Elementary School Principal: Dispositional, Gender, and Environmental       Predictors of Student Achievement Success for ...
control and predictors that exist beyond the control of the principal. Four predictors of primaryimportance surfaced withi...
itself in a person’s ability to set higher goals and maintain the commitment to achieve thosegoals, even in such challengi...
as a nine-point likert scale with established anchors set at: 1=none at all, 3=very little, 5-somedegree, 7=quite a bit, a...
_________________________________________________________________________________________________        A forward stepwis...
Table 4Summary Regression Analysis for Predicting MAP Mathematics (N=121)_________________________________________________...
Implications        Before discussing the value of this study, it is important to consider the limitations. First,the stud...
Cohen, C. Darling-Hammond, L., & La Pointe, M. (2007). School leadership study developing       successful principals: Pol...
Sodoma, B., & Else, D. (2009). Job satisfaction of Iowa public school principals. The Rural     Educator, 31(1), 10-18.Tsc...
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Dr. Paul Watkins & Dr. Janet Moak

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Dr. Paul Watkins & Dr. Janet Moak - Published by NATIONAL FORUM JOURNALS, Dr. William Kritsonis, Editor-in-Chief, Houston, Texas - www.nationalforum.com

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Dr. Paul Watkins & Dr. Janet Moak

  1. 1. Elementary School Principal: Dispositional, Gender, and Environmental Predictors of Student Achievement Success for the 21st Century Paul Watkins Southeast Missouri State University Janet Moak North County Parkside Elementary ABSTRACTPredictors of student success as they relate to principal leadership provide the purposebehind this study. Three dispositional characteristics are tested: the principal’s experience,level of education, and self-efficacy. Three other predictors that the principal does notcontrol are also considered: gender, school location, and student population. Results showthat self-efficacy among the three dispositional variables has a moderate predictiveinfluence on student achievement. Gender and student population also demonstratepredictive influence on student achievement.Key words: self-efficacy; average yearly progress (AYP); Missouri Assessment Program (MAP); grade level expectations (GLES) The complex work of schools with shrinking resources, greater accountability andgovernance, along with widening achievement gaps, requires principals who possess creative andeffective leadership skills and a strong sense of self. Principals must practice skills critical toleading the learning for teachers and students alike, while confidently making decisions based ona vision of student success today, tomorrow, and into the next generations (Lloyd-Zannini, 2001;Leithwood & Duke, 1999; Reeves, 2006 & Lucas, 2003). Competing for limited resources,supporting good teachers while eliminating poor ones, competing with social distractions forstudent attention, meeting ever higher testing mandates and quality learning standards place theprincipal squarely in the middle of this question: How can the school sustain improvement andexpect continuous student achievement? Not surprisingly, the answer is also found within therole of the principal since it is the principal who makes a significant difference in many highachieving schools (Jackson & Davis, 2000; Marzano, 2003, & Reeves, 2006). Review of Literature The phenomena under study for this research are predictors that help determine aprincipal’s capacity for successfully negotiating the many challenges facing schools today.Considerable research has been devoted to understanding dispositions within the principal’s 37
  2. 2. control and predictors that exist beyond the control of the principal. Four predictors of primaryimportance surfaced within this survey of literature. The first three predictors are those that aprincipal can assert control over, including the educational preparation supporting the principal’sleadership (Ruebling, Stow, Kayona, & Clarke, 2004); the years of leadership experience guidingthe principal’s vision for student success (Sodoma & Else, 2009; Ruebling, Stow, Kayona, &Clarke, 2004), and the self-efficacy developed by the principal producing desired outcomes(Lucas, 2003; Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2004). The final criteria demonstrate predictorsbeyond individual control, yet, with an influence on school effectiveness. These predictors canimpact student success and include school location, student population, and the principal’sgender (Sodoma & Else, 2009; Clark, Matorell, & Rockoff, 2009). The educational preparation of school administrators in Missouri requires principals tohold at least a master’s degree in school administration. Although many principals may holdadvanced degrees beyond a master’s degree, the relationship between the level of a principal’sdegree and the level of school effectiveness, as defined by student achievement, is unclear. A1988 study conducted by Eberts and Stone found that principals with advanced degrees had anegative effect in their school. However, the researchers explained that highly educatedprincipals were assigned to low-performing schools, possibly contributing to a negative impactby the principal. More recent research, reported by Education Week (December, 2009), makesthe counter claim that, today, inexperienced and minimally trained principals staff schoolsstruggling to meet mandated standards, and they have a negative effect on student performance.The conclusion from both studies indicates that a principal’s level of education has little, if any,impact on a school’s success. Unlike level of education, the principal’s experience does play a critical role in improvingschool effectiveness, and this assertion is supported by the research. In an Iowa study, Sodoma &Else (2009) compared job satisfaction among school principals in 1999 and, using the sameinstrument, surveyed principals in 2005 to determine their job satisfaction. The results indicatedthat principals with more than five years on the job experienced higher satisfaction (Sodoma &Else). The Iowa study left open the question: Do principals who are satisfied lead schools thatare successful? The study concluded the experienced principals maintained a significantlypositive relationship with their faculty and community (Sodoma & Else). Research supportedcollaboratively by the University of Florida, Santa Monica; California based RAND Corporation,and Columbia University looked at student performance and principal experience, as well.Supporting the research of Sodoma and Else, these results offer clear evidence that experiencedoes make a difference. Stated succinctly, “Our clearest finding is that schools perform betterwhen they are led by experienced principals” (Ruebling, Stow, Kayona, & Clarke, 2004, p. 11). The third predictor over which the principal has control is self-efficacy. Multiple researchfindings support the assertion that the self-efficacy displayed by the principal has some impacton teacher motivation and student achievement (Imants & DeBrabander, 1996; Hallinger &Heck, 1998; and Lucas, 2003). Self-efficacy coalesces cognition, socialization, emotion, andbehavior by the articulation of knowledge and skills set into action (Bandura, 1997).Additionally, Bandura asserts that a principal’s sense of efficacy is a judgment of his or hercapabilities to organize a course of action that will result in a desired outcome in the school. Because leaders are often portrayed as heroic figures lionized with unrealistic standards,those high expectations can undermine the conscientious administrator (Hugh, 1992). The heroicimage is only one side of leadership that deals with problems of budget, declining respect foreducators, and expanding achievement gaps. Bandura’s (1997) model of self-efficacy manifests 38
  3. 3. itself in a person’s ability to set higher goals and maintain the commitment to achieve thosegoals, even in such challenging times. Self-efficacy provides the willingness to take risks andstay with uncertain tasks for extended periods of time. The principal’s ability to deeplyunderstand the issues, effectively communicate this understanding, encourage feedback, copewith instability and develop a reasonable course of action are qualities of leaders with high levelsof self-efficacy. When considering the predictors of student success that are beyond the control of theprincipal, the research findings are mixed. Malone and Nelson (2004) looked at principals andtheir leadership behavior in Indiana high schools. Their research found little variance betweengender, school size, the principal’s level of experience, and leadership effectiveness. Resultshere are at odds with other studies regarding the principal’s experience and its relation to schoolsuccess (Sodoma & Else, 2009; & Ruebling, Stow, Kayona, & Clarke, 2004). Malone andNelson’s results do align, however, with what others have found related to both principal’sgender and school size. School success is not significantly impacted by either the principal’sgender or school size (Sodoma & Else; & Ruebling, Stow, Kayona, & Clarke). The final variable considered for this article is school location as it relates to high povertyinner city and rural, as well as large suburban schools. Research on school location is limited;however, two 1991 studies looked closely at the impact on location and the impact on class size.Nye, Zaharis, Fulton, Achilles, and Hooper conducted a sweeping study of Tennessee schoolsexamining, among other variables, school location, class size, and their impact on studentachievement. The researchers found that, indeed, smaller classes more than location had asignificant impact on student achievement growth. A more comprehensive study by Plecki(1991) found that both location and class size contributed to higher student achievement. Notsurprisingly, Pleki discovered that wealthier, more socially stable suburban schools had anadvantage over urban and rural settings in promoting student success measured by achievementtesting. While neither study looked closely at the principal’s role as part of school location, itwould seem reasonable to assume principals in higher performing suburban districts, particularlythose with smaller class sizes, would have a greater capacity for effectiveness than thoseprincipals leading lower performing urban or rural schools. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to look at the variables of school size, principal experience,self-efficacy, gender, and level of advanced degrees as predictors of school success as measuredby the Missouri Assessment Program competencies in math and communication arts. Two keyquestions were investigated: (a) Among Missouri elementary principals, what dispositionalpredictors influence student achievement success? (b) To what degree does the principals self-efficacy influence successful student achievement? Measures Participants were elementary public school principals in Missouri. They were asked tocomplete the Principal Sense of Efficacy Scale (PSES) developed by Tschannen-Moran & Gareis(2004); the levels of perceived self efficacy were measured in three categories of leadership:management, instructional leadership and moral leadership efficacy. The survey was formatted 39
  4. 4. as a nine-point likert scale with established anchors set at: 1=none at all, 3=very little, 5-somedegree, 7=quite a bit, and 9=a great deal (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2004). Table 1 providesthe descriptive results from the survey.Table 1Principal Sense of Self-Efficacy Scale________________________________________________________________________Efficacy Scale Level M SD Management 6.5 1.57 Instructional Leadership 7.5 1.18 Moral Leadership 7.7 1.24________________________________________________________________________ The Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) is the annual achievement assessmentadministered to grades three through six. The MAP test consists of a state-developed, criterionreferenced test designed to measure student mastery of academic knowledge for Missouri’sGrade Level Expectations in mathematics, communication art, science and social studies.Communication arts and mathematics composite scores were chosen in grades three through sixas the dependent variable. Both communication arts and mathematics results are used indetermining Missouri’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Measures Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations for the predictor and criterion variablesin the study. After examining correlational relations, communication arts scores are significantlyrelated to principals’ level of education (r=.204; p<.05), principals’ years of experience (r=.187;p<.05), and the school location (r=.228; p<.05). Student population has a significant relationshipto level of education (r=.187; p<.05) and years of experience (r=.230; <p.05). Math MAP resultsrevealed similar results to those of communication arts, principals’ education (r=.163; p<.05) andyears of experience (r=.231; p<.05). School location had a highly significant relationship withmath scores (r=.225; p<.01).Table 2Means and Standard Deviations of Predictor and Criterion Variables (n=121)________________________________________________________________________Variables M SD________________________________________________________________________Communication Arts 45.43 13.21Mathematics 46.13 15.82Level of Education 1.98 .69Years of Experience 3.18 1.29Efficacy 7.23 .88Student Population 2.70 1.01Gender 1.58 .49School Location 2.27 .82 40
  5. 5. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ A forward stepwise regression (Table 3 and Table 4) was performed to determine thoseprincipal dispositions that were useful predictors of student academic success for communicationarts and mathematics. To control for the principal’s dispositions of self-efficacy, level ofeducation and administrative experience were entered in the first block. School location, gender,and student population were added to the second block since these indicators have proven tohave an impact on student academic success, but they are not under the direct control of theprincipal. Principal dispositions accounted for 3% of the variance in communication arts(F=.075; p>.05), yet, only the principal’s level of education was significant. After controlling forother non dispositional variables, there was an additional 3% variance in communication arts(F=2.42; p<.05).Table 3Summary Regression Analysis for Prediction MAP Communication Arts (N=121)_________________________________________________________________________________________________Variable B SEB ß________________________________________________________________________Block 1 R2 =.057; ∆R2 =.033 (p<.05)Efficacy .45 1.36 .03Education 3.68 1.75 .19Years of Experience 1.23 .93 .12Block 2 R2 =.114; ∆R2 =0.67 (p<.05)Efficacy .51 1.35 .03*Education 4.01 1.75 .21Years of Experience .88 .95 .09Gender .05 2.39 .00*School Location 3.95 1.48 .24Student Population .50 1.24 .04*________________________________________________________________________*p<.05 Student academic success in mathematics followed the same model as communicationarts. Principal’s dispositions were loaded in Block I and accounted for 5% of the variance(F=3.043; p<.05). After loading those variables over which the principal has no control butvariables that have shown to have an influence over academic success were loaded in Block II.The loading of these additional variables accounted for an additional 5% of the variance (F=3.34;p<.05). In the first block only, the principal’s self-efficacy was significant. When otherpredictors were added, self-efficacy remained significant joined by gender and studentpopulation. 41
  6. 6. Table 4Summary Regression Analysis for Predicting MAP Mathematics (N=121)_________________________________________________________________________________________________Variable B SEB ß________________________________________________________________________Block 1 R2 =.073; ∆R2 =.049 (p<.05)Efficacy .42 1.62 .02*Education 3.22 2.08 .14Years of Experience 2.62 1.11 .21 2 2Block 2 R =..15; ∆R =0.106 (p<.05)Efficacy .45 1.58 .03*Education 3.78 2.06 .16Years of Experience 2.28 1.12 .19Gender .35 2.80 .01*School Location 5.52 1.73 .29Student Population .31 1.46 .02*________________________________________________________________________*p<.05 Discussion What are the dispositions of school leaders most likely to make a difference in theacademic lives of the children they serve? The building principal has, unquestionably, an impacton all aspects of building management, as well as instructional and curricular oversight. Intoday’s currency, the impact that a leader has is measured by increasing achievement scores.The current study examined three principal dispositions (level of experience, highest degreeearned, and self-efficacy) that, through previous research, has shown to have an impact onstudent academic success (Clark, Martorell & Rockoff, 2009; Sodoma & Else, 2009 and Plecki,1991). Only 3% of the variance was explained in communication arts MAP scores, and only 5%of the variance was explained by Math MAP scores and principal dispositions. A principal’sself-efficacy when controlling for dispositions and non dispositional variables had significantimpact on student achievement. The principal’s ability to understand intellectually and actcomprehensively on issues critical to instruction and student learning can be key predictors ofsuccess (Lucas 2003). Student population and the principal’s gender were also found to have predictiveinfluence on student success. The size of a school’s population and its degree of minorityenrollment are not variables that principal, superintendent or state legislators can control.However, it is evident that student population must be considered as the principal considersreform efforts. It is unclear from the literature how gender impacts school improvement (Clark,Martorell, & Rockoff and Sodoma & Else). Sodoma and Else point out in their research thatmore females need to occupy the principal’s office but give little reasoning for this, other thanequity. Female administrators have shown, on average, to demonstrate more direct attention toinstructional practice than do males (Wagner, 1993). However, the connection between genderand student achievement success remains inconclusive. 42
  7. 7. Implications Before discussing the value of this study, it is important to consider the limitations. First,the study was limited to Missouri elementary principals and the ability to generalize to otherlevels, middle schools or high schools, is limited. Further, principal dispositions explain adisappointingly small percentage of variance between the content areas and dispositionalpredictors of student success. A larger sample may help mitigate this variance issue. As this study bears out, drilling into the principalship and finding those predictors thathave an effect on student achievement can be illusory. However, there was evidence that aprincipal’s self-efficacy can have an effect on student success. With this in mind, supportingself-efficacy among building leaders is critical. One important support system is continuing education. Education policy and theoryroutinely restructure common beliefs or sharpen proven classroom practice. An effectivebuilding principal must be engaged with new ideas and practice. The literature is abundantaround the importance of teacher professional development and its direct connection with studentimprovement. Principals need these same professional development advantages that supporttheir practice as leaders. The principalship can be isolating and, at times, a source of conflict. As a result,principals may come to question their personal efficacy (Bandura, 1997) and their relevance tothe organization. Strong mentoring programs, such as those in Connecticut, Mississippi, andMissouri, provide new principals feedback and professional support through a practicing orrecently retired administrator (Cohen, C., Darling-Hammond, L. & La Pointe, M., 2007 &Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2009) These administrators canprovide wisdom, emotional support, and feedback to a novice who is working through difficultor complex decisions. Beyond a mentoring foundation, self-efficacy in principals can be strengthened furtherthrough widening professional community membership. Professional membership in leadershiporganizations, study groups, and seminars can inform and nurture growth that is both pragmaticand, at the same time, emotionally sustaining. While it is difficult to make a direct link between the principal’s dispositions andsuccessful student achievement, there is a tacit understanding of effective leadership whetherresulting from experience, level of education, or self-efficacy. Further research is important fordeveloping insight into those characteristics that promote principal effectiveness. ReferencesBandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.Carr, S. C. (1995). Female principal: Communicators of quality for the 90’s and beyond. In B. J. Irby & G. Brown (Eds.), Women as School executives: Voices and visions. (pp. 62-69). Huntsville, TX: The Texas Council of Women School Executives.Clark D., Martorell, P., & Rockoff, J. (2009). School principals and school performance. (A Working Paper 38). Retrieved from Calder Urban Institute: http://www.caldercenter.org 43
  8. 8. Cohen, C. Darling-Hammond, L., & La Pointe, M. (2007). School leadership study developing successful principals: Policy and resource supports for exemplary principal preparation and development programs: Findings from the school leadership study. Standard, CA: Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.Eberts, R. W., & Stone, J. (1988). Student achievement in public schools: Do principals make a difference? Economics of Education Review, 7(3), 291-299.Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. (1999). Can leadership enhance school effectiveness? In Bush et al. (Eds.) Educational Management: Redefining theory, policy and practice (pp. 178-190). London, England: Paul Chapman.Hugh, J. (1992 August). School principals—entrepreneurial professionals. Paper presented at Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration, University of Hong Kong.Imants, J. G. M., & DeBrabander, C. J. (1996). Teachers’ and principals’ sense of efficacy in elementary schools. Teaching & Teacher Education, 12(2), 179-195.Jackson, A. W., & Davis, G . A. (2000). Turning points 2000: Educating adolescents in the 21st century. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (1999). The relative effects of principal and teacher sources of leadership on student engagement with school. Educational Administration Quarterly 35, 679-706. Lloyd-Zannini, L.P. (2001). A correlation study of school principals’ perceptions of self- efficacy and the availability & quality of gifted programming in their schools (Doctoral dissertation, The College of William and Mary in Virginia, 2001). Dissertation Abstracts International, 63(02), 448.Lucas, S. E. (2003). The development and impact of principal leadership self-efficacy in middle level schools: Beginning an inquiry. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL.Malone, B. G., & Nelson, J. S. (2004). Indiana study explores link between patterns of leadership behavior and administrator stress. ERS Spectrum, 22(2) 4-18.Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2009). Administrator Mentoring Program (AMP): Retrieved from Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website: http://www.dese.mo.gov/divteachqual/leadership/mentor_prog/Marzano, J. R. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Nye, B. A., Zaharias, J. B. Fulton, B. D. Achilles, C. M., & Hooper, R. (1991). The lasting benefits study: A continuing analysis of the effect of small class size in Kindergarten through third grade on student achievement test scores in subsequent grade levels: Fourth grade. (Report No. PS020058). Nashville, TN: Center of Excellence for Research in Basic Skills. (ERIC Document reproduction Service No. ED346082)Plecki, M. (1991, April). The relationship between elementary school size and student achievement. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.Reeves, D. (2006). The learning leader: How to focus school improvement for better results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Ruebling, C. E., Stow, S. B., Kayona, F. A., & Clarke, N. A. (2004). Instructional leadership: An essential ingredient for improving student learning. The Educational Forum, 68, 243-253. 44
  9. 9. Sodoma, B., & Else, D. (2009). Job satisfaction of Iowa public school principals. The Rural Educator, 31(1), 10-18.Tschannen-Moran, M., & Gareis, C. R. (2004). Principals’ sense of efficacy: Assessing a promising construct. Journal of Educational Administration, 42(5), 573-585.Wagner, R. K. (1993). Practical problem solving. In P.Hallinger, K. Liethwood, & J. Murphy (Eds.) Cognitive perspective on educational leadership. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. AuthorsPaul Watkins currently teaches in the Department of Education Administration at SoutheastMissouri State University. He is also on the faculty at the University of Missouri, Columbia andteaches in a Statewide Cooperative EdD program through the Department of EducationLeadership and Policy Analysis. Dr. Watson has worked in public education as both teacher andadministrator for twenty-eight years.Janet Moak is the building principal at Parkside Elementary in Desloge, Missouri. She hasworked in education as a teacher and building administrator for approximately twenty-six years.She recently earned her EdD from the University of Missouri, Columbia in Leadership. 45

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