Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2016

Volume 5, Issue 1 of The Journal of Teaching, Learning, and Research in Educational Leadership contains the following articles in the order presented.

Additional articles will be added.

1. Time Warp: 21st Century Learners Adhere to the 19th Century School Calendar Model by Douglas Callahan, Georgia State University

2. School Counselors' and Administrators' Perceptions of Appropriate Counselor Roles by Tyra T. Bailey, Pass Christian School District; Ursula O. Whitehead, Stone County School District; Myron B. Labat, The University of Southern Mississippi

3. Georgia Principals' Attitudes Toward Inclusion by Chenita Sanks, Columbus State University

4. Who Cares About Teachers' Health and Wellness? Unhealthy Teachers = Failing School Systems by John Beliard, Atlanta Public Schools; Kirsten Lupinski, Walden University

5. Contemporary Educational Leadership: Recyclable or Disposable? Pamela Lemoine, Dustin Worsley, Michael D. Richardson, Columbus State University

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Time Warp: 21st Century learners Adhere to the 19th Century School Calendar Model

By: Douglas Callahan


 

Introduction

 

It may sound like a premise for a science fiction adventure. Take a group of middle school students from the present day, take them back in time, and have them follow the school calendar from the 19th century. At this point in U.S. history, Americans were transitioning from the agrarian society of the 18th century to the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century and early 20th century and students traditionally took long breaks from school to assist their families in summer harvest responsibilities.

Would educational leaders today expect21st-century middle school learners to benefit academically from following an agrarian school calendar model conceived prior to the Civil War? Does research suggest a positive correlation between an annual ten-week learning break and middle school mathematics student achievement? Which groups of students are most significantly impacted by such long spans of time without formal education each summer? These are the questions explored in this research article.

In the United States, particularly at the middle school level, mathematics achievement has fallen behind many other industrialized nations. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranks the mathematics achievement of fifteen-year-old students in the United States as 27th out of 34 countries identified by OECD, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2012). Consequently, many U.S. school districts are seeking interventions that will improve student achievement in mathematics. One particular remedy is to employ an alternate school calendar model (Dessoff, 2011).

The traditional calendar utilized by the districts across the United States includes “one of the longest summer vacations in the Western world” (Barrett, 1990, p. 10). Traditional schedules, which include an average summer break of 10-12 weeks, accommodate the agricultural demands of the population over a century ago, yet the vast majority of school-aged children do not work in agriculture during the summer in the 21st century.

Early Studies


In 1978, Heyns’ study of 1128 sixth and seventh-grade students in Atlanta, Georgia, reported, “the gap between black and white children, and between low- and high-income children widens disproportionately during the months when schools are not in session” (p. 187). Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay and Greathouse (1996) conducted a meta- analysis project regarding the concept of summer fade (summer learning loss) and determined that approximately one month of grade level equivalency is lost each summer by students on a traditional calendar model. Lengthy summer breaks affect mathematical computation more so than reading levels because students are more likely to forget skills maintained through repetition, such as mathematical algorithms. This negative effect increases and compounds as students grow older.

The impact of such a lengthy vacation away from the classroom was studied extensively by John Hopkins University researchers Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle and Linda Olson. Their longitudinal study published in 2007, concluded that two-thirds of the achievement gap between low income and middle-income students can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result of this seminal research study, educational leaders and policymakers know that low-income students’ achievement regresses two months every summer, and this regression compounds as multiple summers without schooling pass. This phenomenon is known as “summer fade” (Donohue & Miller, 2008). With this knowledge in hand, is it not time to adjust to the reality of the present, rather than lean on the traditions of the distant past?

Researchers have found that summer fade is similar amongst middle and lower income students in the area of mathematics, as these students are less likely to practice mathematical skills outside of the formal classroom setting (Fairchild & Boulay, 2002). Fairchild and Boulay also contend that “all students experience significant learning loss in procedural and factual knowledge during the summer months” (2002, p. 2). Research suggests that students with shorter summer breaks are able to retain more knowledge learned during the school year, and therefore have less need for extensive review when the school year begins again in the fall (Kneese, 2000).

A growing number of local school districts across the country have adopted balanced school calendars, which schedule 180 school days more evenly throughout the year according to The National Association for Year-Round Education, known as NAYRE (2006). Although many calendar models exist, the most common model is 45 days of school followed by a 15-day break, with student intervention time built into the three-week period between academic grading terms. This model also allows for a four or five-week summer break, which is considerably shorter than the 10- 12 weeks of the traditional calendar (Winter, 2005).

Traditional summer school offers approximately three weeks of remediation after the conclusion of the school year, and is provided to students whose promotion to the next grade level is uncertain. Balanced calendars often offer a two- three week intervention period at the end of each 45-day academic term. As a result, intervention periods are more frequent, timelier, and offer additional days of instruction. In addition, these interventions are designed to address weaknesses within the last nine weeks of instruction, contrary to traditional summer school, which may attempt to address an entire year of academic weaknesses. The research is clear: low income and low performing students benefit from intervention periods more frequently than a single, traditional summer school session.

History

As a nation, why do we schedule 180 days of school limited to nine months of the year? In the United States, 46 of the 50 states require students to attend school for between 175- 180 days, or an equivalent number of hours (NAYRE, 2006). In a nation that upholds the principle that public education is largely a responsibility of the local school board, rather than a federal responsibility, the number of required school days is surprisingly consistent across the country. Historically however, this has not always been the case.

In the early 19th century, urban areas of the nation held school for eleven months of the year, primarily as a result of the large number of immigrants in the nation’s cities. Students needed to learn English and factory workplace skills so that they would be employable in the industrialized urban areas. Many urban areas funded schools to be open 250 days per year, and New York City schools were open year round, with the exception of a three-week break in August (Pedersen, 2012; Gewertz, 2009). In contrast, rural area schools were open only in the winter months, often in churches or one-room schoolhouses (Hermansen & Gove, 1971).

The trend towards school calendar consistency began in the 1850s when legislatures passed child labor laws, compulsory attendance laws, and minimum curriculum standards. Children were no longer working in the factories and fields; therefore, they were required to attend school (Pedersen, 2012; Gewertz, 2009). Compromises between representatives of the urban and rural areas of the states resulted in calendars similar to what we see today (Winkelmann, 2010). However, special exceptions and provisions were made for communities in agricultural areas with large fall harvests, which resulted in school closings in the months of September and October (Pedersen, 2012).

More than one hundred years later, in a national effort to avoid a “rising tide of mediocrity”, the groundbreaking report A Nation at Risk, published in 1983, urged schools to add more time to the typical 180-day calendar (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The report recommended an additional hour be added to the standard six-hour day, and that between 20 and 40 days be added to the standard 180-day calendar. At that time, achievement gaps were increasingly widening in the nation’s public schools and more instructional time was recommended for students to be able to achieve at higher levels, consequently closing these gaps (Pedersen, 2012; Gewertz, 2009).

According to the Center for American Progress (Rocha, 2008), between 1991- 2007, more than 300 initiatives across the nation were implemented to extend learning time. Many of these programs are found in high-poverty and high minority population schools in more than 30 states. In 1994, the estimated number of year-round schools increased to include 33 states and more than 1.5 million students (Shook, 1995). Contrastingly, in the year 2009, only 21% of Georgia students participated in summer learning programs. Conversely, 79% of the 1.67 million students in Georgia experienced little to no learning during the summer. Included in the same study, 86% of parents supported public funding for summer learning programs (America After 3 pm, 2010). More recently, President Barack Obama called for more days to be added to the school calendar, and advocated adjusting the traditional school calendar across the nation, in an effort to increase U.S. global competitiveness with countries whose students go to school 25% -30% longer than American students (Quaid, 2009).

The concept of year-round schools has several definitions. The National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE) defines year-round education (YRE) as the “reorganization of the school year to provide more continuous learning by dividing the long summer vacation into shorter, more frequent breaks. Students in YRE programs attend the same classes and receive the same amount of instruction as students on a nine- month calendar” (2006, p. 68). A balanced calendar refers to a calendar that includes 180 days of instruction, but those days are more evenly spread throughout the year, resulting in shorter, more frequent breaks and a shortened summer vacation (McMillen, 2001). An extended calendar refers to a calendar with more than 180 days per year, as is found in many of industrialized nations, with the United States being the primary exception.

Country/ Region # of School Days/ Yr
United States 180
Germany 240
Japan 243
Singapore 280
Scotland 200
New Zealand 190

(Statistics as reported by Neal, 2008; Quaid, 2009)

For those students on the traditional 180-day calendar, a summer break is considered a hallmark of the experience of growing up in the United States. A break of approximately 10-12 weeks is used by families for summer vacation, visits with extended family, athletic opportunities, and many other activities. However, students not enrolled in school for such a long period of time become victims of “summer fade”, a term that has been used by researchers as early as 1924 by Brueckner and Distad. The National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL) states that schools allow students to forget much of what was learned during the previous school year. Summer fade results in a conservative estimate of a two-month loss (one-month re-teaching and one month not learning new content, or 22%) of the school year (Fairchild and Boulay, 2002).

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a widely watched initiative entitled Massachusetts 2020 began in 2005 to expand learning time by providing districts with an additional $1300 per pupil when 30% more time is added to the district calendar (Gewertz, 2009). Federal legislation was introduced by the late Senator Edward Kennedy in 2008 that would match federal funds for other districts that followed the Massachusetts model (Farbman & Kaplan, 2005).

Conclusion

The United States has changed dramatically since the early 19th century. Students today must compete globally rather than locally for economic gain. “Since very few American students today have the same farming obligations as their predecessors from over a century ago and most buildings constructed in the past 20 years are equipped with the necessary climate control, the original obstacles for year-round education seem to have been removed (Pedersen, 2012, p. 56).

If policy makers are serious about global competitiveness and developing future American innovation and modernization, mathematics students from the United States must be able to compete with international students, many of whom already outperform American students, while simultaneously studying more days per year than current U.S. students. American students traditionally go to school fewer days than their Asian counterparts, while concurrently not attending school for 10- 12 weeks during the summer, adhering to both agrarian and family vacation traditions. In the age of globalization, we can no longer yield to outdated traditions if American students hope to both compete and lead the world on the global stage. U.S. student mathematical achievement must increase in the immediate future, and abbreviated school calendars and long traditional summer breaks do not positively impact the goal of global competitiveness (Dessoff, 2011, Winter, 2005).

On a foundational level, if communities agree that a middle school aged child should be attending school, then making the conscious choice to cancel school for a ten-week period every summer should be based on sound research, not on outdated agrarian traditions. Additionally, with longitudinal research concluding that the achievement gap both grows and compounds, and is directly linked to a lack of summer educational opportunities for low-income students (Alexander, Entwisle & Olson, 2007), the continued tradition of extended summer vacations becomes difficult to justify.

School calendars have remained unchanged for approximately 150 years, and therefore time travel and science fiction are unnecessary. In terms of school calendar models, public education still exists in the 19th century. Students today deserve better.

References

Alexander, K., Entwisle, D., & Olson, L. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72(2), 167- 180.

America after 3 pm-
special report on summer: missed opportunities, unmet demand. (2010) Wallace Foundation. Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/documents/Special_Report_on_Summer_052510.pdf

Barrett, M. (1990). The case for more school days. The Atlantic Monthly, 266(5), 78-106. Retrieved from

www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/educatio/barr2f.htm

Brueckner, L.J., & Distad, H. W. (1924). The effect of the summer vacation on the reading ability of first-grade children. The Elementary School Journal, 24, 698.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K. Lindsey, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996) The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: a narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227.

Dessoff, A. (2011). Is year-round schooling on track? District Administration. July/August 2011.

Donohue, N. & Miller, B. (2008). Stemming summer learning loss. New England Journal of Higher Education. 19-20.

Fairchild, R. & Boulay, M. (2002). What if 
summer learning loss were an education policy priority? Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

http://www.whatkidscando.org.

Farbman, D. & Kaplan, C. (2005). Time for change: the promise of extended-time schools for promoting achievement. Massachusetts 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from www.mass2020.org

Gewertz, C. (2008).
Consensus of learning time builds: interest in expanding hours for students to master academic, social and workplace skills is mounting. Education Week, (28)5, 48- 54.

Hermansen, K, & Gove, J. (1971). The year-round school; The 45- 15 breakthrough. Hamden, CN: Linnet Books.

Kneese, C.C. (2000). Teaching in tear round schools. ERIC Document no. ED449123.

McMillen, B. (2001). A statewide evaluation of academic achievement in year- round schools. Journal of Educational Research, 95(2), 67-74.

National Association for Year- Round Education (NAYRE) (2006). Retrieved October 27, 2014, from http://nayre.org/about.html.

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School Counselors’ and Administrators’ Perceptions of Appropriate Counselor Roles

By:

 

Tyra T. Bailey, Ph.D., Pass Christian School District;
Ursula O. Whitehead, Ph.D., Stone County School District;
Myron B. Labat, Ph.D., The University of Southern Mississippi

 


Abstract

The foundation of school counselor effectiveness has been successfully researched and developed through the American School Counseling Association for many years (ASCA, 2005). This study focused on the counselor’s theoretical roles as defined by the ASCA model versus the actual duties performed by school counselors within various school settings. An analysis of the differences in perceptions between principals and school counselors regarding the roles of school counselors has been studied.

This study investigates whether a difference exists in the perceptions of the school counselor’s role as identified by counselors versus the perceptions as identified by administrators. Based upon the analysis of the responses, there is a considerable difference in the roles outlined by ASCA as appropriate for school counselors and the roles that counselors actually perform. However, there was consistency reported between school counselors and administrators in terms of their perceptions of what duties counselors should be engaged in.

Introduction

The ASCA model serves as a guide for school counselors for implementing the prescribed roles within the school setting. This model outlines the counseling program in the following areas: foundation, delivery management, and accountability (ASCA, 2005). The ASCA model and the associated standards serve as the theoretical framework for this study. According to Amatea and Clark (2005), principals have a significant influence in shaping the roles of school counselors. However, counselors also play a significant part in shaping those roles (Amatea & Clark, 2005).

This study investigates whether a difference exists in the perceptions of the school counselor’s role as identified by counselors versus those the perceptions of administrators. Determining whether a discrepancy exists may provide policymakers, administrators, and counselors with a foundation for re-examining the responsibilities assigned to counselors and for determining whether these roles are ideal for meeting the needs of students.

Research Questions

1. Is there a difference between school counselors’ and principals’ perceptions of the appropriate roles of school counselors?

2. Is there a difference between the roles of school counselors as defined by ASCA and the roles that are actually performed by school counselors?

The hypotheses related to the research questions were as follows:

H1: A difference exists in the perceptions of school counselors and principals in terms of the appropriate roles of school counselors.

H2: A difference exists in the roles of school counselors as defined by ASCA and the roles that are actually performed by school counselors.

Review of Literature

Studies have shown that students who participate in comprehensive school counseling programs benefit academically, behaviorally, and socially (Dahir, Burnham, & Stone, 2009). ASCA (2005) revised the role of the professional school counselor to reinforce the importance of the comprehensive school counseling program and emphasize the skills that are necessary to implement the program. The comprehensive school counseling program should promote student achievement by incorporating leadership, advocacy, and collaboration (Dahir et al., 2009).

Accountability

School counselors have been asked to use accountability practices that demonstrate the effectiveness of comprehensive counseling programs (Housley, McDaniel, & Underwood, 1990; Nims, James, & Hughey, 1998; White, 2007). ASCA included an accountability component in its national model. The model emphasizes the use of data-driven programs within schools.

Accountability can be defined in several ways (Perera-Diltz & Mason, 2010). Stone and Dahir (2007) define accountability as being able to present documentation of the results of various professional activities. Myrick (2003) defined accountability as being able to account for one’s actions in establishing objectives, implementing procedures, and using results for program improvement.

Methodology

Participants

Participants for the study consisted of secondary level school counselors, principals, and assistant principals employed in a southern state. The school counselors and administrators who participated in this study were not necessarily employed in the same school or school district. For the purpose of this study, secondary level counselors and administrators were studied exclusively due to the higher prevalence of school counselors employed at this level and the degree to which they traditionally perform non-counselor related duties.

Secondary level counselors and administrators were asked to analyze the roles and responsibilities of school counselors. The target sample included 190 counselors and 272 administrators from 101 schools within 50 school districts from a southern state. Fifty-three counselors and 66 administrators responded to the survey. This represented a return rate of 28% for counselors and 24% for administrators. The participants in this study consisted of a diverse sample of secondary school counselors and administrators from various areas and schools throughout this particular southern state.

The School Counseling Activity Rating Scale (SCARS) was used to gather data for the study. The instrument will be described in more detail in the instrumentation section. A pilot test was administered to 20 participants prior to conducting the study in order to ensure the reliability of the instrument. The data from the pilot test were analyzed using SPSS. The Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient test was used to determine reliability for each subscale. The instrument yielded a reliability of greater than 0.70 for all subscales, with the exception of two, which produced reliability results of .68 and .61. Because these Cronbach’s alpha tests were only slightly below the 0.70 level, the questions were retained in the SCARS instrument. The two subscales addressed perceptions of what counselors should do in the areas of Consultation and Other Activities as shown in Table 1. The validation process and results are explained in “The School Counselor Activity Rating Scale: An Instrument for Gathering Process Data” (Scarborough, 2005).

Table 1

 

School Counselor (n=52) Administrator (n=66)
Mean SD Mean SD
Counseling Activities Should Do 3.50 .41 3.48 .42
Counseling Activities Actually Do 2.77 .55 2.78 .66
Consultation Activities Should Do 3.30 .48 3.28 .47
Consultation Activities Actually Do 2.90 .61 2.72 .67
Curriculum Activities Should Do 3.08 .64 3.11 .69
Curriculum Activities Actually Do 1.90 .64 2.06 .73
Coordination Activities Should Do 3.31 .43 3.25 .41
Coordination Activities Actually Do 2.72 .53 2.58 .64
Other Activities Should Do 2.42 .47 2.85 .40
Other Activities Actually Do 2.62 .35 2.69 .36

Counselors’ and Administrators’ perceptions on counseling activities

Ratings ranged from 1(strongly disagree)- 4(strongly agree)

Instrumentation

The SCARS instrument was developed by Scarborough (2005) to gather and process data regarding how counselors actually spend their time versus how they would prefer to spend their time. The instrument was revised for the current study to assess whether school counselors and principals agreed with the stated roles and whether the counselors were actually performing these stated
roles.

As shown in Table 1 there are 48 items divided into five
subscales of counselor roles: Counseling Activities, Consultation Activities, Curriculum Activities, Coordination Activities, and Other Activities.

The instrument consisted of eight demographic questions. The participant had the following options for selecting their position within their school district: guidance counselor, assistant principal, and principal. Items were divided into
subscales under the following categorical constructs: Counseling, Consultation, Curriculum, Coordination, and Other Activities. Items 1-10 addressed the counseling sub-scale, while items 11-17 addressed the consultation sub-scale. Items 18-25 describe the curriculum sub-scale, and items 26-38 were associated with the coordination subscale. Lastly, items 39-48 addressed the sub-scale of “Other Activities” that are not aligned with the ASCA model. The 48 items in section III were divided into two sections. Each section was constructed using a 4-point Likert-type rating scale consisting of the following ratings: strongly disagree, disagree, agree, and strongly agree.

Procedures

The research design for this study regarding the roles of school counselors was non-experimental and employed quantitative methodology. Data were gathered from the SCARS instrument completed by secondary level counselors and principals. The instrument focused on analyzing whether the activities assigned to secondary level counselors were aligned to the ASCA model, which is regarded in the counseling field as best practices for effectively supporting student needs. The areas of focus included counseling, consultation, curriculum, and coordination. The questionnaire also included non-counseling activities that were not aligned to the ASCA model.

The reliability and internal consistency of the variables were explored further during the actual study using Cronbach’s Alpha. A Cronbach’s alpha test of coefficient reliability was performed on each set of items to determine how well each set of items measured a single construct. The Cronbach’s alpha test for each sub-scale yielded a reliability of greater than 0.70 with the exception of the Other Activities category. The Other Activities section under Part B provided a Cronbach’s alpha of .51. However, this category was maintained in the study to illustrate the wide variety of non-counseling duties.

Results

Results of this study indicate that school counselors perform many tasks that are not aligned with tasks identified as ideal by the ASCA national model. By performing non-counseling related tasks, many students may not be receiving the vast array of services and benefits that school counselors can offer. School counselors must continue to advocate for appropriate roles that are aligned with the ASCA standards while also continuing to build community and team with the faculty, staff, and the administration.

The findings in this study support the need for greater communication and understanding between counselors and administrators when it comes to determining appropriate roles for school counselors. Although the results point to school counselors spending a considerable amount of time performing non-counseling related duties, there was consistency reported in the perceptions of counselors and administrators on identifying the counseling related tasks that counselors should be engaged in. This consistency could point to
idea that administrators are aware of the tasks that counselors should be engaged in, but may be reluctant to reassign those non-counseling related duties to other staff members.

The task of coordinating the standardized testing program yielded the highest mean in the area of Other Activities. The Other Activities section included tasks that are not aligned with the ASCA model. If counselors are spending most of their time coordinating the testing program, performing clerical duties, assigning discipline, and other non-counseling duties, they are likely to experience greater difficulty in adequately fulfilling the tasks that are upheld by the counseling profession, and aligned to the ASCA Model. More importantly, this may present greater barriers for counselors being able to adequately meet the needs of students.

Several other major findings emerged as a result of this study. Significant differences were found in the perceptions of what tasks counselors should be engaged in, as defined by ASCA, and the duties that they are actually performing in the areas of Counseling, Coordination, Curriculum, Consultation, and Other Activities. School counselors are engaged in more non-counseling duties than they perceive as appropriate. This is illustrated in Table 2

Paired Samples Test of Counseling Activities

Pair t df Sig.

(2-tailed)
Counseling Activities Should Do/Actually Do 9.17 52 <.001
Consultation Activities Should Do/Actually Do 5.42 52 <.001
Curriculum Activities Should Do/Actually Do 10.38 52 <.001
Coordination Activities Should Do/Actually Do 9.08 52 <.001
Other Activities Should Do/Actually Do -2.79 51 .007

The magnitude of the effect of school counselors’ and principals’ perceptions of appropriate roles for school counselors (H1) yielded a partial eta square of .261 indicating a small effect. The magnitude of the effect of differences reported in the roles of school counselors as defined by ASCA and the roles that are actually performed by school counselors (H2) yielded the following effects respectively: counseling activities, a partial eta square of .618 indicating a large effect; consultation activities, a partial eta square of .361 indicating a moderate effect; curriculum activities, a partial eta square of .674 indicating a large effect; coordination activities, a partial eta square of .613 indicating a large effect; and other activities, a partial eta square of .134 indicating a small effect.

Discussion

Recommendations for policy and practice include policymakers establishing policies and procedures to enforce consistent implementation of the ASCA model as well as encouraging colleges and universities to incorporate classes or modules on school counseling as a part of the curriculum for educational administration and principal preparation programs. It is also recommended that administrators seek to support and encourage the roles of school counselors that are aligned with the ASCA model, thereby providing school counselors a greater opportunity to focus their efforts on tasks that impact student achievement. Finally, recommendations for counselors include embracing the role of leadership within the scope of the counseling profession and advocating for appropriate roles while also implementing a system of accountability that clearly demonstrates their value.

References

Amatea, E. & Clark, M.A. (2005). Changing schools, changing counselors: A qualitative study of school administrators’ conceptions of the counselor’s role. Professional School Counseling, 9(1), 16-27.

American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (2nded.). Alexandria, VA: Author.

Dahir, C., Burnham, J., & Stone, C. (2009). Listen to the voices: School counselors and comprehensive school counseling programs. Professional School Counseling, 12(3), 182-192.

Housley, W. F., McDaniel, L. C., & Underwood, J. R. (1990). Mandated assessment of counselors in Mississippi. School Counselor, 37(4), 294-302.

Myrick, R. D. (2003). Accountability: Counselors count. Professional School Counseling, 6(3), 174-189.

Nims, D., James, S., &Hughey, A. (1998). The challenge of accountability: A survey of Kentucky school counselors. Kentucky Counseling Association Journal, 31-37.

Perera-Diltz, D., & Mason, K. (2010). An exploration of accountability practices of school counselors: A national study. Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, and Research, 38(1), 52-70.

Scarborough, J. L. (2005). The school counselor activity rating scale: An instrument for gathering process data. Professional School Counseling, 8(3), 274-283.

Stone, C. B., & Dahir, C. A. (2007). School counselor accountability: A M.E.A.S.U.R.E. of student success (2nded.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

White, F. A. (2007). The professional school counselor’s challenge: Accountability. Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory, and Research, 35(2), 62-70.

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Georgia School Principals’ Attitudes Toward Inclusion

By: Chenita Sanks, Ph.D., Columbus State University



Introduction

Inclusion is defined as integrating students with disabilities for the majority of the day or to the maximum extent appropriate into a general education classroom (Gordon, 2006; Ramirez, 2006). In an inclusion environment, the support services are brought to the students with disabilities (SWD) in a general education classroom (Gordon, 2006; Ramirez, 2006). Swain, The concept and practice of inclusion were created to address the lack of educational opportunities for students with disabilities with Nordness, and Leader-Janssen (2012) suggesting that there are three dimensions to inclusion: a student with disabilities must be placed in the same classroom with their non-disabled counterparts and removed to a more restricted environment if necessary; peer and teacher relationships are fostered within a general education setting; and finally, children with disabilities should be taught using the same curriculum as their non-disabled peers with adjustments to meet their individual needs.

The History of Inclusion

Prior to the 1970s, more than eight million children with disabilities (70%) were educated in separate classrooms or facilities apart from students without disabilities (Gordon, 2006). The separation of disabled from non-disabled peers raised two questions. The first question was whether students with disabilities receiving an education in separate classrooms or facilities from their non-disabled peers received a quality education (Gordon, 2006). The second question was whether students with disabilities benefitted academically as a result of being placed in a general education classroom (Gordon, 2006).

Early laws addressing the education of students with disabilities included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the Education of the Handicapped Act of 1970

addressed the education of students with disabilities (Faircloth, 2004; Gordon, 2006). Additionally, Congress passed The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, known as Section 50, which addressed the prevention of discrimination of students with disabilities. Two years later, Congress passed broader legislation concerning the rights of students with disabilities in the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) of 1975 to ensure:

to the maximum extent appropriate, handicapped children…are educated with children who are not handicapped, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of handicapped children from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. (p. 6)

This piece of legislation also provided opportunities for students with disabilities to attend the same school in their neighborhood as their nondisabled peers (Bowen & Rude, 2006). EAHCA of 1975 was a precursor to Public law 94-142, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known today as IDEA. The IDEA of 1990 was eventually reauthorized as the IDEA of 2004, emphasizing standardized achievement levels including that of students with disabilities holding them not only to the same curriculum but to the same accountability measures on standardized tests as their non-disabled peers (Bowen & Rude, 2006; Faircloth, 2004; Gordon, 2006; Turnbull, 2005).

The Importance of Inclusion

Inclusion is critical for implementing the principles of IDEA. Under inclusion, or full inclusion, schools meet the requirements of IDEA by integrating students with disabilities for the majority of the day or all day in a least restrictive environment (LRE), in which they are taught or exposed to the general education curriculum. Least restrictive environment (LRE) – P.L. 101-476, defines LRE as: to the maximum extent appropriate, handicapped children… are educated with children who are not handicapped, and that the special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of handicapped children from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes with use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily (Beninghof & Singer, 1995).

Moreover, if students with disabilities are being tested based on the general education curriculum, they should be provided with an environment marked by “higher expectations, appropriate role models, and true opportunities for generalization of skills” (Rea & Walther-Thomas, 2002, p. 204). As a result, students with disabilities experience improved outcomes (Rea & Walther-Thomas, 2002).

Students also benefit socially from inclusion, because inclusion provides all children with a sense of belonging (Gordon, 2006).

School personnel, especially school administrators, play a critical role in making sure that students with disabilities are placed in the least restrictive environment appropriate. The extent that students receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restricted environment depends on administrators’ attitudes toward inclusion. While there are increasingly more studies of principals’ attitudes toward inclusion of students with disabilities, there is limited research on elementary, middle, and high school principals’ attitudes toward inclusion in the state of Georgia.

Principals’ Perception of Inclusion

Fifty-eight school principals in Georgia participated in a study in 2009. The 58 Georgia principals were employed in districts under 11 Regional Education Service Agencies (RESA). The majority were principals who served in elementary schools; principals with three years or less experience; principals who served six years or less at their current school; principals who were male and were white; principals who held an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.)Degree; principals who held at least one degree in education; and principals with a background of zero to three special education courses. The elementary principals were employed in schools with 51%-100% of students who received free or reduced lunch and were employed in districts with fewer than 5,000 students. Finally, the majority of principals classified their schools as the schools where the majority of students with disabilities were served under Partial Inclusion, meaning the special education teacher co-teaches or provides collaboration in the general education classroom for students with disabilities; the students with disabilities were not pulled out of general educational classes for remediation.

The researcher examined two major issues dealing with principals’ attitudes toward inclusion. The first issue regarding principals’ attitudes toward inclusion concerned professional development for inclusion. The second major issue was resources (human resources, teaching resources, and funding).

While Georgia’s principals’ attitudes toward inclusion of students with disabilities are generally positive, the majority of principals agreed or strongly agreed on the following professional development issues regarding inclusion: regular or general education teachers were not trained adequately to cope with students with disabilities (62.9%); teacher aides, or paraprofessionals were not trained adequately to cope with students with disabilities (66.7%); and principals are inadequately trained to cope with students with disabilities (58.5%).

Study responses on resources, 54 principals reported their perception of inclusion concerning personnel and teaching resources. Thirty-one principals reported their perception of inclusion concerning funding. On resources (personnel, teaching resources, and funding), a narrow majority of principals (46.29%) perceived that the lack of access to other professionals (e.g., occupational and speech therapists) does not make inclusion difficult. The majority of principals (59.3%) perceived that their school does not have sufficient teaching resources to cope with inclusion. Finally, the majority of principals (74.1%) perceived that there was sufficient funding to permit effective inclusion. How does this study compare with recent research?

Professional Development

Researchers Jacobs, Tonnsen, & Baker (2004), DiPaola, Tschannen-Moran, & Walther-Thomas (2004, Di Paola and Walter-Thomas (2003), and Barnett and Monda-Amaya (1998) found that principals perceived that teachers were not adequately trained to cope with disabled students’ needs in the general classroom. In a study of how special education services were provided in four elementary schools and four secondary schools (two middle schools and two high schools) in a large, metropolitan school district in a southwestern city, Idol (2006) found although principals and teachers had positive attitudes toward inclusion, more professional development related to inclusion was needed. In his study of secondary school principals in Georgia, Smith (2011) reported administrators who have had formal and in-service training in the area of supporting and training teachers to deal with inclusion had more positive attitudes toward inclusion. This data supports the perception that there is a greater need for special education training for new administrators coming into the field (Smith, 2011). However, the findings of the aforementioned articles are in slight contrast with Brown’s (2007) finding, in which she reported that general education teachers were trained adequately to cope with students with disabilities, but paraprofessionals and principals were not trained adequately to cope with students with disabilities.

Resources

In terms of human resources, a narrow majority principals disagreed that a lack of professionals, such as occupational and speech therapists, would not make inclusion difficult. Their responses were similar to administrators’ responses in Brown’s (2007) study in which administrators disagreed that the lack of occupational and speech therapists would make inclusion difficult. In terms of funding, the majority of principals believed that there was insufficient funding for inclusion. Moreover, principals reported insufficient teaching resources for inclusion. The principals’ perceptions in the inadequacy of teaching resources and funding were also similar to Brown’s (2007) study.

Mullings (2011) also reported a similar concern among administrators with regard to funding and inclusion. In her study, all administrators expressed a concern about inadequate funding to hire more teachers. One administrator, in Mullings’ (2011) study stated, “Budget hampers the process, the inability to hire the right staff, and access to well-qualified teachers. There are many different resources, equipment, technology, and training available to prepare teachers and not having the funding to do so is frustrating” (p. 71). In another study conducted by Moore (2005), participants who consisted of teachers and principals generated a list of additional organizational supports that were not specified in the survey: the building principal, parent cooperation, and financial resources for instructional materials (Moore, 2005).

The Implications of Principals’ Attitudes toward Students with Disabilities

The role of district-level leaders and principals was to ensure their schools are implementing the core principles of IDEA. Among those principles was ensuring that students with disabilities received a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment as the students were accountable to the same general education curriculum standards as their non-disabled peers. The principal’s role was to implement services meeting the needs of students with disabilities in order to meet the mandates of IDEA. Two barriers that might slow progress for successful implementation of inclusion were the inadequacy of teacher and administrator preparation in working with students with disabilities in an educational setting and the sufficiency of human, material, and financial resources.

Odom, Buysse, & Soukakou (2011) supported the aforementioned, through their summary points, which reported adequate financial and human resources were necessary. Adequate support included having key support at the administrative level committing resources for professional development, ongoing collaboration, and time for communication and planning among general education and special education teachers (Odom et al., 2011). These supports were essential in order to make sure programs and personnel were ready for children with a variety of needs, rather than children with disabilities. Adequate support was important because traditional professional development typically did not develop teachers and staff to meet the individual learning needs of children, specifically young children with disabilities (Odom et al., 2011).

Educators, especially administrators, were legally responsible for facilitating special education programs within their schools under IDEA (Pazey & Cole, 2013). IDEA required schools to deliver to students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Schools were required to provide whatever accommodations and modifications are needed regardless of the cost and whether or not the program is underfunded (Pazey & Cole, 2013). Moreover, this endeavor required commitment, understanding, and creativity on the part of the administrator, for special education as a law issue, could be the most litigious educational law issue school administrators faced (Pazey & Cole, 2013). Parents, advocates, lawyers, and government agencies may successfully hold administrators, instructional personnel, and the districts accountable for their failures to meet the instructional needs of students with disabilities; lawsuits could be costly for districts (Pazey & Cole, 2013).

The Implications for Schools and School Districts

The following course of action should be considered: first, teacher education programs and educational leadership programs in colleges and universities should provide more special education courses to teachers and principals. This course of action was supported by Farris’ (2011) findings that the majority of high school principals in Texas received formal training in special education law and basic procedures in special education, but very little in inclusion. Moreover, Farris reported principals with no in-service training on the needs of students with severe/profound disabilities more often recommended these students are put in a more restrictive environment, a move which suggested that principals need more professional training on how to integrate severe/profound students in a general education setting (Farris, 2011). This move was also supported by Galano (2012) who recommended colleges and universities need to be more proactive in providing more special education training, specifically through the integration of special education topics: (1) behavior management classes, (2) special education law, and (3) crisis intervention. Moreover, these special education courses could be coupled with field experiences in working with students disabilities; training could improve teachers’ and administrators’ preparation for coping with students with disabilities.

Rodriguez (2007) reported the need for special education courses to be combined with practical experience in education programs. In his study, three elementary principals reported that they were offered a course on special education topics (e.g., special education law, IDEA, Section 504), but special education courses were scarce (Rodriguez, 2007). Moreover, the three elementary principals were not offered direct experiences with students with disabilities (Rodriguez, 2007). However, principals should be willing to pursue the opportunity to gain knowledge through professional development about full inclusion practices and its benefits (Johnson, 2011).

Second, school systems across the state should continue to offer workshops and professional development to principals, general education teachers, and paraprofessionals to properly meet the needs of students with disabilities. Weller (2012) reported, specifically for children with autism, school districts must consider professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators. Seigler (2003), who studied middle school principals in Georgia, reported that although there was limited data on how principals received professional development, there was evidence that the majority of the principals attend local workshops, regional workshops, and college courses. Finally, educational leaders such as superintendents, curriculum specialists, and special education directors should offer more training and collaborate with principals and teachers to ensure that they receive sufficient resources and funding for a successful inclusion program.

Conclusion

The concept and practice of inclusion were created to address the lack of educational opportunities for students with disabilities. States have been proactive in placing students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment and by preparing teachers and administrators to work with students with disabilities. Placing disabled students in the least restrictive environment with their nondisabled peers has generated a more positive perception of inclusion through the years among educators. School principals generally have a positive attitude toward inclusion. However, principals reported the necessity to have access to more professional development and resources (financial and material) to make inclusion programs successful.

References

Barnett, C. & Monda-Amaya, L.E. (1998). Principals' knowledge of and attitudes toward inclusion. Remedial and Special Education, 19(3), 181-192.

Brown, L. A. (2007) Attitudes of administrators toward inclusion of students with disabilities. Ph.D. dissertation, Starkville, MS: Mississippi State University.

Bowen, S. K., & Rude, H. A. (2006). Assessment and students with disabilities: Issues and challenges with educational reform. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 25(3), 24-30.

DiPaola, M., Tschannen-Moran, M., &Walther-Thomas, C. (2004). School principals and special education: Creating the context for academic success. Focus on Exceptional Children, 37(1), 1-10.

DiPaola, M. F., & Walther-Thomas, C. (2003). Principals and special education: The critical role of school leaders. University of Florida: Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education. Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EAHCA),

Faircloth, S. C. (2004). Understanding the impact of U.S. federal education policies on the education of children and youth with disabilities. International Studies In Educational Administration, 32(2), 32-46.

Farris, T. K. (2011). Texas high school principals' attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. (Order No. 3486477, University of North Texas). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 96.

Galano, J. A. (2012). Urban elementary school principals' attitudes toward the inclusive environment. (Order No. 3520932, Seton Hall University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 130.

Gordon, S. (2006). Making sense of the inclusion debate under IDEA. Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, (1), 189-225.

Harris, J. D. (2009). Elementary school assistant principals' attitudes toward inclusion of special needs students in the general education setting. (Order No. 3399046, Texas Woman's University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 124-n/a.

Idol, L. (2006). Toward of Special Education Students in General Education. Remedial & Special Education, 27(2), 77-94.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C.§ 1400 et seq
.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004''.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. 34 C.F.R. 300 et seq.

Jacobs, J. E., Tonnsen, S., & Baker, L. C. (2004). Shaping the role of the principal in special education: What do we know and where do we need to go? The AASAJournal of Scholarship and Practice, 1(1), 7-13.

Johnson, M. M. (2011). Practices and perceptions of northern plains elementary principals regarding inclusion for elementary students with special needs. (Order No. 3458126, University of South Dakota). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 96.

Landry, M. M. (2011). Special education and principals: What gets taught in Georgia K12 educational leadership preparation programs. (Order No. 3475046, Capella University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 116.

Moore, B. (2005). Perceptions of teachers and administrators of the organizational supports for inclusion programs in southwest Florida elementary schools. (Order No. 3188125, University of Central Florida). ProQuest Dissertations and
Theses,  126-126 p.

Mullings, S. E. (2011). Full inclusion: The least restrictive environment. (Order No. 3510927, University of Phoenix). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 148.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, § 115, Stat. 1425 (2002).

Odom, S. L., Buysse, V., & Soukakou, E. (2011). Inclusion for young children with disabilities: A quarter century of research perspectives. Journal Of Early Intervention, 33(4), 344-356. doi:10.1177/1053815111430094.

Pazey, B.L., & Cole, H.A. (2013). The role of special education training in the develop of socially just leaders: Building an equity consciousness in educational leadership programs.

Educational Administration Quarterly, 49(2), 243-270.

Praisner, C. L. (2003). Attitudes of elementary school principals toward the inclusion of students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 69(2), 135.

Ramirez, R. C. (2006). Elementary principals' attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education setting. (Order No. 3216381, Baylor University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 114-114 p.

Rea, P. J., McLaughlin, V. L., & Walther-Thomas, C. (2002). Outcomes for students with learning disabilities in inclusive and pullout programs. Exceptional Children, 68(2), 203-223.

Rodriguez, C. M. (2007). A qualitative assessment of elementary principals' preparation for special education leadership. (Order No. 3289187, The University of Texas at San Antonio). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 272.

Seigler, M.A. (2003). Georgia middle school principals' perceptions toward inclusion. (Order No. 3092461, Georgia Southern University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 174- 174 p.

Smith, C. W. (2011). Attitudes of secondary school principals toward inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classes. (Georgia Southern University). Electronic Theses & Dissertations, 368.

Stith, A. L. (2013). Principals' attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities. (Order No. 3578045, University of Phoenix). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 170.

Swain, K. D., Nordness, P. D., & Leader-Janssen, E. M. (2012). Changes in preservice teacher attitudes toward inclusion. Preventing School Failure, 56(2), 75-81.

Turnbull, I. (2005). Individuals with disabilities education act reauthorization: Accountability and personal responsibility. Remedial & Special Education, 26(6), 320-326.

Weller, L. G. (2012). Principals' attitudes toward inclusion: Including students with autism in elementary classrooms. (Order No. 3506348, Indiana University of Pennsylvania). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 173.


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Who Cares About Teachers’ Health and Wellness?
Unhealthy Teachers = Failing School Systems


By:

 

Dr. John Beliard, Atlanta Public Schools

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski, Walden University



Introduction

No one can deny the importance of education and more importantly, the influence teachers have on students’ academic success. In our youth, many of us have been influenced by a teacher who has impacted our lives well into adulthood, inclusive of our career decisions. Teachers are unique and special individuals that provide children not only with the knowledge but also the skills to be successful in school and their future aspirations. In today’s educational climate where students’ success on standardized tests determines the fate of educators, it has become imperative that teachers have the needed resources to be successful, which should include an overall sense of personal health and wellness.

There are many tasks and duties in which teachers are not monetarily compensated. Education is an occupation where employees often behave as parental figures to students who are lacking them. As role models, teachers are charged with preparing students for success in areas such as math, science, reading, and technology (Center on Education Policy, 2005, 2007). Along with academics, the health of teachers and students is just as vital as learning academic subjects. Concerns about health have given rise to health and wellness programs such as the popular “Let’s Move” initiative spearheaded by current First Lady Michelle Obama. The Let’s Move initiative was first developed to fight the ever growing concern of childhood obesity. It provides strategies for kids and parents to make healthy choices and includes information and programs on nutrition and physical activity (Let’s Move, 2014). Many positive programs have come out of this government funded program. “Chef’s Move to Schools” is one such program, which pairs chefs in the community with local schools in order to make the school’s meals healthier and improve the student’s nutritional intake (http://www.chefsmovetoschools.org).

U.S. Department of Education funding is targeted to initiatives such as No Child Left Behind Act (2001). This act, initiated in 2001 under former President George W. Bush was intended to close the achievement gap. No Child Left Behind is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, enacted under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. The first version of ESEA (1965) was targeted to improve education and provide equity for all students regardless of income level. NCLB (2001) was implemented in order to provide funding and resources to give all students a better public education and became one of the largest federal spending programs P12 programs. This act not only provided funding for schools, but ensured that schools were testing students in the core subjects of math and reading with requirements to meet yearly learning goals (Center on Education Policy, 2005).

The Common Core, developed in 2009 by the Council of Chief State Schools Office and the National Governors Association (2010), is one of the most recent academic programs designed to ensure uniform teaching and curriculum and setting learning goals for each grade level. Common Core provided guidelines for what students should know and be able to accomplish in math and English in grades K-12 (LaVenia, 2010).

There are numerous programs at the state and federal level, which are geared toward students’ academic success in core subject areas (Kersting, 2003). Although these programs are to be commended, it is difficult to determine whether or not they have actually closed the achievement gap or increased the nation’s education ranking (Center on Education Policy, 2007). OECD data indicates that even with these programs in place, the US is still behind in education when compared to other countries (OECD, 2013). Education Week indicated that the US ranks in the bottom 50% in education efficiency, ranking 19 out of 30 countries (Education Week, 2014). This ranking suggests which countries deliver the best value of education for their money. In addition, the Program for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2013) administered math, science, and reading assessments in 65 countries in 2012. Results from this test put the US at 36th out of the 65 countries that participated in the testing (OECD, 2013). This exam, a worldwide benchmark in math, science and reading, did not rank U.S. students in the top 20 countries in any of these subject areas. When looking at the countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US ranked 17th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading out of 34 countries (OECD, 2014).

Student-centered programs should also include components that address teachers’ and students’ health and wellness (Bajorek, Gulliford, & Taskila, 2014). Along with academic programs for children, teachers’ well-being should become a focus, with the possibility that positive results will have a significant impact on students’ academic success. Therefore, it is time to look at another approach, one that will afford teachers the same opportunities as students to become healthier. Changes in teacher wellness, or adjustments to those wellness programs that already exist, may improve teachers’ and students’ health and wellbeing (Bajorek, Gulliford, & Taskila, 2014).

The teaching profession is a very stressful occupation, which plays a role in not only the health of teachers and also their career length (Haberman, 2005). Teachers deal with stress on a daily basis, and many leave the profession due to stress (Minarik, Thornton, &Perrault, 2003; Skybo &Buck, 2007). The attrition rate is even higher for novice teachers, who often leave the profession within 5 years of entering (Hanushek, 2007). Teaching is an occupation that is “emotionally taxing and potentially frustrating” (Lambert, O’Donnell, Kusherman, & McCarthy, 2007, p. 9). Researchers suggest teachers’ well-being influence their attendance, performance, retention and overall health (Kolbe et al., 2005). According to Tye and O’Brien (2003), poor well-being is the main reason teachers quit the profession. Implementing a wellness program in schools can reduce attrition, and help teachers with a variety of health-related issues, such as obesity and diabetes

(Kolbe, Tirozzi, Marx, Bobbitt-Cooke, Riedel, Jones, & Schmoyer, 2005). More than 24% of teachers indicated stress-related problems from the job created various health issues for them, which included gastrointestinal disorders, depression, insomnia, and hypertension (Haberman, 2005).

All occupations have challenges, but educators have unique emotional and mental stressors (Kolbe, Tirozzi, Marx, Bobbitt-Cooke, Riedel, Jones, & Schmoyer, 2005). Various contextual issues are linked to the manifestation of burnout in educators, who face the pressures of raising test scores, disciplinary issues, crowded classrooms, and the lack of support from parents and administrators (Kokkinos, 2007; McCarthy, Lambert, O’Donnell, & Melendres, 2009). Public school leaders have the ability and the power to motivate, revitalize, and keep teachers healthy (Kersting, 2003). It has been noted that administrative support and encouragement of wellness programs has a positive effect on the educational setting (Davies, Davies, & Heacock, 2003).

Socioeconomic factors have long played a role not only in a school’s success rate and ranking but also in the health and wellbeing of teachers (Bajorek, Gulliford, & Taskila, 2014). Schools that benefit from parental involvement and adequate funding usually enjoy high academic success and maintain healthy teachers (Baptiste, 2008). Unfortunately, teachers in Title I schools (schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families) experience greater difficulties; they teach children from low-socioeconomic homes, which contributes to higher teacher turnover and absenteeism in Title I schools (McKinney, Berry, & Campbell-Whately, 2007). Teachers in Title I schools face far more issues (low funding, lack of resources, higher stress rates, unsafe or unhealthy environments) than those that do not have the status. It seems logical that teachers in Title I schools would get paid more and be given more health related assistance than their counterparts because they face more challenges and should be compensated based on the challenges they face on a daily basis (Bajorek, Gulliford, & Taskila, 2014). However, the truth is teachers in such settings (Title I schools) have more health related issues.

What can be done to address this issue and improve the health and wellbeing of teachers? Many big companies have grasped the knowledge that healthy employees equate to more productivity, less absenteeism and consequently higher profits (Berry, Marabito, & Braun, 2010). Businesses such as Google, Yahoo, and Johnson & Johnson understand the value of having healthy employees, which is why they have implemented various forms of wellness programs. Johnson and Johnson initiated a wellness program in 2003 and have seen tremendous benefits over the past 10 years. Their employees have reduced their smoking rates by 2/3rds since 2009, 50% of employees have seen a reduction in blood pressure and they estimate they have saved $250 million in healthcare over the past 10 years (Berry, Marabito, & Braun, 2010).

Some U.S. school systems do focus on health and wellness; however, unlike employee wellness programs that focus on employees, the majority of school wellness programs focus on children, particularly in light of the obesity epidemic (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2012).Implementation of school wellness programs for teachers/school employees pales in comparison to employee wellness programs in the business sector (Kolbe et al., 2005). Many would agree that these corporations have the funding to provide a sound wellness program, and school systems are barely meeting the educational needs of the students therefore not having any funds to address teacher wellness (Kolbe et al., 2005). Public-school leaders and the government have the ability and the power to motivate, revitalize, and keep teachers healthy. It has been noted that administrative support and encouragement of wellness programs has a positive effect on the educational setting (Davies, Davies, & Heacock, 2003).

Action Steps

There are ways that school districts can take action and address teacher health and wellness even without the budget that most business sector employee wellness programs have (Directors for Health Promotions and Education, 2005). Schools can take small strides by collaborating with local fitness clubs and offer free or discounted membership to teachers in the local school districts (Vail, 2005). For example, some school districts some states offers their employees discounts as local fitness centers (Grunbaum, Rutman, & Sathrum, 2001). Teachers simply have to provide proof of employment in order to receive this discount. There are other school districts that have implemented similar programs; Independence, Missouri school district and Beacon City School District in Beacon, New York (Centers for Disease Control, 2003). Activity programs with minimal or no compensation and involve physical education instructors providing fitness classes in the afternoon to all school district employees, are another way to incorporate health and wellness into school districts (Vail, 2005). The majority of school districts have a nutritional services employee who is either a registered dietician or nutritionist that could provide teachers with basic nutrition guidelines, recommendations or other information (Directors for Health Promotion and Education, 2005).

Connecting with community health and wellness professionals; such as doctors, nurses, health educators, nutritionists, local colleges, and universities can all be cost effective ways to educate teachers on a variety of health and wellness issues (Vail, 2005). For example, Charleston County School District in South Carolina has partnered with local health organizations to promote health and wellness in the schools not only for students, but staff as well. Every school district in the county has an active wellness committee that has led a charge to change the school environment to support healthy nutrition and encourage physical activity (Grunbaum, Rutman, & Sathrum, 2001; Directors for Health Promotion and Education, 2005).

Educators should have the power to influence educational decision makers to dedicate resources and funding for teacher health and wellness initiatives. Many decisions that are made for educators are by non-educators who have never been in the classroom and assume to know what’s best for both academics as well as morale and health. Many times it is as simple as educating these individuals on changes that can be made that will not only benefit teachers, but the overall school district in multiple ways; such as lower absenteeism rates (students and teachers), lower health care costs, higher student tests scores and grades. These small steps are a first step to taking action and making teachers healthier and in essence more productive in the classroom and educating today’s students.

References

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marks? Establishing a link between teachers’ health and wellbeing and

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Baptiste, N.R. (2008). Tightening the link between employee wellbeing at

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Decision, 46, 284-309.

Berry, L., Mirabito, A. M., & Braun, W. B. (2010). What’s the hard return on employee wellness programs.
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INTRODUCTION

Educational leaders live in a VUCA world-volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (Kingsinger, & Walch, 2012). The volatility, unceasing wave of changes and political edicts for student achievement to increase or teachers and school leaders will face job loss (Kavanaugh, & Strecker, 2012). Educational leaders face demands for student achievement to increase while the uncertainty of workforce reductions of classroom teachers and budget cuts affect the process of increasing student performance (Kail, 2010). Rapid changes in technology are constant and teachers and school leaders are not prepared for the complexity of demands for technology use. And, ambiguity reigns as program mandates increase, adding to demands, not decreasing demands (Kail, 2011).

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? Principal’s primary responsibilities are to establish a positive school culture, a climate for instruction and learning, ensuring curricula are taught, and everything else “ a principal does during the day to support the achievement of students and the ability of the teacher to teach” (Marks & Printy, 2003, p. 373). 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 (2011) defined 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).

Organizations have two basic choices in preparing for, managing and mitigating crises. They can try to anticipate and avert them and/or become resilient. It’s desirable, of course, to anticipate and avert crises whenever possible, but anticipation can be effective only in situations where (1) we know with high probability the worst risks we face and (2) we can apply that knowledge to avoid or mitigate negative outcomes. This might be said to exemplify, as Adair (2005) implies, that leadership is best understood at a personal level, and leaders must know themselves and be clear about their goals in order to be effective (Miller, 2006). As such the role of the leader is critical to a team being able to adopt a different perspective in organizations as changing strategy might demand.

School districts face the need for VUCA leaders (Harland, Harrison, Jones, & Reiter-Palmon, 2004; Monroe, 2013). VUCA leaders have to be decision-makers, unhesitant in dealing with the uncertainty of change. Sorting out the complexity of issues is a constant challenge. There is no normality except change. Work factors such as adaptability and flexibility are necessary. VUCA leaders have to confront problems with parents, students, and community. Being a VUCA leader is not for the faint of heart (Monroe, 2013).

With school leaders identified as second only to teachers as the most important influence on student achievement (Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, & Meyerson, 2005; Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson, & Orr, 2007, 2010; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstom, 2004; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005; Shannon & Bylsma, 2007; Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2006; Vidoni, Bezina, Gatelli, & Grasetti, 2008; Waters & Marzano, 2006); school leaders’ behaviors are critical to success. School leadership and student achievement have positive relationships that correlate to student achievement (Waters, Marzano, & McNulty, 2003).

Principals need to establish clear articulated performance standards for teaching and learning; utilize proactive change processes; support school cultures conducive to learning; facilitate collaboration and communication; ensure use of common core curriculum and state content standards, frequently monitor teaching and student learning; establish focused professional development; establish a supportive learning environment; and facilitate a high level of family and community involvement (Dufour & Marzano, 2009; Hall & Hord, 2011; Shannon & Bylsma, 2007).

While most educational reform reports released during the past decade presented compelling arguments for improving curriculum, classroom instruction, and student performance, research findings have suggested an “empirical link between school leadership and improved student achievement” (Wallace Foundation, 2012, p. 3). Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, and Wahlstrom (2004) and Waters, Marzano, and McNulty (2003) found effective school leadership is critical to student achievement and even more important in turning around low-performing schools (Darling-Hammond, Meyerson, LaPointe & Orr, 2010; Orr, King, & LaPointe, 2010; Wallace Foundation, 2012).

Darling-Hammond (2010) reported, “Nations around the world are transforming their school systems” (p. 5)…revising curriculum, instruction and assessment to support the more complex knowledge and skills needed in the 21st century” (p. 5). Citing high performing nations Finland, South Korea, and Singapore, Darling-Hammond (2010) described the use of “problem-solving, creativity, independent learning, and student reflection” (p. 5) rather than passive learning, listening to lectures, rote memorization, and doing independent seatwork. For example, Finnish curriculum focuses on “science, technology, and innovation leading to an emphasis on teaching students how to think creatively and manage their own learning” (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 169).

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The business world tells us that successful employees, managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the 21st-century economy do not only need knowledge and basic skills like the kind taught in school. They also need to know how to learn new knowledge and skills; to acquire, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources; to work in teams; to solve problems and think critically; to manage complex tasks; and to communicate with a variety of others using a variety of media. These are often called “21st-century skills” and they are being adopted by school systems and states across the U.S. and around the world. But the reality is that many schools have not adopted curriculum design models and instructional methodologies that cultivate these skills (Hallerman, Larmer, Mergendoller, 2011, p. 9).

Resilient educational leaders are also necessary. With constant change, educational leaders will need to be tough, courageous, know their own strengths, and be able to capitalize and build strong supportive relationships. Educational leaders will need to have fortitude to take increasing pressures to perform and realization that challenges inevitably bring setbacks, stress, and crises. Leadership is a process, not an event, and leadership skill sets can be taught. Higher education programs including experiential activities and interaction with peers build assertiveness, resiliency, flexibility, and perseverance.

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