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The relationship among essential school leadership preparation practices, principal leader behavior, school learning environment, and student achievement in elementary and middle schools in Rhode Island
Schools are in need of effective leaders to guide them through today’s challenging contexts. Yet, nationwide there is a lack of willing and qualified school leaders (Roza et al., 2003), due in part to the quality of leadership preparation programs (Levine, 2005) and working conditions for school leaders (Young & Creighton, 2002). Thus, the field has turned a hopeful eye toward essential leadership preparation practices. While there exists widespread agreement on the essential leadership preparation practices, few studies examine the relationships of the practices to the outcomes of (a) leader behavior, (b) the school learning environment, and (c) student achievement (Smylie et al., 2005). This study utilized a mixed-method approach to explore a quantitative and a qualitative set of research questions. The first set of questions focused on an investigation of the relationships between essential leadership preparation practices, leader behavior, the school learning environment, and student achievement through quantitative survey research. A questionnaire was distributed to Rhode Island K-8 school principals (N = 88) who had been in the same school over a 3-year period. Questionnaire data, along with school and student data were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression. The second set of research questions was investigated using a qualitative approach to promote deeper understanding of the survey results. Two focus group interviews (N = 8, N = 7) explored the leadership behaviors and preparation practices experienced by school principals. The quantitative findings suggest that, after controlling for school and leader demographics, a significant positive relationship was found between the essential preparation practices and the following variables: leader behavior for deep change (Δ R2 = .05, F = 4.28*), the school learning environment (Δ R 2 = .02, F = 4.53*), and student achievement (Δ R2 = .05, F = 7.63*). Further, the qualitative findings affirm the importance of the essential preparation practices in supporting what was identified as the core of school leaders’ practice. In answering the research questions, both a relationship-based and a practice-based conceptual framework emerged. Leadership preparation program designers and financial supporters can use the results to prioritize the inclusion of the essential preparation practices in school leader preparation programs. Most essentially, attention should be paid to the importance of internships and mentor relationships that provide leaders with the type of experiences Lave & Wenger (1991) describe as situated in communities of practice.
Braun, Donna, "The relationship among essential school leadership preparation practices, principal leader behavior, school learning environment, and student achievement in elementary and middle schools in Rhode Island" (2008). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3321561.