a significant role in defining a school’s culture. Based on past studies, teacher leaders and other members of the school must be involved in the development and evolution of a school’s culture if it is to be sustained (Alston, 2004; Beachum & Dentith, 2004; Bruffee, 1999; Langon-Fox & Tan, 1997; Hoy, Tarter & Kottkamp, 1991). Shared vision, values, goals, and beliefs are the hallmarks of defining a school’s culture (Deal & Peterson, 2009).

Identifying what would be considered a “good” school culture is subject to one’s perspective. A previous study identified common characteristics of school cultures in which professional learning and a commitment to student achievement are a high priority. In schools where a “good” school culture exists there is a shared sense of purpose and value, norms of continuous learning and improvement, collaborative collegial relationships and opportunities for collective problem-solving (Fullan 2001; Deal & Peterson, 1999). In this study, school culture is composed of five dimensions:

(1) Goal-oriented: the extent to which the school’s vision is clearly formulated and shared by the team members;

(2) participative decision-making: the extent to which teachers participate in decision-making at the school;

(3) innovativeness: the extent to which teachers have an open attitude towards change;

(4) leadership: the extent to which teachers perceive the principal as someone who engages in supportive and/or structured behavior;

(5) teacher cooperation: the level of formal and informal relationships.

School Culture and Student Achievement

Dimmock (1993) suggests that school culture has an impact on student learning. There is also evidence that points to a strong association between effective principals and school cultures that support student achievement (Fullan, 2001). Fullan (2001) contends that principals who have a limited amount of time to spend in classrooms should focus on facilitating a culture in which teaching and learning is evident and functions efficiently. Aelterman et al. (2002) discovered that school leaders have an indirect impact on teachers’ self-efficacy through their support for teacher collegiality. They argue that the principal plays a critical role in teachers’ well-being, professional relationships between faculty and staff, and teachers’ commitment to professional and school development. This form of motivation and leadership theory has been referred to as transformational leadership. Transformational leaders are able to influence the attitudes and behaviors of their teachers by inspiring them through their leadership approach (Griffith, 2003).

Halawah (2005) also reports research supporting a correlation between positive school culture and improved student achievement, teacher retention, overall satisfaction (Santos de Barona & Barona, 2006), reduced school violence (Khoury-Kassabri, Benbenishty, & Astor, 2005), and sustained school reform (Kelley et al., 2005). Halawah (2005) further contends that school leaders investing human capital in assessing and improving their school’s climate can also improve their school’s overall efficacy. The principal is the primary person responsible for establishing a positive culture that lends itself to effective leadership, student achievement and teacher retention.

Teacher Retention

Recruiting and retaining effective teachers is an issue that is receiving more and more attention from legislators across the country, particularly due to a large number of teachers nearing retirement age. It is predicted that there will be a need for more than 2 million new teachers in the next ten years (Jorissen, 2002).

The issue of teacher retention is even more pervasive in urban schools. Universities are using special incentive programs designed to attract potential candidates to urban schools (Jorissen, 2002). Urban school districts are also attempting to address the issue by offering support and induction programs, providing alternative routes to certification, and offering financial incentives to potential candidates who agree to work in high-need areas. Often school districts are forced to higher non-certified teachers, teachers on emergency certifications, and long-term substitutes as a result of the small pool of qualified candidates willing to serve in these high need areas (Jorissen, 2002).

Jorissen (2002) explains that it is inevitable that some teachers will leave the field regardless of the measures taken to retain them. Some of the reasons that a teacher may leave the field include a spouse accepting a new job, family circumstances changing, or another district making a better offer. However, it is still important that school leaders employ a number of strategies to retain effective teachers. In her research, Jorissen (2002) interviewed teachers who had decided to remain in the teaching field beyond the three-year probationary period. Her findings indicated that the most effective strategies were those that enhanced the new teachers’ satisfaction level and addressed the need for identity, competency, and efficacy (Jorissen, 2000). One of the most effective strategies for increasing new teacher retention is to hire teachers who are more inclined to stay in the field. This can be accomplished by carefully screening potential applicants. It is also important to ask questions about the applicant’s previous experiences with children. Martin Haberman (1999) stated that “The ability to connect with children and youth” is a required dimension and a good predictor of a future teacher’s success with children. In studying the background of one cohort of teachers who had remained in the field for 10 or more years, they averaged 5 years of experience working with children prior to entering the teaching profession. Some of their prior experiences with children included working in summer camps, college internships, volunteer work in schools, and employment in schools. Another good indicator of a valuable experience prior to entering the field was work as a paraprofessional within the school setting.

Another effective strategy for retaining teachers discovered in Jorissen’s (2000) research was to assign teachers to positions in which they would have the greatest opportunity for success. This can be accomplished by assigning new teachers to the grade level and discipline in which they are certified and closest to their previous work experience. Assigning a new teacher to an area that they are not prepared to teach will likely discourage them, and could cause them to leave the field altogether.

A longitudinal study of teachers who remained in the profession for ten years revealed that their first teaching assignments were very similar to their student teaching experience. Furthermore, most of them remained in the same school and taught at the same grade level. New teachers also cited too many class preparations, movement between classrooms or between schools, and extra duties as obstacles to success and eventual reasons why they left the teaching profession. A school leader who successfully reduces these obstacles will effectively limit a major frustration for new teachers. All of these obstacles contribute to a lack of time for new teachers trying to prepare for their teaching responsibilities (Jorissen, 2002).

Research supports the claim that beginning teachers who receive support and assistance are impacted positively on the following outcomes: teacher commitment and retention, teacher classroom instructional practices, and student achievement. It further asserts that teachers who participated in an induction or mentorship program reported higher levels of job satisfaction, commitment, and retention. The main objective of teacher induction programs is to provide new teachers with local support. Nevertheless, induction programs vary greatly from district to district, city to city, and state to state (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011).

It was also reported that Principals who established and maintained a positive personal relationship with their new teachers were also more likely to retain their new teachers than those principals who do not (Jorissen, 2002). New teachers also reported value in school leaders providing constructive feedback on their teaching performance.

Lastly, research shows that school leaders may positively influence teacher retention by facilitating professional integration for new teachers in their first few years of teaching. School leaders should provide opportunities for new teachers to visit and observe the classrooms of effective teachers, be a part of a team of professional teachers, attend professional development opportunities, and serve on school and district level committees (Jorissen, 2002).



The participants (N=279) identified in this study were all certified teachers from fourteen (14) schools on the Mississippi Gulf Coast teaching grades K-12. The subjects ranged in age from 22-63 with most of the respondents falling between the ages of 33-52 years of age. The majority of the respondents reported having 11 or more years of teaching experience (65 percent) with 28.4% reporting having 21 or more years of teaching experience.


A 27-item survey instrument was used to measure teachers’ perceptions of school culture within their schools as well as their intentions to remain employed in their current school. The instrument further sought to determine what, if any reasons might lead to them leaving their current school. The survey was piloted by 25 teachers from a local school district to determine reliability. The instrument was also evaluated for validity by a high school principal of one of the top ranking schools in the state and two tenured professors in the department of educational leadership. The principal is widely regarded as a leader in school culture transformation in the state. Feedback received from both the pilot study and the test for validity was used to make adjustments to the initial instrument. The instrument consists primarily of four-pointlikert type questions. Quality points were assigned to each response based on the following continuum: (strongly disagree=1, disagree=2, agree=3, strongly agree=4). The key elements addressed in the survey included teacher loyalty and collegiality, teacher empowerment, administrator support for teachers, student pride in the school and student motivation, parental and community support, overall job satisfaction, and teacher retention.


The statistical analysis of the responses reported by the 279 respondents yielded significance at the 0.01 level; 2-tailed (see figure 1). This significance indicated a positive correlation between teachers’ perception of their school culture and teacher retention. The more positively teachers perceived their school culture, the less likely they were to report plans to leave their present school. Conversely, the more negatively the teachers perceived their school culture, the more likely they were to report plans to leave their present school. This level of significance was determined based on a Pearson Correlation.

Culture Retention
Culture Pearson Correlation 1 .550**
Sig. (2-tailed) .000
N 279 278
retention Pearson Correlation .550** 1
Sig. (2-tailed) .000
N 278 278

** Correlation is significant at the 0.0 1level (2 tailed). Figure 1.

Through close analysis of the element of teacher loyalty and collegiality, the statistical analysis yielded a mean of 3.38 which indicated that most of the respondents rated teacher loyalty and collegiality high on the four-point likert scale. On the element of teacher empowerment and involvement, respondents reported a mean of 2.9 on the four-point scale. Upon analyzing the element of administrator support for teachers it was determined that teachers also rated this category relatively high with a mean of 3.16 on the four-point scale. In terms of student pride in the school and student motivation, the analysis yielded a mean of 3.17. The parental and community support element of the study yielded a mean of 2.96 on the four-point scale as perceived by the respondents. Teachers reported a mean of 3.49 on overall job satisfaction. In terms of teachers’ intentions to remain at their current schools, respondents reported a mean of 3.15 on the four-point scale (see figure 2, 3, and 4).

Upon careful analysis of teacher responses to reasons that they would leave their current school 15.7% reported 
money as the likely reason, 25.1% reported relocation, and 26% reported relocation as the probable reason. Only 6.8% of the respondents reported low morale as a reason that they would leave their current school, while 9.8% reported a lack of support as a reason that they would leave their current school. Teachers also reported the following as contributing factors in their decision to leave their current school: unrealistic demands, lack of support from the state level, health, burnout, stress, weak leadership, change in administration, and winning the lottery.

Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Most teachers support the overall mission of the school. 279 1 4 3.48 .599
Most teachers in my school have a positive attitude towards students. 278 1 4 3.43 .571
Teachers frequently communicate with parents about student performance. 275 1 4 3.41 .575
Most teachers are willing to work together to solve issues at the school. 278 1 4 3.36 .680
Most students and teachers have a strong sense of pride about our school. 277 1 4 3.33 .618
My school makes celebrating school successes a priority. 276 1 4 3.32 .707
Administrators protect and respect the teachers' instructional time. 277 1 4 3.26 .727
I feel empowered to make a difference in my school. 275 1 4 3.18 .736
Most students in the school get along with one another. 277 1 4 3.16 .493
Administrators at this school value teachers' ideas. 276 1 4 3.15 .747
Administrators at this school trust the professional judgement of the teachers. 276 1 4 3.15 .755
Teachers are kept informed on important issues that impact the school. 277 1 4 3.13 .721
Administrators take time to praise teachers for performing well. 273 1 4 3.11 .761

Figure 2. Null

Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Most parents and community members respect what teachers do. 276 1 4 3.02 .587
Most students at my school work hard to make good grades. 273 1 4 2.99 .569
Most parents and community members are positively involved in the school. 276 1 4 2.90 .699
275 1 4 2.62 .817
Valid N (listwise) 247

Figure 3.

Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
I enjoy working at this school. 278 1 4 3.49 .651
I intend to continue working at this school for the next 5 years or more. 277 1 4 3.27 .805
I have no intentions of leaving this school before retirement. 275 1 4 3.26 .844
I intend to work at this school for the next 10 years or more. 275 1 4 2.93 .979
I intend to leave this school at the end of this school year or sooner. 277 1 4 1.40 .666
Valid N (listwise) 272

Figure 4.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Based on the results of the study, teachers are more likely to remain in their current schools if they perceive their school culture as being positive. Some of the factors contribute to teachers perceiving their school culture as positive in nature, include but are not limited to, amount of support that they receive from their administration, how much they are included in the decision making process within their schools, the level of collegiality and support that they receive from their peers, the level of motivation shown by the students as well as the students’ overall pride in the school, and the level of parental and community support they received. As described in the literature review, each of these elements
are dictated and created by the Principal. It is the responsibility of the Principal to create a culture and climate that is conducive to each of the elements described above. According to the results of this study teachers who perceive these elements in a positive light are more likely to have longevity, and less likely to pursue over employment.

Furthermore, Principals who are successful at retaining effective teachers from year to year are far more likely to experience gains in student achievement than those who experience high rates of teacher attrition. It is my recommendation that Principals take an active role in examining the culture of their school. This examination should include not only student perception of the school
culture, but teacher and community perception as well. When teachers are happy they are more likely to perform at a high level. When teachers perform at a high level everyone benefits. Some of the approaches that Principals can explore to transform their school’s culture include celebrating successes more often, public recognition for students and teachers who perform at the exemplary level, taking the extra step to ensure that every teacher and every student feels connected to the school, and setting high expectations for everyone at the school including the administration.


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Vol 1 Issue 1 August 2011

Student Teacher Portfolios: Sounds Nice, But...



Dr. Samuel B. Hardy III, Augusta State University
Dr. Jerry Whitworth, Texas Woman’s University
Dr. Steve P. Jones, Missouri State University
Dr. Thomas E. Deering, Augusta State University



Portfolios, oftentimes in an electronic format, are becoming common in teacher education programs. Supporters of these portfolios claim they are excellent professional developments tools and help educators as they seek employment. The authors of this article do not criticize portfolios in general. They do, however, believe supporters have oversold the importance and value of portfolios as a professional development tool and as an aid during the employment process.
Student Teacher Portfolios: Sounds Nice, But...


When a businessman wants to build a brand new, innovative structure to house his company, he knows he needs to hire an architect to design the building. He determines which architects he wants to consider and arranges interviews with them. At some place in each interview the architect produces a portfolio of previous work she has done. The portfolio may contain lots of things—a copy of her architect’s license, reference letters, perhaps a resume. It would also surely contain pictures and plans of other structures the architect has designed—all shown to their best advantage, all neatly organized or arrayed, and all shown and explained with a great deal of pride. The portfolio should reveal the architect’s professional competence, but the well-crafted portfolio would reveal more than that. The architect’s portfolio would reveal something about what we might call her approach or style—how she “sees” a potential building on a new site, how she works with lines and space, what choices she makes and which she abjures. The businessman might be looking for a “match” of the architect’s style with his own ideas for the building, or he might be looking for something fresh, new, innovative—a new way to conceive of the building he wants to build. The architect’s portfolio isn’t the only thing the businessman considers when making a decision about which architect to hire: there is the professional reputation of the architect, a sense for her “personality” and how easy or difficult it would be to work with her, cost limitations, and so forth. But one would presume the architect’s portfolio would play a central role in determining whether or not she is to be hired to design the businessman’s structure.

Portfolios play a similar role in the hiring of fashion designers, interior designers, furniture makers, landscape architects, engineers, web-page designers, and countless others. Many employment possibilities depend on some manner of display of what it is the applicant can do and has done in the past in similar jobs—in a carefully-crafted portfolio that reveals the talents, abilities, aptitudes, and “style” of the applicant.

We wanted to know if portfolios worked the same way in the hiring of teachers, especially the hiring of new teachers, many of whom have put together “educational portfolios” or “teaching portfolios” as part of their undergraduate or graduate teacher education programs. We also wanted to know if teacher educators—those requiring their teacher education students to put together portfolios as part of their teacher education programs—understood the value of the portfolio in the hiring process of teachers similarly or differently than did school personnel (especially school principals) who do the actual hiring of teachers. We hypothesized that teacher educators would see a greater value to the educational portfolio in the hiring of new teachers than do school personnel who do the actual interviewing and hiring. Our hypothesis was confirmed.

Review of the literature

Most people who have had much to do with teachers and teacher education students, especially if they know how assessment of teachers or their professional development often works, have a fairly common understanding of what is meant by the words “teacher portfolio.” Hom (1997) provides the following, very typical, description of a teacher portfolio: “A teacher portfolio is basically an organized collection of information that documents the teacher’s accomplishments attained over a period of time, across a variety of contexts, and provides evidence of his/her effectiveness” (¶ 4). Helen C. Barrett and Judy Wilkerson (2004) describe an electronic portfolio in very similar terms. An electronic portfolio, they say, is:

· a collection of authentic and diverse evidence

· drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time

· on which the person or organization has reflected, and

· designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose.

The widespread use of portfolios in teacher preparation programs began in earnest in the 1980’s, but the actual origin of portfolios as a means of student assessment stems from their use in fine arts and creative writing (Lombardi, 2008). Research literature (and example upon example recorded on the internet) demonstrates how portfolios are used by teacher education faculty for both formative and summative assessments of the work of teacher education students. (Hom, 1997, Buckridge, 2008, Bowers, 2005; Strudler and Wetzel, 2008). Portfolios can take several shapes and serve several purposes. The general purpose is to demonstrate nominal skills desired for classroom teaching: planning, classroom management, organizational ability, creativity and student assessments (Hom, 1997). But, beyond these basic reasons, there are other reasons why teachers and teacher education students are often required to produce portfolios. Portfolios can be: an aid for teachers to develop a better understanding of subject matter; a foundation for purposeful conversations and feedback between teacher education candidates (by review and discussion of each other’s work); an experiential learning exercise for the time when teacher education students become teachers and begin to assign and evaluate their own students’ work; and a means to provide administrators with a more certain way of evaluating teacher performance.

More generally, the literature points to three uses of portfolios of teacher education students: as a tool for student self-reflection, a tool for teacher education faculty to assess teacher education students in an “authentic” way, and as a tool for teacher education students to use in the hiring process (Strawhecker, Messersmith and Balcom, 2007-08, Strudler and Wetzel, 2008, and Hom, 1997). But this third purpose gets no more than a bare mention in the literature. Far more has been written about the types of portfolios (e.g., developmental, formative, summative) and how a portfolio should be constructed and evaluated by faculty (Bowers, 2005).Next
to nothing is written to assist the teacher candidate in the use of her portfolio in actually landing a job. Although Strawhecker, Messersmith and Balcom’s research does give details on principals’ reactions to portfolios, the reader is left on his or her own to figure out how to plan and design an attractive, effective portfolio for the hiring process.

The teacher candidate/student perspective on the value of portfolios is mixed. Students do find value in creating teacher portfolios. Wetzel and Strudler (2006) mention students affirming the value of self-reflection and faculty feedback on their work and how students appreciate having their work organized and accessible. Wetzel and Strudler also report that students recognize that the portfolio process can improve their skills with technology as they compile ePortfolios. Student were frustrated with portfolios, and with the whole process, because of inconsistent grading and implementation of the portfolio by teacher education faculty, program changes that require late adjustments to the portfolio, lack of access to and unfamiliarity with technology, and the amount of time invested in the work. This last frustration and complaint of students—that the portfolio process takes too much time—is the strongest objection students make. Both faculty and students remark that the amount of time involved in creating, compiling, editing, revising, and grading portfolios is extensive, and some faculty and students are questioning the ultimate value of a portfolio from an effort vs. reward perspective.

Wetzel and
Struder’s research was conducted through student interviews at six major universities. Of note, together with the positives and negatives mentioned by the student participants, participants at these six schools cited employment as a positive constituent of portfolios. Although the teacher candidates hoped a review of their work would add value to an employment interview, many felt principals would not review the candidate’s portfolio. This suspicion was proven correct in Booty’s (2009) work on teacher job candidates and career service professionals, as well as through research by Strawhecker, Messersmith and Balcom (2007-08) on the role of ePortfolios in K-12 teacher hiring.

Booty’s work (2009) separates the use of teacher education portfolios as an employment tool and its use in teacher preparation programs for certification purposes. In this and prior work, (Vincent, 
Montecinos and Booty, 1997), Booty concludes that although many employer/principals will review a portfolio if one is provided, most are not interested in requesting one. He interviewed career service professionals working at 15 Midwestern universities on their thoughts as to the worth of portfolios in candidate job interviews. Findings suggest that portfolios do not add value or assist in the hiring process. Employers – in most cases building principals – are more interested in an applicant’s past experiences, references, and job evaluations. Principals cite two key reasons for their lack of interest in portfolios (and ePortfolios): not having enough time in the hiring process to give portfolios a careful review and not having enough technological ‘know-how’ to review an ePortfolio. Some principals did value seeing a video of actual teaching performance, if this was part of an ePortfolio and easy to access. Principals believed videos captured the teacher education student in the “real world” of the classroom and gave a more clear idea of how the applicant’s teaching might affect student performance (Strawhecker, Messersmith and Balcom (2007-08).

Conclusions about portfolios drawn by Booty (2009) are consistent with Strawhecker, Messersmith, and Balcom’s (2007-08) survey results from 100 Midwestern principals (taken from a sample size of 1,005). According to this research, the three most important things principals use to make hiring decisions are resumes, references, and letters of recommendation—each rated as important by 89% of respondents. Almost two-thirds of principals surveyed (64.9%) said that video clips of a candidate performing in a classroom were important in making hiring decisions—the eighth most important factor. Just above video clips, listed as the sixth and seventh most important factors—were student teaching evaluations and previous work experience—listed by more than 78% of respondents. Interesting, for our purposes here, were the last three items mentioned by principals as being important in the hiring process—those three things that are least important. These were experience with ethnic and cultural diversity, community service documentation, and examples of college methods’ class work—less than 24% of respondents checked these as being valued in an interview process.

Data Collection Process

This study’s purpose was to explore the perceptions of principals and teacher educators regarding the use of portfolios in the teacher hiring process. An online survey was developed using PsychData (www.psychdata.com). The survey consisted of twenty-one items requiring ranking, rating, multiple choice and short answer responses. The last survey item was an open-ended response item allowing participants to make any comment or observations they wished regarding the use of portfolios in the teacher hiring process. Survey items were developed from the literature and from the experience of the authors with current practice with teacher portfolios. One survey was developed for principals and one for teacher educators in order to keep the data collection process separate for both groups. Both surveys were almost identical with only minor wording differences on several items.

Two lists were compiled of e-mail addresses of principals and teachers educators from school districts and universities across five states, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois. One list contained e-mail addresses of principals only and the other of teacher educators as the survey link was different for each group. Addresses were obtained from websites, attendance lists from professional conferences, and state education agencies. A request to participate in the survey, with a link to the online survey, was sent to every individual on both the principal and teacher educator e-mail lists. Participants were anonymous and no survey responses could be linked to individual e-mail addresses. Approximately one month after the initial request a follow-up request was sent to prospective participants.


A total of 127 teacher educators and 41 principals responded to the survey. Responses to the first 20 items were compiled into separate tables for principals and for teacher educators and then tables were constructed comparing the responses of principals and teachers educators on similar survey items. Responses to the open-ended item (Item 21) were compiled and are provided verbatim in the Appendix. Following is a discussion of the data collected.

Table One examines the responses of both groups of participants in regard to their perceptions of the value and effectiveness of portfolios, both as people who have developed their own portfolios and who have examined portfolios of others. As can be seen from this table teacher educators tended to perceive that the process of creating a portfolio was somewhat more valuable than did principals, as evidenced by responses to items 1 and 2 in the table. And, principals would not have been as happy as teacher educators to have their own hiring being based mainly on their portfolio. In general, though, both groups were fairly close together in their perceptions of the value and use of portfolios. Both groups largely agreed or somewhat agreed on how effective portfolios are in reflecting the quality of teacher applicants (Items7 and 8). Neither group strongly agreed on these two items.

Table One: Respondents’ Perceptions of the Value and Effectiveness of Portfolios

TE = Teacher Educators; SA = School Administrators%























1. Putting the portfolio together helped me reflect on my own teaching practices. TE: 45%

SA: 22%
TE: 35%

SA: 28%
TE: 15%

SA: 36%
TE: 4%

SA: 8%
TE: 1%

SA: 6%
TE: 1.84

SA: 1.92
2. I took great care in putting my portfolio together. TE: 65%

SA: 48%
TE: 28%

SA: 43%
TE: 5%

SA: 4.5%
TE: 1%

SA: 4.5%
TE: 1%

TE: 1.46

SA: 1.64
3. My portfolio accurately reflected the best of my teaching practices. TE: 37%

SA: 29%
TE: 39%

SA: 42%
TE: 18%

SA: 25%
TE: 4%

SA: 4%
TE: 2%

SA: 0%
TE: 1.97

SA: 2.04
4. My portfolio accurately reflected the kind of teacher I believed myself to be. TE: 43%

SA: 42%
TE: 38%

SA: 38%
TE: 13%

SA: 16%
TE: 5%

SA: 4%
TE: 1%

SA: 0%
TE: 1.84

SA: 1.80
5. I would have been happy to have people decide whether to hire me based largely on what they saw in my portfolio. TE: 21%

SA: 8%
TE: 46%

SA: 43%
TE: 17%

SA; 16%
TE: 11%

SA: 29%
TE: 4%

SA: 4%
TE: 2.32

SA: 2.76
6. My portfolio was a critical factor in my getting a job. TE: 4%

SA: 4%
TE: 12%

SA: 12%
TE: 23%

SA: 28%
TE: 28%

SA: 40%
TE: 33%

SA: 16%
TE: 3.70

SA: 3.52
7. I get a clear and accurate sense for the kind of teacher a person is, or will be, based on what I see in his or her portfolio. TE: 9%

SA; 4%
TE: 37%

SA; 28%
TE: 40%

SA: 32%
TE: 11%

SA: 28%
TE: 3%

SA: 8%
TE: 2.61

SA: 3.08
8. Most of the portfolios I see are well-organized, creative, and interesting. TE: 6%

SA: 5%
TE: 40%

SA: 49%
TE: 37%

SA; 44%
TE: 10%

SA: 0%
TE: 7%

SA: 2%
TE: 2.75

SA: 2.46
9. Most of the portfolios I see contain artifacts which do an excellent job documenting and expressing the applicant's qualifications to be a teacher. TE: 9%

SA: 8%
TE: 39%

SA: 33%
TE: 38%

SA: 51%
TE: 10%

SA: 8%
TE: 4%

SA: 0%
TE: 2.60

SA: 2.59

Both Table Two and Table Three show strong agreement between teacher educators and principals in regard to the value and importance of various factors and information sources in the teacher hiring process. Both groups see the interview process as the most important factor above anything else. Talking with and observing the candidate carry great value and importance, according to respondents. Principals also value their casual conversations with teacher candidates as important, ranking it third while teacher educators ranked it as fifth. This indicates a high level of confidence among principals in their ability to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of potential teachers. However, perhaps not surprisingly, teacher educators perceive the reputation of the teacher preparation program to be much more important than do principals. Teacher educators rated it as the 4th most important factor, while it showed up much lower on the list for principals.

Both groups agree that a cover letter and resume, as well as references from 
those outside education, are not particularly important or valuable in the employment process. Also, principals do not view the portfolio as valuable as teacher educators perceive it to be, ranking it as fourth in importance whereas teacher educators view it as third in importance.

Table Two: Perceived Importance of Various Factors in the Hiring Process

TE = Teacher Educators; SA = School Administrators

1st Most Important 2nd Most Important 3rd Most Important 4th Most Important Least Important
Teacher Educators Strength of Interview Amount and type of previous experience References from school(s) where applicant has taught Reputation of teacher preparation program References from previous non-education employers
School Administrators Strength of interview (answers to interview questions, etc.) Personal characteristics (personality, dress, demeanor, etc.) References from school(s) where applicant has taught Amount and type of previous experience References from previous non-education employers

Table Three: Perceived Importance of Various Sources of Information Regarding Teaching Candidates

TE = Teacher Educators; SA = School Administrators

Information Sources for Hiring Decisions Teacher


Professional Portfolio 3rd 4th
Face to face interview 2nd 2nd
Cover letter and resume 6th 6th
Letters of reference 4th 5th
Direct experience with, or observation of, the candidate 1st 1st
Casual, informal conversations with others about the candidate's performance, skills, or abilities 5th 3rd

Table Four indicates very strong agreement between principals and teacher educators in regard to the perceived importance of different portfolio items. Both groups identify the same items as the three most important in the portfolio. The ability to individualize instruction, understand content and thoroughness of the lesson or unit plan are evidently perceived by both groups as being very important factors in the employment of teachers. Likewise, both groups see the ability to incorporate state curriculum standards in lesson plans to be an important skill for teachers. The ranking of these four items so highly may be a reflection of the emphasis states have placed on accountability testing. It also probably comes as little surprise that neither group sees the ability to use a specific type of lesson plan format to be very important as many districts have their own format for this and train their teachers in how to use it.

Table Four: Perceived Importance of Various Portfolio Items

1st Most Important 2nd Most Important 3rd Most Important 4th Most Important Least Important
Teacher Educators Ability to individualize instruction Control of the content-the teacher understands what he or she is teaching. Lesson includes everything needed for successful instruction Innovative lesson planning/ Use of state curriculum standards in lesson plans Recognizable and consistent format for the lesson or unit plan
School Administrators Ability to individualize instruction Control of the content-the teacher understands what he or she is teaching. Lesson includes everything needed for successful instruction Use of state curriculum standards in lesson plans Recognizable and consistent format for the lesson or unit plan

Teacher educators and principals are fairly close in agreement regarding the perceived use of portfolios in the employment process. Both groups agree that school districts have no preference regarding whether or not teacher candidates provide portfolios, but the two groups differ regarding why. Teacher educators say that school districts don’t want portfolios while principals report that they simply don’t have time to view them.

The two groups also differ somewhat in perceptions of principals’ input to educator preparation programs (EPP’s) regarding portfolios. Teacher educators view them as having much more input than principals perceive themselves as having.

Teacher Educators School Administrators
School districts’ preference for portfolios Require them: 4% Prefer them: 15%

No preference: 68% Don’t want them:13%
Require them: 0% Prefer them: 20%

No Preference: 73% No time: 7%
Portfolios’ weight in the hiring process Great deal: 2% Equal: 13%

Some :37% Little: 37% None: 11%
Great deal: 3% Equal: 17%

Some: 58% Little: 22% None: 0%
School administrators’ input regarding teacher portfolios Great deal: 3% Some: 27%

Little: 35% None: 28% NA: 7%
Great deal: 0% Some: 5%

Little: 17% None: 78%
EPP emphasis on development & use of portfolios All are: 17% Most are: 43%

Half are: 26% Most aren’t: 14%
All are: 9% Most are: 50%

Half are: 21% Most aren’t: 21%
Most common format for employment portfolios Websites: 31% CD/DVD: 16%

Print: 46% Combination: 7%
Websites: 3% CD/DVD: 10%

Print: 87% Combination: 0%

Table Five: Perceived Use of Portfolios for Employment of Teachers


There are a number of implications that may be drawn from the results of this survey, particularly from participants’ responses to the open-ended question at the end of the survey. Some respondents were very specific regarding their opinions of the value and use of portfolios in the employment process. Even on this open-ended item teacher educators and principals agreed in many ways. Both groups tend to view portfolios as one of several tools that are useful in the selection of teachers that can be valuable when used in conjunction with other tools and methods. Several respondents pointed out that portfolios can be effective when done well and used correctly.

A number of respondents, particularly principals, identified logistics as a barrier to the use of portfolios in the employment process. There simply isn’t enough time during the interview process or even afterwards to adequately review a candidate’s portfolio. Some administrators also identified some portfolio items being much more useful than others. Perhaps the message here is to address the structure and composition of employment portfolios to include those items and components that are most helpful and efficient for school administrators to access and use and provide them in a form that is both efficient and convenient to access and utilize.

An interesting observation made by a number of respondents focused on the value of the portfolio as a reflection system for teacher education students and as an assessment vehicle for teacher preparation programs. It may be that this is the most useful purpose of the portfolio and this should be its focus in the teacher education process. This would involve rethinking the use of the portfolio in the interview and employment process to focus only on items useful to administrators.

Finally, the fact that many respondents placed other factors ahead of portfolios in the employment process may point to a need to prepare our teacher education students to focus on effectively addressing interview questions and on demonstrating their teaching abilities through actual teaching scenarios. Obtaining more input from school administrators on how to do this would also be of great benefit to teacher educators.


It is not surprising that each participant group mentioned here—teacher education faculty, teacher education students, and hiring school administrators—would have a differing view of the value of teacher candidate prepared portfolios. Teacher education faculty see portfolios as a means of authentic assessment, even as they criticize portfolios as being cumbersome, as suffering from unclear standards of acceptable content, and as being too time-consuming to grade. Teacher candidates view portfolios with dread because preparing a portfolio is seen as just another ‘hoop’ they need to jump through to graduate. For many of them, the principal value of the portfolio is as a repository for work created throughout their academic career—and little more. Employers seem to have little regard for the potential of the portfolio to portend the future teaching success of job candidates. At the very least, there appears to be a disconnect between what colleges of education and teacher candidates view as the worth of a portfolio and the practical use of that portfolio on the “outside.”


Perceptions Regarding the Efficacy and Use of Professional Portfolios in the Employment of Teachers

(Teacher Educators)

1. My current position is:

(34) Teach undergraduate teacher education students

(28) Teach graduate teacher education students

(58) Teach both undergraduate and graduate teacher education students

(3) Other (Student Teaching)

2. Have you ever had occasion to put together a portfolio that reflects your skills and abilities as a teacher?

Yes (89) No (38)

Questions 3 - 11



Strongly Agree





Somewhat Agree





Strongly Disagree

Putting the portfolio together helped me reflect on my own teaching practices and intentions. 39 30 13 4 1 1.84
I took great care in putting my portfolio together. 57 25 4 1 1 1.46
My portfolio accurately reflected the best of my teaching practices. 32 34 16 3 2 1.97
My portfolio accurately reflected the kind of teacher I believe (or believed) myself to be. 37 33 11 4 1 1.84
I would have been happy to have people decide whether or not to hire me as a teacher based largely on what they saw in my portfolio. 18 40 15 10 4 2.32
My portfolio was a critical factor in my getting a job. 3 10 19 23 27 3.70
I believe I get an accurate sense of the kind of teacher a person is, or will be, based on what I see in his/her portfolio. 10 43 46 13 3 2.61
Most of the portfolios I see are well-organized, creative, and interesting. 7 49 45 12 8 2.75
Most of the portfolios I see contain appropriate artifacts which do an excellent job documenting and expressing the applicant's qualifications to be an excellent teacher. 11 47 45 12 4 2.60

12. In regard to prospective teachers providing a portfolio, most school districts in our area:

Require them: 5 Prefer them: 17 Have no preference: 77 Other (Don’t want them): 15 (Average: 2.98)

13. How much weight do school administrators in your area give the portfolio in the hiring process?

A great deal of weight: 2
Equal weight to other factors: 16 Some weight, but not as much as other factors: 43

Very little weight: 43 No weight at all: 13 (Average: 3.43)

14. In the past five years have you seen an increase in newly graduated teachers using a portfolio when they apply for teaching jobs? A significant increase: 17 Some increase, but not significant: 43 About the same as before: 44

A slight decrease: 8 A significant decrease: 4 (Average:


15. How much input have local school administrators provided to your university regarding the use of portfolios for teacher education students?

A great deal of input: 4 Some input: 32 Little input: 41 No input: 33 Not applicable: 8 (Average: 3.07)

16. Of those teacher candidates who provide a portfolio during the interview and employment process what format is the most common? Website: 34 CD/DVD: 18 Print: 51 Other (please specify): 8 (some combination of the others)

17. Are universities in your area promoting the development and use of portfolios among their teacher education students?

All are: 20 Most are: 49 About half are/have aren't: 30 Most aren't: 14 None are: 1 ( Average: 2.36)

18. Please rank what you perceive as the three most important factors in teacher hiring decisions and the one you perceive as least important. Place a "1" in the box beside the most important factor, a "2" beside the second most important, a "3" beside the third most important, and a "9" beside the factor you consider the least important:

1st Important 2nd Important 3rd Important Least Important
Reputation of teacher preparation program 22 17 11 5
GPA in teacher education classes 0 4 4 18
Portfolio 2 8 8 12
Amount and type of previous experience 22 24 18 1
References from school(s) where applicant has taught 22 22 16 1
References from university professors 0 5 12 2
References from previous non-education employers 0 1 0 55
Personal characteristics (personality, dress, demeanor, etc.) 6 20 19 0
Strength of interview (answers to interview questions, etc.) 50 24 26 0

19. making teacher hiring decisions which of the following do you (or would you) rely on to give you the greatest sense of how well that teacher will do in the classroom? Please rank order with "1" indicating what you think is most valuable as an indicator with "6" being the least desirable.

Information Sources for Hiring Decisions 1 2 3 4 5 6
Professional Portfolio 3 13 31 18 14 27
Face to face interview 31 58 15 3 1 0
Cover letter and resume 2 4 17 17 21 40
Letters of reference 1 1 12 33 37 17
Direct experience with, or observation of, the candidate 82 19 5 2 2 0
Casual, informal conversations with others about the candidate's performance, skills, or abilities 0 10 26 24 21 28

20. The following items might be things school administrators would look for and believe important when examining a teaching candidate's professional portfolio. Please rank what you perceive as the three most important items and the one you perceive as least important. Place a "1" beside what you perceive as the most important item, a "2" beside the second most important item, a "3" beside the third most important item and a 10 beside the least important.

1st Most Important 2nd Most Important 3rd Most Important Least Important
Innovative lesson planning 17 16 10 5
Careful organization 9 6 7 2
Careful use of state curriculum standards in the making of lesson plans 17 12 14 3
Neatness, as an indicator of professional care 2 5 2 22
Methods of assessment 5 17 20 0
Ability to individualize instruction 17 27 14 1
Sensitivity to multicultural issues 3 4 12 9
Thoroughness-the lesson or unit plan includes everything needed for successful instruction 25 12 16 1
A recognizable and consistent format for the lesson or unit plan 0 0 1 32
Control of the content-that the teacher understands what he or she is teaching. 23 15 16 5
None of these items are important 117

21. Please use the space below to share any other comments or observations you may have regarding the use of portfolios in the employment process for teachers.

· Electronic portfolios, aside from affording the candidate a creative and organized way of presenting his/her outstanding qualities, also reveal the candidate's ability to effectively use technology.

· Some teachers have overwhelmingly large portfolios-- big time overkill

· I left some of the questions blank because I do not have knowledge of what principals consider when hiring.

· We encourage our candidates to include their teaching philosophy as well.

· I see portfolios as a benefit to the teacher candidate in that it gives them language and examples by which they can answer interview questions. If they can talk the benchmarks of the portfolio, they will make an impression with the principal and/or grade level team. I am aware of a case where the grade level team felt intimidated by the teacher candidate's answers to interview questions and did not want her as a member of the team. She was not hired by that district. This is a phenomenon that might be explored.

· We have used portfolios for several years, but they have not been instrumental in the hiring process. We are going digital this semester and I hope that the students will be more comfortable using them as part of the application process.

· Portfolios are a great tool when the candidate can speak to the document. It is not the document that presents a person, yet it can help to indicate the level of instruction, knowledge, and practice that they have received in preparation for the classroom.

· The university required portfolios are not usable for hiring. Students need to create a separate portfolio. Their university portfolios are very prescribed--it's specified what to put in as artifacts, the reflections are very structured and everything looks exactly the same.

· It has been my experience (and, to be honest, it has been a while since I have seen or judged teachers based on portfolios)that candidate-chosen items for the portfolio often present little more than a dog-and-pony type of snapshot. Often they are quite flashy, showing creativity; but I find that face-to-face meetings - casual more so than official interview sessions - are the real key to knowing what an applicant might bring to the school. I have seen many beautifully done portfolios, but they have not always matched the ability nor the dedication of the applicant. On the other hand, I have been known to hire a tiny little half-blind lady who came with NO portfolio, just with down-to-earth ideas and strategies, who turned out to be a Teacher-of-the-Year. I may not be the best one to ask about portfolios. Having them created online would, however, make them less flashy and, likely, a better indication of what a candidate for employment could do for a school.

· The school district administrators in our area--do not want job candidates to show them a portfolio.

· I believe the portfolio is only one part of the hiring process. I think the interview, resume, experience, references, along with the portfolio help a school administrator make an informed decision about hiring

· Students have yet to buy into the process. But the fact that 50% of the teachers who graduated from our program still do not have employment makes a case for creating an edge over other educational institutions.

· This survey misses the mark of the purpose of the e-portfolio in our program. We do not use the portfolio as a tool for interviews, but rather it is a reflection process through which our candidates work out what they know as it relates to the competencies, how they know it, and how they have grown in the process of learning it throughout the program. We do not intend for our candidates to present a portfolio at an interview, however, the process of completing the e-portfolio prepares our candidates for the interview and the process of interviewing.

· I believe electronic portfolios are best and should include a brief video clip of the teacher candidate teaching in a real classroom setting. Moreover, the candidate should have a means (i.e., bring with them to the interview) of showing the brief video clip (e.g. a laptop computer) to the interviewer.

· The concept of teacher portfolios would be simpler to implement if there were "best practice" standards set for preparing the portfolio

· I believe portfolios are useful tools for the employment process especially with narrowing the field of applicants. As a previous school administrator and time
limitations it may be difficult to review large portfolios or a large number of applicant portfolios.

· We have used electronic portfolios and notebook portfolios.

· Students need to understand the dynamics of a professional "portfolio." 1st) It is a storing house/resource as they begin student teaching or their career, 2nd) Taking pride in their work and sharing their portfolio in several different venues - do mock interviews with a portfolio, 2) Universities bridge the gap between school administrators and universities in "what" makes a great teacher - not that Uncle Joe or Dad are on the school board and will "get" them a job. Hiring should be about quality teaching/instruction for our students!!!!

· A great way to determine the way an educator teachers, access writing skills and organizational skills.

· the portfolio is a way for the candidate to reflect upon their teaching and also to explain it to the rest of the teaching community.

· Unfortunately, in the current economic climate, few teachers are being interviewed or employed in our area.

· Another critical factor not in the list for question 20 is the level of reflective thought about the artifacts in the portfolio.

· Few administrators our candidates have interviews with are cognizant about the portfolios and the information included. They just don't believe the portfolios are valuable.

· It is a requirement for our teacher education program. It serves as an assessment for our secondary teacher education program and provides the student with documentation of their skills. I believe the portfolio should be used extensively for employment.

· My administrators rarely look at my student teachers' portfolios - they say they don't have the time.

· Principals at our university partner schools prefer direct observation of candidates they are considering employing. The public schools tend to use the Ventures screening as a first step in their interview process. The private schools tend to have an in-person interview as the first step. During the in-person interview the principals seem to mostly politely glance through the portfolio. One principal asks if the candidate will leave the portfolio so she can look at it more closely after the interview if she is interested in the candidate. We try to emphasize with our students that the portfolio isn't just "a collection of cool stuff I've done and fun projects"---that everything in it should be there for a specific reason--and reflection on what is included is important. Students who pay attention to that advice seem to do better in the interviews.

· I believe that the most important part of a portfolio is the reflection that the author or teacher candidate does relative to each of the artifacts included in the portfolio.

· I am really surprised that the teacher candidates' reflections on their portfolio artifacts was not mentioned in question #20. Research (Shulman, Bird, Carney, Zeichner & Wray) related to portfolio development centers on the value of the teacher candidates ability to reflect on their practice and experiences in education. The portfolio serves as a mental rehearsal for the teacher candidate and demonstrates their synthesis of what they have learned during their teacher education program (McIntyre & Dangel).

· I am only a teacher educator - I have never hired a teacher. That's why I left some blank. I honestly think that portfolios can be too much. I believe that most principals do not look at portfolios when hiring. It's good to have just in case, but I don't think it's the most important part in interviewing for a job.

· We do not use our portfolio as an interview portfolio. It is a progress portfolio, providing a context for the teacher candidate to reflect on personal professional development. The development of the portfolio can be a powerful process for interview preparation as the candidate reflects on what he/she knows, believes and can do in relation to teaching. It structures the practice of articulating in professional terms the candidate's skills and experience. It also provides the faculty with program assessment information. We do not expect the candidate to take the portfolio to an interview.

· As a former administrative team member, we conducted numerous interviews in elementary schools. In the interview process, we were much more interested in the candidate's attitude, overall demeanor, experience and knowledge of best teaching practice than the artifacts placed in his/her portfolio. With that said, the strongest candidates were ones that could carry on the interview while using his/her portfolio as a reference point - highlighting/pointing out evidence of his/her credentials (specific lesson plans, units, student work samples, etc.) when responding to questions. This allowed the interview to flow very naturally. In some instances, with weaker candidates, there were awkward times of silence at the end of the interview process while he/she simply scrolled through the pages of his/her portfolio saying nothing. Portfolios are an excellent showcase of a teacher's credentials, but ultimately it comes down to how he/she will fit in with the given school community.

· Use of the portfolio is over rated

· Portfolios are vastly overrated as a tool for hiring (my opinion). They are good, however, as a tool for fostering reflection and thinking about lesson planning. For hiring, nothing replaces he face to face interview and discussion of teaching strategies. Observing the applicant teaching a lesson and observing his/her interactions with students is also productive.

· I see little use for portfolios as authentic representation of the teacher's ability unless a well produced video (good sound and video of the students as well as the teacher) is included. Most administrators hiring do not have enough time to peruse the portfolios if they are complete. I realize that this may fly in the face of "Nat. Bd. Certified Teachers, but it is reality. Further, if the list in #20 is intended to be the core of interviews and/or topics for elements of the portfolio, I believe they are poorly stated in several cases, if not unimportant. (I had to rate all or say "none." It was a very poor choice. Further, to rate in importance does not allow for connections between #7 and #1 and all in between. In other words, control of content allows for immense sensitivity to multicultural issues. Further, none of these refer to whether the person has an ability to connect to all teenagers on a personal level and likes them for who they are.

· Portfolios may reflect how good a college student they have been, not how good a teacher they are in a classroom

· Even though I believe that portfolios can be the deciding factor in an interview there are still too many school administrators that don't appear to be interested in seeing the. We tell our students to take control of the interview and find times to show specific items. That seems to be helpful.

· I think they need to be simple, principals don't seem to have time to review them, so they should be easily accessible. They should also demonstrate the technology skills of the candidate. I'm not sure the format that demonstrates competence of teacher ed standards, necessarily translates well into a portfolio that would be good to share with a principal.

· I am a beginning professor in science education, and do not have extensive knowledge about the area (Houston) quite yet. I answered these questions with the limited information I have received second hand.

· I believe the combination of interview, observing the candidate and the portfolio can provide me with pertinent information when making a decision to hire. I don't believe one should ever rely on primarily on one method to do anything. We teach the pre-teachers to use a variety of assessments and I think we should practice what we preach.

· I use them as points of conversation with the applicant. I want to hear (and see in the delivery) confidence, experience, knowledge, creativity, etc.

· I hate that so much importance is placed on a piece of "busy work." To be reduced to a portfolio is a crime!

· Your question #20 above is confusing to me -- are you wanting me to imagine myself as a typical school principal and choose what I think the principal might find most important? Or were you wanting me to indicate what I WISH that principals would prioritize when they look at a portfolio? I'm leaving it blank because my responses are very different depending on what your question really is. What I hear from our students, unfortunately, is that school personnel have their own format and agenda for interviews and do not seem to value a teaching portfolio.

· When teaching at a university outside of Texas, the College of Education required students to prepare extensive portfolios. When going to job interviews, the students reported that their portfolios were not looked at, perused quickly, and, very rarely, left for the administrator to review after the interview.

· Portfolios can be an excellent way to pick the best candidate for a job opening.

· I think that portfolios, especially the electronic ones, are helpful to a prospective employer. However, it doesn't begin to replace the face-to-face response to questions that indicate the person's philosophy. A written philosophy is one thing; the actual beliefs are shown more in actions and responses to well-crafted questions. We encourage our students to create electronic portfolios that paint a picture of them as a professional that can be previewed pre or post interview. Rarely to principals have the time in an interview to thoroughly examine a portfolio but will go through it at a separate time for key items.

· The increase in numbers of schools who are failing to make AYP seems to be leading to increasing reliance upon "teacher-proof" curricula. I think this, in turn, is eroding the interest of schools and administrators in applicants' pedagogical knowledge and skills; they seem much more interested in reliability and classroom management skills recently. This is discouraging, and many of us continue to encourage students to construct meaningful portfolios so they can try to get hired into settings with a greater emphasis up professional judgment and ability to adapt and innovate.

· We do not include portfolios in our program with the purpose of a prospective student using it in the hiring process. This authentic assessment is used to help students synthesize what they know, internalize this knowledge, demonstrate what they can do, and reflect on their experiences. It is the culminating experiences of the undergraduate program. This process helps them prepare for the interview and application process because they own their knowledge and skills and are about to share them more confidently. We don't expect principals to take the time to view the portfolio but student have it available, just in case. Regardless, this is a very good process for the beginning teacher. They learn much from the experience.

· I prefer electronic to paper portfolios.

· When teacher portfolios were in three-ring binders, it was helpful to see visuals: student artifacts, photographs of lessons/the classroom, etc. During an interview, there is never enough time to look through any kind of portfolio until you are really serious about a candidate - in which case you can make time while the candidate is getting a tour of the building, etc. It's a shame, because I know teachers go through A LOT of work to complete the portfolios, and they often have valuable information in them.

· Very few practicing administrators want to see these. They are often polite when studentshare them.

· Too much emphasis is placed on portfolio development in teacher education programs.

· Younger administrators in our area tend to value electronic portfolios more than older ones. We require a video of a candidate teaching a lesson as part of our electronic portfolio and administrators value this artifact most. Our student teachers are beginning to value the electronic portfolios that we require them to compile during student teaching more as administrator valuing increases. Many former students relayed that the hard copy portfolios that they took to interviews were most valuable when used as visual examples that supported the questions that they were asked. For example, when asked about parent involvement, they showed examples of notes homes, newsletters, parent involvement activities. Many students have stated that when used in this way they believe that it was the contents of their portfolios that were the determining factor in their being hired. Few continue using their relic. ports after
grad although they could to document growth throughout their careers.

· Portfolios can be helpful when working with teacher candidates if the teacher candidates take it seriously and not as just something to hurry through. It helps them to understand how what they have been learning in education classes connects with what they will be doing in the classroom. However, sometimes it is just an exercise in frustration and busy work.

· I do not see very few now; nor did I see them when I was hiring (16 years of hiring)

· They are too prescribed and the students are selecting artifacts to meet requirements(not best work)

· We do not have our students at the graduate level submit or put together a portfolio.

Perceptions Regarding the Efficacy and Use of Professional Portfolios in the Employment of Teachers

(School Administrators)

1. My current position is:

Superintendent (0)

School Principal (40)

School Personnel Administrator (1)

Other (0)

2. Have you ever had occasion to put together a portfolio that reflects your skills and abilities as a teacher?

Yes (24) No (15)

Questions 3 - 11



Strongly Agree





Somewhat Agree





Strongly Disagree




Putting the portfolio together helped me reflect on my own teaching practices and intentions. 8 10 13 3 2 1.92
I took great care in putting my portfolio together. 11 10 1 1 0 1.64
My portfolio accurately reflected the best of my teaching practices. 7 10 6 1 0 2.04
My portfolio accurately reflected the kind of teacher I believe (or believed) myself to be. 10 9 4 1 0 1.80
I would have been happy to have people decide whether or not to hire me as a teacher based largely on what they saw in my portfolio. 2 10 4 7 1 2.76
My portfolio was a critical factor in my getting a job. 1 3 7 10 4 3.52
I believe I get an accurate sense for the kind of teacher a person is, or will be, based on what I see in his/her portfolio. 1 7 8 7 2 3.08
Most of the portfolios I see are well-organized, creative, and interesting. 2 19 17 0 1 2.46
Most of the portfolios I see contain appropriate artifacts which do an excellent job documenting and expressing the applicant's qualifications to be an excellent teacher. 3 13 20 3 0 2.59

12. In regard to prospective employees providing a portfolio, we:

Require them: 0 Prefer them: 8 Have no preference: 29 Other (Don’t have time): 3 (Average: 2.88)

13. How much weight do you give the portfolio in the hiring process?

A great deal of weight: 1
Equal weight to other factors: 6 Some weight, but not as much as other factors: 21

Very little weight: 8 No weight at all: 0 (Average: 3.20)

14. In the past five years have you seen an increase in newly graduated teachers submitting a portfolio?

A significant increase: 11 Some increase, but not significant: 16 About the same as before: 9

A slight decrease: 2 A significant decrease: 0 (Average: 2.05)

15. How much input have you provided to local universities regarding the use of portfolios for teacher education students?

A great deal of input: 0 Some input: 2 Little input: 6 No input: 29 Not applicable: 0 (Average: 3.80)

16. Of those teacher candidates who provide a portfolio during the interview and employment process what format is the most common? Website: 1 CD/DVD: 4 Print: 34 Other (please specify): 0

17. Are universities in your area promoting the development and use of portfolios among their teacher education students?

All are: 3 Most are: 17 About half are/have aren't: 7 Most aren't: 7 None are: 0 ( Average: 2.53)

18. Please rank what you perceive as the three most important factors in teacher hiring decisions and the one you perceive as least important. Place a "1" in the box beside the most important factor, a "2" beside the second most important, a "3" beside the third most important, and a "9" beside the factor you consider the least important:

1st Most Important 2nd Most Important 3rd Most Important Least Important
Reputation of teacher preparation program 1 2 4 9
GPA in teacher education classes 0 1 1 4
Portfolio 0 1 3 7
Amount and type of previous experience 7 8 4 0
References from school(s) where applicant has taught 7 7 11 1
References from university professors 0 1 2 4
References from previous non-education employers 0 1 0 12
Personal characteristics (personality, dress, demeanor, etc.) 4 14 10 1
Strength of interview (answers to interview questions, etc.) 25 6 6 0

19. When making teacher hiring decisions which of the following do you (or would you) rely on to give you the greatest sense of how well that teacher will do in the classroom? Please rank order with "1" indicating what you think is most valuable as an indicator with "6" being the least desirable:

Information Sources for Hiring Decisions 1 2 3 4 5 6
Professional Portfolio 1 0 6 9 5 11
Face to face interview 15 17 2 1 1 0
Cover letter and resume 0 1 2 8 9 14
Letters of reference 0 5 6 3 10 9
Direct experience with, or observation of, the candidate 25 6 3 3 0 0
Casual, informal conversations with others about the candidate's performance, skills, or abilities 1 3 13 5 4 4

20. The following items might be things school administrators would look for and believe important when examining a teaching candidate's professional portfolio. Please rank what you perceive as the three most important items and the one you perceive as least important. Place a "1" beside what you perceive as the most important item, a "2" beside the second most important item, a "3" beside the third most important item and a 10 beside the least important.

1st Most Important 2nd Most Important 3rd Most Important Least Important
Innovative lesson planning 6 2 6 3
Careful organization 0 2 3 5
Careful use of state curriculum standards in the making of lesson plans 3 7 8 0
Neatness, as an indicator of professional care 1 0 2 12
Methods of assessment 2 7 6 2
Ability to individualize instruction 8 8 14 1
Sensitivity to multicultural issues 1 1 0 5
Thoroughness-the lesson or unit plan includes everything needed for successful instruction 10 8 2 5
A recognizable and consistent format for the lesson or unit plan 0 1 1 15
Control of the content-that the teacher understands what he or she is teaching. 14 4 5 3
None of these items are important 117

21. Please use the space below to share any other comments or observations you may have regarding the use of portfolios in the employment process for teachers.

· Actually it's a bit frustrating when a candidate brings their portfolio to the interview. There is little time to peruse the material and I hate to keep it. A digital portfolio would be ideal for me.

· I've seen very few of these, and while they are a good tool that allows a prospective teacher to showcase some of their skills, they are not a particularly effective measure of how that person will perform in the classroom. It is somewhat easy to make oneself look competent on paper, but the manner in which an applicant performs in an observation of teaching or responds to interview questions is more reliable in judging probable success in the classroom.

· A portfolio has never made an impact on the hiring process for me. The interview process is way more important than what's on paper. Many candidates have come into interviews with beautiful portfolios but could not do well in the interview, or socialization, communication skills, were not evident.

· Portfolios are cumbersome to an interview committee and with the vast majority of portfolios being compiled as a college course requirement they are strikingly similar and tell me very little. The focus on organization, glossy photos, pretty bulletin boards, well-written papers, glowing student teaching reviews from supervisors, and a portfolio that was polished for a grade, gives me very little relevant information about a candidate. I prefer to not be given a portfolio by a candidate. I find myself and committee members impressed with an applicant that can share experiences, assessment, how to use and shape instruction for each student using the assessment, shows an aptitude for learning, risk-taking, an eagerness to serve children and adults, is sensitive to the needs of all learners and more. I have not found a portfolio that can efficiently and effectively convey all the things that a gifted teacher must have to be effective in the classroom and outside the classroom.

· I depend on a personal interview and calling references that I know of information about a prospective employee. Anyone can produce a resume or portfolio that looks nice, I want to know if they have a real love of kids and the ability to work hard to teach students what they need to know.

· I put more emphasis on the face-to-face interview than a "product" made by the teacher.

· During our employment process, we do not generally have applicants that bring a portfolio. We rely heavily on the references that we call and they are not necessarily the ones that the applicant has given.

· Portfolios are a nice addition to a strong interview as evidence of things (hopefully) heard and discussed in the interview process.

· While portfolios may be a great tool for the evaluation of teaching candidates, the logistics of reviewing full portfolios becomes difficult when dealing with large numbers. Electronic portfolios would be preferable.

· Portfolios are important for self-reflection. Portfolios are valuable for novice teachers in developing a comprehensive model of their work and pre-work; however, as a principal with 10 years of experience in interviewing, I have little time during an interview to actually have a candidate review the portfolio; they tend to go on and on. I ask that candidates keep it closed and tell me what stands out in the portfolio to make them the best "fit" for the position. Typically, time constraints during interviews prevent an extensive review of a portfolio. Should the person end up being a top candidate for an opening, the person may be asked to return for a second interview at which time a review of a portfolio would be possible.

· The use of portfolios should become more of a requirement because as new teachers come into the system they need to be ready for the rigorous demands placed on them. There is not the time to step back and allow them time to 'learn' how lesson plans are written, how to diversify grouping, how to assess and monitor. We need to have them ready to begin on day one with only a minimum of coaching. A portfolio would help us know what level that person would be able to proceed once she/he has been assigned a classroom.

· Portfolios are helpful, however, I rarely put too much emphasis in the hiring process on these documents because they provide a somewhat superficial view of what a student has accomplished. In other words, great portfolios do not always reflect great teachers.

· The portfolio is more helpful for the candidate than the interviewer. Even when we don't thoroughly examine the candidates' portfolio, I have noticed that the candidates with a portfolio often interview better than the competition because they are able to speak with specific examples. They also seem more confident. The candidates who have electronic portfolios are often less impressive than those with hard copies...and I am normally a fan of technology.

· Portfolios allow you to see what the candidate believes are his/her strengths. They are very revealing.

· I believe that the portfolio goes hand in hand with the face to face interview. I do not view these two items as two different pieces.

· Portfolios provide a good overview of the applicant's experience and understanding of what is involved in the teaching process. You can learn a lot about the applicant including knowledge of subject/content, performance standards, and how he/she used data to plan instruction/lessons. I prefer talking directly with the applicant through the interview process, observing if possible, and talking with references who have observed or supervised the applicant.

· Based on my experience with portfolios, I believe they are useful when trying to make informed decisions about someone I may be interested in hiring as a teacher. However, I do not totally consider them to be the best tool in making the decision because it is difficult to know if they person being interviewed actually put the portfolio together or if it actually belongs to the person being interviewed.

· Portfolios are en vogue. An ongoing portfolio can be of value to assess teachers already teaching. However, too many great applicant portfolios are accompanied by vapid, anal, or arrogant candidates. As one piece of a much larger puzzle, okay; as a primary document or source, absolutely not. I wonder how many people will accurately portray their true beliefs regarding portfolios? How many will answer this survey in a manner exemplifying the facade of (fashionable mantra-ish) intelligence they wish to convey? There is something cloying about portfolios. Many professors latch on to them to thin the herd or to demonstrate program rigor -but there is no doubt that some great teachers are either poor compilers of minutiae or too self-effacing or down-home modest to boast. Much as a Gallup/SRI Screener ) is ripe for over-reliance, so are portfolios. I worry about personnel folks who put too much stock into portfolios - however that myopia leaves more "off radar" great applicants for me.

· Nothing will ever be more important to me than how a candidate presents his/herself in an interview. Portfolios are helpful in my decision-making process, but even a perfect portfolio will not erase grave errors in the interview. Nor will a poorly planned portfolio make me dismiss a candidate who can speak fluently about standards-based instruction, appropriate and on-going assessment, differentiation, etc.

· Portfolios help give the interviewer a sense of what the teacher has done in the classroom. I think it also gives a frame of reference for the interview.

· I will look through it if a candidate brings one but I don't require that they have one. I don't really put a lot of weight on the portfolio. I feel that anyone can develop a great portfolio, but it doesn't mean they will be a great teacher.

· I am happy to peruse a portfolio, but do not like it shoved down my throat in an interview. I would much rather talk to the person. However, my district uses portfolios in the supervision process and I love the learning that takes place with portfolios in that realm.

· I did not answer #17 because I do not know what they are promoting.

· Portfolios are not that valuable as a measure of a teacher's potential success in interacting with and teaching children.


Perceptions Regarding the Efficacy and Use of Professional Portfolios in the Employment of Teachers

Dear Teacher Educator,

Please respond to the items below in regard to your experiences with and perceptions of the development and use of professional portfolios for teachers. The information you provide will, hopefully, give us a better understanding of how portfolios are being used and how effective and valuable they are in the teacher employment process. Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

Dr. Thomas Deering, Augusta State University.

Dr. Samuel Hardy, Augusta State University.

Dr. Steven Jones, Missouri State University.

Dr. Jerry Whitworth, Texas Woman's University.

1) My current position

Teach undergraduate teacher education students

Teach graduate teacher education students

Teach both undergraduate and graduate teacher
education students


2) Have you ever had occasion to put together a portfolio that reflects your skills and abilities as a teacher?



If your answer to the previous question was No, then skip questions 3-8 and go to question 9. If your answer was Yes, please answer all of the remaining questions.

3) Putting the portfolio together helped me reflect on my own teaching practices and intentions.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

4) I took great care in putting my portfolio together.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

5) My portfolio accurately reflected the best of my teaching practices.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

6) My portfolio accurately reflected the kind of teacher I believe (or believed) myself to be.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

7) I would be (or would have been) happy to have people decide whether or not to hire me as a teacher based largely on what they saw in my portfolio.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

8) My portfolio was a critical factor in my getting a job.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

9) I believe I get a clear and accurate sense of the kind of teacher a person is or will be, based on what I see in his or her portfolio.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

10) Most of the portfolios I see are well-organized, creative, and interesting.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

Other (please specify)

11) Most of the portfolios I see contain appropriate artifacts which do an excellent job documenting and expressing the applicant's qualifications to be an excellent teacher.

1-Strongly Agree


3-Somewhat Agree


5-Strongly Disagree

12) In regard to prospective teachers providing a portfolio, most school districts in our area

1-Require them to do so

2-Prefer that they do so

3-Have no preference

4-Other (please specify)

13) How much weight do school administrators in your area give the portfolio in the hiring process?

1-A great deal of weight

2-Equal weight to other factors

3-Some weight, but not as much as other factors

4-Very little weight

5-No weight at all

14) In the past five years have you seen an increase in newly graduated teachers using a portfolio when they apply for teaching jobs?

1-A significant increase

2-Some increase, but not significant

3-About the same as before

4-A slight decrease

5-A significant decrease

15) How much input have local school administrators provided to your university regarding the use of portfolios for teacher education students?

1-A great deal of input

2-Some input

3-Little input

4-No input

5-Not applicable

16) Of those teacher candidates who provide a portfolio during the interview and employment process what format is the most common? 1-website 2-CD/DVD 3-print 4-Other (please specify)

17) Are universities in your area promoting the development and use of portfolios among their teacher education students?

1-All of them are

2-Most of them are

3-About half are and have aren't

4-Most of the aren't

5-None of them are

18) Please rank what you perceive as the three most important factors in teacher hiring decisions and the one you perceive as least important. Place a "1" in the box beside the most important factor, a "2" beside the second most important, a "3" beside the third most important, and a "9" beside the factor you consider the least important.

1-Reputation of teacher preparation program

2-GPA in teacher education classes


4-Amount and type of previous experience

5-References from school(s) where applicant has taught

6-References from university professors

7-References from previous non-education employers

8-Personal characteristics (personality, dress, demeanor, etc.)

9-Strength of interview (answers to interview questions, etc.)

19) When making teacher hiring decisions which of the following do you (or would you) rely on to give you the greatest sense of how well that teacher will do in the classroom? Please rank order with "1" indicating what you think is most valuable as an indicator with "6" being the least desirable.

1-Professional portfolio

2-Face to face interview

3-Cover letter and resume

4-Letters of reference

5-Direct experience with, or observation of, the candidate

6-Casual, informal conversations with others about the candidate's performance, skills, or abilities

20) The following items might be things school administrators would look for and believe important when examining a teaching candidate's professional portfolio. Please rank what you perceive as the three most important items and the one you perceive as least important. Place a
"1" beside what you perceive as the most important item, a "2" beside the second most important item, a "3" beside the third most important item and a 10 beside the least important.

1-Innovative lesson planning

2-Careful organization

3-Careful use of state curriculum standards in the making of lesson plans

4-Neatness, as an indicator of professional care

5-Methods of assessment

6-Ability to individualize instruction

7-Sensitivity to multicultural issues

8-Thoroughness-that the lesson plan or unit plan includes everything needed for successful instruction

9-A recognizable and consistent format for the lesson or unit plan

10-Control of the content- the teacher understands what he or she is teaching.

11-None of these items are important

21) Please use the space below to share any other comments or observations you may have regarding the use of portfolios in the employment process for teachers.


Barrett, H. C., and Wilkerson, Judy (2004). Conflicting paradigms in electronic portfolio approaches. Retrieved from http://electronicportfolios.com/systems/paradigms.html

Boody, R.E. (2009). Career Services Perspectives on the use of portfolios in the teacher employment process: A survey. Education, Vol. 130, No.1, 67-71.

Bowers, S.E. (2005). The portfolio process: Questions for implementation and practice. College Student Journal. Vol. 39, 754-758.

Buckridge, M. (2008). Teaching portfolios: Their role in teaching and learning policy. International Journal
for Academic Development. Vol. 13, No. 2, 117-127.

Hom, A. (August 1997). The power of teacher portfolios for professional development. teachers network org. Retrieved from http://www.teachnet.org/TNPI/research/growth/hom.htm

Lombardi, J. (2008). To portfolio or not to portfolio? College Teaching. Vol. 56, No. 1, 7-10.

Strawhecker, J., Messersmith, K., and Balcom, A. (Winter, 2007-2008). The role of electronic portfolios in the hiring of k-12 teachers. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. Vol. 24, No.2 65-71.

Strudler, N. and Wetzel, K. (2008). Costs and benefits of electronic portfolios in teacher education: Faculty perspective. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. Vol. 24, No. 4, 135-141.

Vincent, C.J., Montecinos, C. and Booty, R. (1997). Using the beginning teacher professional portfolio in the employment process. The Journal of Employment in Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, 33-43.

Wetzel, K. and Strudler, N. (2006). Costs and benefits of electronic portfolios in teacher education: Student voices. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education. Vol. 22, No. 3, 69-78.

Case and Commentary:

J. S. v. Blue Mountain School District

Dr. Charles Carrick is Professor of Education in the Helen DeVos College of Education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Dr. Thomas J. McCormack is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education and Health Professions at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.


The resolution of school discipline issues
are often close calls. The matter can be further complicated when the questioned behavior involves the use of technology off campus. A recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision, J. S. v. Blue Mountain School District (2011), is a perfect example of the difficulty of handling these matters.

J. S., an honor roll eighth-grade middle school student, was suspended for creating, on a weekend and on her home computer, a MySpace profile mocking her principal. Prior to the suspension, she had been disciplined only twice, both times for dress code violations. It was the second violation that J. S. and her friend K. L. created a fake profile of the principal, which they posted on MySpace, a social networking website.

While the profile did not identify the principal by name or school, it featured his official photograph from the school system’s website. It contained adult language and sexually explicit content. For example, the profile listed the principal’s general interests as “detention, being a tight ass,…f—king in my office, hitting on students and their parents” (Appendix 38 as cited in J. S. v. Blue Mountain School District, No. 08-4138, slip op. at 4 [3rd Cir., June 13, 2011]).

The content was quite unsettling, but nothing indicated that the profile was taken seriously by members of the community or by the principal’s supervisors. As far as whether the profile caused any disruption or not, it is fair to say that any disruption was slight (J. S. v. Blue Mountain, slip op. at 15). When J. S. received a 10-day out-of-school suspension for making the profile, she subsequently sued
arguing that the school system had violated her First Amendment rights to free speech.

Judicial History

The District Court held that the school system’s punishment was constitutionally permissible because the profile was vulgar and offensive under Bethel v. Fraser (1986) and J. S.’s off-campus conduct had an “effect” at the school.

The matter was appealed and a Third Circuit panel in a 2-1 split affirmed the lower court’s decision that Blue Mountain did not violate J. S.’s free speech right when she was disciplined for her off-campus online speech.

A majority of the Third Circuit’s active judges granted a subsequent motion by J. S. for a rehearing en banc (all active judges participating) and withdrew the three-judge panel’s decision.

The Third Circuit sitting en banc in an 8-6 ruling held that Blue Mountain violated J. S.’s First Amendment free speech rights. The majority held that it was not reasonably foreseeable that the profile would create a substantial disruption in school. Furthermore, they asserted that Bethel v. Fraser (1986) did not apply since the profile was created off campus.

The school system has authorized its attorneys to prepare an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court. The system has until the middle of September to file their appeal.


The job responsibilities of school administrators, especially middle school and high school principals, have become geometrically more complicated and extremely more difficult. This is due to the introduction of weapons, drugs, violence, sexual promiscuity, sophisticated personal communication devices, texting, the internet and social networking websites into the current youth culture and school environment. The technology and information revolutions have provided educators with digital devices and communication systems that when integrated into the classrooms have produced highly effective curricular delivery systems and enriched and engaging lessons. However, as seen in the Blue Mountain case and others, these same digital devices and communication systems have been used by students to attack, smear and defame the good name and character of school personnel. The irony is that the school personnel being attacked are the very individuals who are charged with maintaining a safe educational environment for students. Who then is maintaining a safe working environment for the educators? One would hope that it would be the judicial system!

Principals find themselves caught between trying to regulate the use and misuse of this new and ever-changing digital communication technology and protecting the constitutional rights of students. A major problem for principals is that the students’ constitutional rights are constantly being redefined by what appears to be conflicting U.S. Court of Appeals decisions and a deaf U.S. Supreme Court. Since the advent of the decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), educators have been sensitive to the precedent that a “…students constitutional rights do not end at the schoolhouse door…” School administrators have looked to the courts and to the case law for guidance in developing, implementing and enforcing rules and regulations while protecting the constitutional rights of students. However, when it comes to the issue of digital communications and the student’s First Amendment rights, the Third Circuit ruling in Blue Mountain seems to represent a major change in precedent sending principals a mixed message.

Blue Mountain creates what appears to be a split between the rulings of the Second Circuit and the Third Circuit. In the Second Circuit cases of Doninger v. Niehoff (Apr. 25, 2011) and Thomas v. Board of Education(1979), the Second Circuit found that student-communicated messages that exhorted hostility toward school officials were potentially disruptive to the educational process. Simultaneously, the Third Circuit ruled on two cases involving students who created fake MySpace profiles mocking their principals. In both Layshock v. Hermitage School District (June 13, 2011) and the decision of the en banc rehearing of Blue Mountain, the Third Circuit panels found that the school systems violated the student's First Amendment free speech rights when they punished the students for creating hostile and defamatory MySpace pages that parodied school administrators. You would hope that the diametrically opposed decisions between the Second Circuit and the Third Circuit over digital communications and students free speech rights would generate some interest in the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the judicial conflict. Unfortunately, the U. S. Supreme Court has not yet chosen to address the student-speech issue as it applies to digital communications. Simultaneous differing decisions on this issue by courts in different circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals and the lack of a unifying U.S. Supreme Court decision may create conflicts and confusion on the part of the school administrators as to how and to what extent they should act when they fall victim to cyber abuse and/or cyberbullying by students. It is our hope that the Blue Mountain School District does file an appeal of the Third Circuit en banc decision and that the U.S. Supreme Court takes up this issue. It is incumbent on the Supreme Court to lead the way to establish the right balance between protecting a student’s First Amendment right to free speech in this new digital world and protecting school administrators from digital cyber attacks on their persons.

Our schools are in a constant state of change. Some of that change has been positive and some have been detrimental. Based on the description of current public schools as described in the first paragraph of this commentary, one can easily see that these are not the same schools that our parents attended. When children start killing each other at school over lunch money disputes, when cell phones are used by students to harass each other mentally and sexually, and when fictitious social websites are used by students to harass and demean school personnel, our legislative and judicial institutions need to provide leadership in solving and regulating these social ills. We must do all that we can to protect those individuals who have chosen to dedicate their lives to providing an education to our young people in a safe and nurturing environment. We need to remember the U.S. Supreme Court’s words in Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. at 321, 95 S. Ct. at 1000,

“We think there must be a degree of immunity if the work of the schools is to go forward; and, however, worded, the immunity must be such that public school officials understand that action was taken in the good-faith fulfillment of their responsibilities and within the bounds of reason under all the circumstances will not be punished and that they need not exercise their discretion with undue timidity.”

Case Citations

J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, No. 08-4138 (3rd Cir., June 13, 2011)

Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (July 1986)

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 Ct. 733, 21

L.Ed.2d731, (1969)

Doninger v. Niehoff, 2011 WL 1532289 (2d Cir. Apr. 25, 2011)

Thomas v. Board of Education, 607 F.2d 1043 (2d Cir. 1979)

Layshock v. Hermitage School District, No. 07-4465 (3d Cir. June 13, 2011)

Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308 (1975)



Farewell to Dr. J. Larry Beaty

Every day across the United States men and women go to work as public school superintendents with the optimism that they can and will make a difference in a child’s life. This issue is dedicated to those administrators. These are the men and women who fight the good fight every day protecting and educating our young people. These are the men and women who suffer daily the slings and arrows of the unappreciative. While it would impossible to identify and honor every school superintendent, we would like to highlight one specific former public school superintendent, Dr. Larry Beaty, who embodies all of the good qualities of an exemplary school leader. Dr. Beaty served as a teacher/coach/administrator in public schools in Alabama and Georgia for thirty-two years. He is retiring this year from Columbus State University where he has taught school leadership since 1999. We will never be able to replace the leadership knowledge born from his real life experiences that he brought into the college classroom. From classroom teacher to Junior College president, Dr. Beaty was an outstanding educator and administrator who was loved and respected by those he worked with. Dr. Beaty will be missed. We dedicate this issue to Dr. Larry Beaty, our symbol of a dedicated school leader who cared about children.

Dr. Larry Beaty earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Troy State University in 1967 majoring in mathematics education and physical science. He taught math and science at Goshen High School in Pike County, Alabama from 1966 to 1968, also serving as an assistant football coach. From 1968 to 1973 Dr. Beaty served as a mathematics teacher and assistant principal in Columbus, Georgia, for the Muscogee Country School District. Dr. Beaty earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Auburn University in 1970. While pursuing his doctoral degree in educational administration, Dr. Beaty served as a research assistant in the Educational Planning Services Department for the College of Education at Auburn University from 1973-1974. From 1974 to 1975 he served as assistant principal at Peachtree High School in the DeKalb County School System in Atlanta, Georgia. At the end of that year, Dr. Beaty earned a doctorate in educational administration from Auburn University.

Dr. Beaty then served one year as an assistant principal at both Peachtree High School in the DeKalb County School District in Atlanta, Georgia (1974-1975) and at Dothan High School in the Dothan City School System in Dothan, Alabama (1975-1976). Dr. Beaty was then appointed and served from 1976 to 1980 first as the assistant superintendent and then as superintendent of the Dale County School System, Dale County, Alabama. During this same time period, Dr. Beaty taught educational leadership as an adjunct professor at the Troy State University branch in Dothan, Alabama. Dr. Beaty served as the acting Administrative and Technical Dean for George C. Wallace Community College from 1980 to 1986.

In 1986 Dr. Beaty was appointed the superintendent of the Barbour County School System, serving for two years (1986 to 1988). From 1988 to the present Dr. Beaty’s career has focused on higher education, serving as President of Opelika State Technical College in Opelika, Alabama, and President of George C. Wallace Community College in Dothan, Alabama from 1991 to 1998. Since 1999, Dr. Beaty has served as Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the Counseling, Foundations, and Leadership Department of the College of Education and Health Professions at Columbus State University.