Jsl Vol 21-N3

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The Journal of School Leadership is broadening the conversation about schools and leadership and is currently accepting manuscripts. We welcome manuscripts based on cutting-edge research from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and methodological orientations. The editorial team is particularly interested in working with international authors, authors from traditionally marginalized populations, and in work that is relevant to practitioners around the world. Growing numbers of educators and professors look to the six bimonthly issues to: deal with problems directly related to contemporary school leadership practice teach courses on school leadership and policy use as a quality reference in writing articles about school leadership and improvement.

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Editorial: Relevant Research

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JEFFREY S. BROOKS

The articles in issue 3, volume 21, of the Journal of School Leadership explore some interesting cutting-edge and classic issues. We see authors examining effectiveness, preparation, issues related to special education, response to intervention, academic coaching, and adopting a strengths-based rather than deficit attitude toward leadership. Importantly, these are among the most pressing issues facing school leaders today, and our authors offer insightful analyses and useful recommendations.

In “Special Education Leadership: Integrating Professional and Personal Codes of Ethics to Serve the Best Interests of the Child,” by Susan C. Bon and Adam J. Bigbee of George Mason University, we learn more about how special education leaders identify and respond to ethical dilemmas in their work. Jule McCombes-Tolis of Saint Joseph College and Louise Spear-Swerling of Southern Connecticut State University, in “The Preparation of Preservice Elementary Educators in Understanding and Applying the Terms, Concepts, and Practices Associated With Response to Intervention in Early Reading Contexts,” examine issues related to the way that educators are prepared, from a response-to-intervention perspective. “‘Successful’ Principals: A Contested Notion for Superintendents and Principals,” by Samantha M. Paredes Scribner, Gary M. Crow, Gerardo R. López, and Khaula Murtadha, Indiana University, interrogate the way that principals and superintendents define and enact the notion of “success.” In “Taking a Strengths-Based Focus Improves School Climate,” by Megan Tschannen-Moran at the College of William and Mary and Bob Tschannen-Moran from the Center for School Transformation, use appreciative inquiry to evaluate effects on student climate. Donald Wise, from California State University, Fresno, and Marc Hammack of Kastner Intermediate, Clovis Unified School District, in “Leadership Coaching: Coaching Competencies and Best Practices,” examine best practices and investigate their relationship to student achievement. Finally, “Collective Learning From Success as Perceived by School Superintendents,” by Chen Schechter of Bar-Ilan University, explores how the superintendents’ role has shifted from the traditional emphasis on managerial aspects to an instructional leadership emphasis in Israel.

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Special Education Leadership: Integrating Professional and Personal Codes of Ethics to Serve the Best Interests of the Child

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SUSAN C. BON
ADAM J. BIGBEE

ABSTRACT: Special education teachers who also serve as case managers for students with disabilities are in unique leadership positions in which they face complex ethical dilemmas and are called on to make decisions that involve multiple competing interests and pressures. The purpose of this study was to explore how special education leaders identify ethical dilemmas and to examine the ethical perspectives that influenced their decision making. Through a series of focus group interviews based on a semistructured interview protocol, special education case mangers engaged in collective discussions about ethics and ethical decision making. The findings suggest that special education leaders operate according to an ethical framework that integrates personal and professional codes of ethics and emphasizes the best interests of the child. The complexity of integrating legal compliance pressures and administrative policy directives into the framework, however, led to inner conflict for many of the participants.

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The Preparation of Preservice Elementary Educators in Understanding and Applying the Terms, Concepts, and Practices Associated With Response to Intervention in Early Reading Contexts

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JULE MCCOMBES-TOLIS
LOUISE SPEAR-SWERLING

ABSTRACT: The purpose of the present inquiry was to identify how thoroughly degree-granting institutions in our state prepare elementary educators to serve students’ literacy needs from a response to intervention perspective. The first investigator collected syllabi via a Freedom of Information request made to the state’s Department of Higher Education, which had gathered syllabi in relation to a separate inquiry. Results indicated that preservice elementary educators are not routinely being prepared to understand key terms, concepts, and practices associated with response to intervention in early reading contexts. Implications for school leaders, district administrators, and higher education faculty are reviewed.

This article reviews the research on teacher knowledge in the domain of reading and the impact of teacher knowledge on student literacy outcomes, as considered within the context of implementation of response to intervention (RTI) models in reading. The purpose of this inquiry was to examine one state’s elementary education teacher preparation practices using course syllabi from required reading methods courses for preservice elementary educators. Following a background review of the literature concerning teacher knowledge and preparation practices, the article presents questions associated with the current inquiry, describes the methodology of the study, reports and discusses the results, and considers implications of the study for school leaders and higher education faculty who teach reading methods courses.

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“Successful” Principals: A Contested Notion for Superintendents and Principals

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SAMANTHA M. PAREDES SCRIBNER
GARY M. CROW
GERARDO R. LÓPEZ
KHAULA MURTADHA

ABSTRACT: The notion of “success” is narrowly defined and appropriated within an educational context. Typically limited to objective measures of organizational productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency, “successful” principal practices, we argue, engender action and attention to a broader array of issues and interrelationships. In this study, we conducted an exploratory case study drawing from interviews with five superintendents and three principals to probe broader definitions of successful school leadership. Data analysis revealed three themes to guide further research on successful leadership practice: capillarity of leadership actions, principals’ positionality in relation to members of the school community, and principals’ actions as moral ends.

In this era of accountability, the notion of “success” has been narrowly defined and appropriated within an educational context. Test scores, grades, attendance rates, and other markers of productivity have become proxies for success and school achievement. These objective markers of success not only emerge from and reproduce a problematic positivist discourse (English & Papa, 2009) but also reduce our understanding of success to finite variables that are mechanistically determined by a discrete set of inputs (English, 2008; Greenfield & Ribbins, 1993). We believe that success is more than a catchphrase for organizational productivity or school effectiveness or efficiency (Forbes, 1991)—for leaders can be remarkably successful at attaining a desired outcome without taking any action, mobilizing any resources, or doing anything whatsoever. In other words, success engenders more than the simple attainment of a particular goal or objective; it also encompasses the process of realizing that objective as well as the objective itself (Bennis & Nanus, 1985). Yet, this definition is equally problematic; it is quite possible to disarticulate process from outcome.

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Taking a Strengths-Based Focus Improves School Climate

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MEGAN TSCHANNEN-MORAN
BOB TSCHANNEN-MORAN

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to learn whether focusing on strengths through appreciative inquiry would be related to measurable changes in school climate and trust within a small urban school district. The district studied was a beleaguered, underperforming school district in the Midwest Rust Belt. Through an appreciative inquiry initiative, the district identified three areas of inquiry: student achievement and success, trust and respect, and community pride and involvement. The inquiries led to new initiatives in each area. A longitudinal study was conducted over 2 years, with data collected at two points, once 12 months before and again 12 months after the appreciative inquiry process was introduced. Significant improvements were shown in seven of the eight climate and trust variables assessed.

Appreciative inquiry (AI) is both a philosophy and an approach for motivating change that focuses on exploring and amplifying organizational strengths. AI contrasts with traditional models of change that focus on weaknesses, problems, and gaps. Instead, AI encourages organizations to identify strengths and imagine possibilities to outgrow problems and realize visions. The purpose of this study was to learn whether such an approach would be related to measurable changes in the areas identified for inquiry by a small urban school district. The hypothesis that guided this study was that an AI process around three self-identified areas of interest—namely, student achievement and success, trust and respect, and community pride and involvement—would result in measurable improvements in school climate and trust.

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Leadership Coaching: Coaching Competencies and Best Practices

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DONALD WISE
MARC HAMMACK

ABSTRACT: Leadership coaching is now seen as a valuable tool to assist school leaders. Through a survey of school principals, this study identified specific coaching competencies used by leadership coaches that were perceived by principals to influence key best practices for schools. These best practices have in turn been correlated to increased student achievement in the literature. The findings have been incorporated into an instrument that can be used by coaches and clients to focus and refine their work together.

A new principal begins his 1st day in an elementary school. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in school leadership, but his university administrative credential program did not adequately prepare him for the reality of this school. His school is mired in low achievement scores; many of the teachers are burned out; and he has just learned that the budget shortfall will force him to immediately cut several support positions. The principal wonders, The teachers have academic coaches—why don’t I have a coach to help me?

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Collective Learning From Success as Perceived by School Superintendents

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CHEN SCHECHTER

ABSTRACT: School superintendents’ role has shifted from the traditional emphasis on managerial aspects to one on instructional leadership (on teaching and learning issues) achieved by generating collaborative learning opportunities at the both school and district levels. Whereas collaborative learning processes in schools have generally been associated with problem finding and solving as well as overcoming failures, this study explores superintendents’ perceptions (mindscapes) about the determinants of collective learning from successful practices. This exploratory study employed a qualitative topic-oriented methodology, collecting data via face-to-face interviews with 61 superintendents. Data analysis of interviews revealed determinants of collective learning from success at the superintendency level, school building level, and national level. As a leadership strategy to foster collective learning, superintendents’ role should be examined in designing a districtwide framework of collective learning from success.

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