Herrington, david national recommendations for deconstructing educational leadership courses

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Herrington, david national recommendations for deconstructing educational leadership courses

  1. 1. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL VOLUME 26, NUMBER 4, 2008 1 National Recommendations for Deconstructing Educational Leadership Courses: Re-centering to Address the Needs of Students David E. Herrington, PhD William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Tyrone Tanner, EdD Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling The Whitlowe R. Green College of Education Prairie View A&M University Member of the Texas A&M University System Prairie View, Texas ________________________________________________________________________ ABSTRACT This article reexamines the current state of educational leadership instruction with a vision for introducing a post-modern perspective into traditional graduate level courses. The authors emphasize the role of context and connectedness in bringing about greater administrator success in leading schools. Specific areas examined include: Instructional Leadership, Human Resources Development; School Law; School Finance; Organizational Theory; Use of Technology; Data Based Decision- Making; Socio-Economic Political and Cultural Foundations; Leadership School in Reform. _______________________________________________________________________ Introduction The scope and sequence mission of educational administration courses and activities have changed considerably during the past two decades. The prior emphasis on community politics and on managing the day-to-day routines of a school and community politics has given way to a theory-based approach that focuses more broadly on leadership as defined by Burns. A proliferation of “best practice” literature and standards has been adopted at state and national levels. Rubrics and standards of practice enforced by monitoring systems have enjoyed a healthy growth during this era. University compliance with ISSLC (now ELCC Standards have been monitored by NCATE;
  2. 2. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONALADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL 2_____________________________________________________________________________________ attainment of individual mastery of state professional standards for principal practice is now measured by high-stakes testing systems; competency-based testing has been used to identify learning gaps between sub- populations of state mandated curricula. These rubrics and standards have shaped and provided direction for graduate programs in principal preparation, but they have not sufficiently addressed the real needs of 21st Century schools, teachers, and students. Purpose of the Article The purpose of this article is to reexamine the current state of educational leadership instruction with a vision for introducing a post-modern perspective into traditional graduate level courses. Such an approach is directed at focusing administrator attention on ways to include the perspectives of silent populations of students, parents, or other significant but forgotten constituencies in decision-making regarding instruction, discipline, curriculum, and school safety. The courses selected are those commonly found in preparation programs. This article will lay out an approach that deemphasizes the central importance of prior administrative experiences that stem from “war stories” that may not be relevant to current realities or theories that are validated in populations dissimilar to the population of interest within a school. Best Practice Theories Not Addressing Learning Crisis in Schools No Child Left Behind mandates have made federal education funds to local education agencies contingent upon student attainment of minimum competency skills. The local education agencies in turn look to universities to prepare educators who are knowledgeable in best practice standards. Yet the standardization certification, standardization of public school curriculum, standardized discipline models, and cookie cutter instructional approaches have been disappointing in their ability to deliver increased student performance, particularly with student populations that have not been examined closely. Overly-generalized research findings and meticulously applied theories of best practice have not addressed the learning crisis in public schools. If schools were filled with other worldly, stereotypical teachers, parents, and children, one could make a strong argument for the standardization of curriculum, instruction, and discipline. We live in a world that is increasingly variable due to our ability to identify and attend to the variances that people bring into any situation. The psychological learning characteristics of children who have been traumatized by violence, homelessness, or major changes in family financial circumstances are quite different from those whose lives are less complicated. These fragile learners require a complete
  3. 3. DAVID E. HERRINGTON, WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS, TYRONE TANNER _____________________________________________________________________________________3 reexamination of the teaching and learning process. These learners and their families will teach educators more about the nature of schools than any other source. Challenges for Professors of Educational Leadership The key to knowledge about any school will be found in the principal’s ability to elicit from teachers, parents, and students aspects of the learning context that are being overlooked. School learning must one of perspective – of being open to new explanations of things, withholding judgment, reframing issues on a weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly basis until we get it right. Herein is the challenge that faces professors of educational leadership. How do aspiring school leaders become skilled readers of context so that they can properly facilitate the learning environment needed for the various populations they serve? What kinds of learning experiences must university professors of educational leadership provide to build these kinds of skills? Instructional Leadership The single most important mindset and guiding principle for instructional leadership is that of “team learning.” Teachers must learn how to learn together. When teachers, parents, and administrators share mental models with one another regarding the lack of student achievement the following advantages become clear: 1. Multiple perspectives can be examined and evaluated before coming to closure on the learning capacity of a student or the best way to teach that student. 2. As a team, the teachers collectively may alter interventions or interaction patterns with a student that has been ineffectual. 3. Teachers may test collectively new models of how to reach the needs of a particular student. 4. Teachers and principals can collaborate to realign curriculum, evaluate student learning needs, and re-teach content in different ways to ensure the learning of students whose learning needs have not been met. 5. Having teachers work as teams to investigate the learning needs of the “invisible” populations – homeless, foster, unaccompanied, or indigent children as required by the McKinney-Vento Act and other legislation that requires special attention to their needs. When team learning is employed as a guiding principle teachers become much more effective change agents in the lives of children. When administrators can lead teachers down the path of team learning as a guiding principle, they will become a far more significant force in the lives of students they teach.
  4. 4. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONALADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL 4_____________________________________________________________________________________ Human Resources Development Teacher and administrator professional development is essential for improving their capacities to respond to emerging inner-city circumstances. The following adult learning principles are critical for any successful intervention with adult learners, including teachers and administrators: 1) Adult learning theory – adult learning experiences must be engaging and participative. 2) Adult learning theory – adult learning must be a social activity if it also is to an effective learning activity. 3) Adult learning theory – Learning experiences must be practical problem-solving – related to learner’s work or personal needs. 4) Adult learning theory – Learning must be engaged in identifying and developing relevant skills needed for improving identified job-related performance. 5) Adult learning theory – Adult learners must feel physically and psychologically safe in decision to participate in learning activity. When professional development fails to engage teachers, a lot of time and money is wasted. More significantly, an opportunity for teachers to take charge of their own professional growth is lost. This can be detrimental to their career development and to the learning of the students they serve. School Law The legal foundations for educational leadership continue to reinforce the need to learn more about the sub-populations of students we serve. Ethical practice calls for equitable and ethical treatment of students. Knowledge of the law: 1) Ensures more equitable treatment and opportunities for all students. 2) Ensures that teachers become more knowledgeable of their legal duties and responsibilities to address t4he special learning needs of all students. PL 94-142 Free and Appropriate Public Education; McKinney-Vento Act, homeless children. 3) Ensures that administrators remain within the legal and policy requirements while serving the needs of each student.
  5. 5. DAVID E. HERRINGTON, WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS, TYRONE TANNER _____________________________________________________________________________________5 School Finance Traditional approaches to school finance have involved macro-economic approaches, including the history and politics of school finance in light of changing societal needs, emerging case law, and legislative mandates, particularly the No Child Left Behind Act. It also included budgeting as mandated by the state and local policies and was prescriptive at the highest levels regarding how funds should be allocated. Instruction tended to be state-specific and was formulaic in nature. A more recent approach has been one of consulting all who have a stake in individual student learning. This approach has become more universal. The charge of school administrators has become one of addressing campus-specific learning needs through site-based decision-making committees or campus improvement planning teams. The emphasis has become one of identifying these campus-specific learning and teaching needs prior to allocating resources. This requires a new skill set for the school administrator including: 1) How to direct campus assessment of student learning. 2) How to build and lead teams and how to use data gathering, analysis, and dissemination methodologies. 3) Allocating available resources to improve teachers’ capacity for responding to learning needs – professional development, materials, time allocation. Organizational Theory Administrators need to understand the history of modernistic thinking about how schools are organized, including philosophical underpinnings that continue to form the thinking of formal schooling. The theory base of management and leadership that are common to public and private sector organizations provides a framework within which administrative behavior and organizational responses can be explained and predicted with implied recommendations for administrative action. A more postmodern approach is one in which future administrators come to understand current contexts of urban areas, homelessness, brain research, and ethnic composition of their schools before they can begin to understand and refocus teaching and learning within the community they serve. The need for field-based learning and authentic problem-solving is essential to educational leadership within any selected context.
  6. 6. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONALADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL 6_____________________________________________________________________________________ Uses of Technology Emphasis on technology during the past 15 years has been on building infrastructure, developing applications, training, and overcoming resistance to the uses of technology. Computer technology, specialized applications, and connectivity have become an established part of the teachers’ and administrators’ professional lives. New emphasis has turned toward how to improve communication among those who have a stake in individual student learning. Access to information for improving practice, teaching resources, professional development opportunities, instructional delivery, on-line data, and publication of research findings have become routine. Computer technology learning for administrators now focuses upon some of the following: 1) How to communicate with parents, teachers, and other publics through use of available technologies – websites – emails – blogs – electronic newsletters – micro-casting and publishing; 2) How to encourage and support teachers in using available technologies to improve classroom instruction; 3) How to use available technologies to manage data and facilitate the flow of information and make data-driven decisions about what is best for all students. Data-Based Decision-Making Before data-driven decision-making became part of the educational lexicon, informal, selective data gathering and interpretation of data were commonplace among administrators and teachers in public and private education. Professional opinions and assessments were seldom questioned. Today, the approach to decision-making is more formalized. Formal statistical research designs and emergent qualitative research designs that involve data gathering and interpretation provide a more equitable approach to assessing teaching and learning to ensure that individual prejudices do not form the basis for decision-making about teaching and learning. Personal characterizations and idiosyncratic judgments no longer are sufficient for schools that must deal with multiple populations of learners. Data now are collected from state-generated data bases, locally generated data bases, and campus-specific data generated from surveys and test results. Some skill sets required of administrators to achieve more informed decision- making: 1) How to design and implement practical, context-specific research and evaluation models that address problems identified by parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members. These data become critical for instructional improvement;
  7. 7. DAVID E. HERRINGTON, WILLIAM ALLAN KRITSONIS, TYRONE TANNER _____________________________________________________________________________________7 2) How to analyze data from these research efforts and present to stakeholders in a useable form; 3) How to access and disaggregate and interpret data from state mandated tests that have been disaggregated locally to identify achievement gaps among different ethnic groups; 4) How to formulate viable interventions to close the gaps identified. Socio-Economic, Political, and Cultural Foundations Traditional approaches to teaching cultural foundations to education have come from applied anthropological, sociological, political, psychological research. An underlying assumption is that educators, by understanding other ethnic groups through classroom experiences that often include preparation and eating ethnic cuisine, listening to ethnic music and listening to folk tales, educators will develop an appreciation for the cultures of their students. The connection between these experiences and the deeper cultural differences that come from discrimination and exclusion often go unaddressed. The fact that the best predictor of academic success is a well-organized and affluent home reveals a need to look beyond culture and address the issues related to poverty and non-traditional home experiences. The reality is that every student has a unique set of circumstances and problems that cannot be addressed through simple cultural explanations. The reality is that only through becoming connected with the community of the learner can the administrator or teacher begin to understand and intervene in a way that will provide the needed stability, support, and placement for the student to begin to thrive academically. No doubt, engaging the family to partner with the school is paramount. Leadership in School Reform In each of the educational leadership areas identified above leadership in school reform are implicit. To achieve school reform the following perspectives and skills are essential: 1) The ability to assess the match between campus direction, performance, and capacity with community needs and student learning needs and the match between federal and state mandates – and the campus ability to address mandates. 2) The ability of a faculty to work in teams to achieve consistency between actual and desirable conditions within the school that will affect higher levels of achievement among all student populations.
  8. 8. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONALADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL 8_____________________________________________________________________________________ Concluding Remarks We believe the current state of educational leadership instruction needs to have a clearer purpose and vision for the future. By introducing a post-modern perspective into traditional graduate level courses, students will be provided a more global understanding of the many challenges and opportunities they will encounter. By re-centering our focus in leadership preparation programs, our future school leaders will be better prepared to provide leadership in the areas of instructional leadership, human resources development, school law, school finance, organizational theory, technology, data based decision- making, social-economic political and cultural foundations, and leadership in school reform. ________________________________________________________________________ Formatted by Dr. Mary Alice Kritsonis, National Research and Manuscript Preparation Editor, National FORUM Journals, Houston, Texas. www.nationalforum.com

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