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1 of 24 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 7 Number 18May 30, 1999ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 1999, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Demonstrated Actions of Instructional Leaders: An Examination of Five California Superintendents George J. Petersen University of Missouri-ColumbiaAbstractThis exploratory study focuses on the perceived and actual leadership characteristics and actions of five district superintendents in Califor nia who focused on the core technology of education curriculum and instruction. In-depth interviews were conducted with these superintendents, their principals and members of th eir boards of education. The selection of superintendents for this study were guided by th ree criteria: peer recognition as instructional leaders, district demographics and ag gregated increases in CAP (California Assessment Program) scores in grades 3, 3&6, and 3 6&8 for the academic years of 1986-87 to 1989-90. Interview responses indicated t hat superintendents in this study perceived four attributes to be essential in their ability to be successful instructional leaders. These attributes are: (1) Possession and a rticulation of an instructional vision; (2) the creation of an organizational structure tha t supports their instructional vision and leadership; (3) assessment and evaluation of person nel and instructional programs; and (4) organizational adaptation. By employing respons es given by the superintendents in this study and looking closely at what they articul ated as their role in promoting curriculum and instruction as well as the larger or ganizational structure a preliminary model of perceived superintendent behaviors was con structed. To confirm perceptions, actions, and behavi ors articulated by the district superintendents, triangulation interviews were cond ucted with school principals and school board members in each of the participating d istricts. A 52item questionnaire was also administered to every principal and school board member in these districts.
2 of 24Responses of these personnel confirmed the articula ted actions and behaviors of these superintendents in their promotion of the technical core of curriculum and instruction.Introduction This research focuses on the perceived inst ructional leadership characteristics of several highly effective California school superint endents. What makes the research new is not that it comes from a state widely known for its educational innovation, especially that of its chief school officers. The research is new because it focuses on a growing problem now widely shared by chief school officers in this and other states as they struggle with being behind rather than at the leadi ng edge of school reform across the country. The superintendents at the core of this stu dy were sure that their districts could make a bigger difference in their students' learnin g than was common across their region and within the state. And despite the remoteness of their central office from the classrooms in which differences must ultimately be made, they were convinced that there must be things that they could do as leaders that would impact on those classrooms curricular, teaching and testing core. If, as the g rowing body of literature on middle managers suggested, principals could and should be instructional leaders (Dwyer, 1984; Martin & Willower, 1981; Ogawa & Hart, 1985; Peters on, 1984), they wondered why could and should not they? Their journey to instructional leadership a nd ultimately effectiveness was neither easy nor unidirectional. Indeed, in even undertakin g the journey at all, they had more than their share of obstacles. Chief of these was: A field of educational leadership rive by politics of pragmatism and those of idealism. On one side of this dogfight stood a large majority of respected scholars and practition ers who asserted that educational leadership is primarily a technical matter. For the se leaders, the "behavior-thing" had meaning, and leadership revolved around getting oth ers in the organization to accomplish particular tasks. These leaders encourag ed potential instructional leaders to pay attention to matters such as personnel administ ration, school law, school business management and finance, technology and facilities p lanning. On the other side of this dogfight, stood a smaller but vocal minority of equ ally respected individuals who asserted that education leadership is primarily a m oral matter. For these leaders, the "vision-thing" had meaning and leadership revolved around getting others in the organization to believe in certain things. So these leaders emphasized that the potential instructional leaders should focus on topics such a s ethics and values, covenants and commitments, and educational futures instead. A field of educational leadership in which instructional leadership was of very low priority. Even as top ranked programs of educationa l administration strived toward major reform in the training of school leaders, the bulk of these reforms rarely focused on issues in instructional leadership. Indeed, one mid-90's study from the influential University Council of Educational Administration (P ohland & Carlson, 1992), ranked instructional leadership seventeenth out of the top 23 subject matter areas offered at the member institutions of UCEA. Even the widely advoca ted topic of the eighties, instructional supervision, tied for ninth in this s urvey. A field of instructional leadership in whic h the theoretical base is relatively large but the empirical is small. Indeed, even at the tim e this research began and sometime well after our pool of superintendents had begun th eir journey as instructional leaders, there were only a handful of studies to which one c ould turn for guidance about how a superintendent might think, feel, and behave as an instructional leader. While we reserve
3 of 24here the right to summarize later in this paper the findings of two of the best of these studies (Bjork, 1993; Coleman & LaRocque, 1990; Kow alski & Oates, 1993; Murphy & Hallinger, 1986; Peterson, Murphy, & Hallinger, 198 6) and compare and contrast them with our own, suffice it to say this handful of stu dies stands in sharp contrast to the handfuls of studies that have focused on principals as instructional leaders. A field in which the small pool of empirica l research available had not focused on the thinking, feeling, and action of demonstrably e ffective instructional leaders. The leaders researched were not chosen for their actual success in promoting student learning as that success is typically judged by their public stake-holders, namely, by some kind of test scores or other hard evidence of learning prog ress. Nor were they chosen for their demonstrated success with those that they were supp osed to lead and, in particular, their school boards, their principals and their teachers. So, even if potential instructional leaders took the findings of these few studies on t he superintendent as an instructional leader to heart, these leaders had no firm reason t o believe that thinking, feeling, and acting as indicated would decidedly impact on the l earning of their students or the development of their public and professional staffs This study asked demonstrably effective ins tructional leaders to reflect on the question, "What is your perception of the district superintendent's role in the promotion of curriculum and instruction? The work presented h ere is based on an examination of the instructional leadership behaviors and activiti es of five school superintendents in California.ProceduresIdentifying and Selection of Instructionally Focuse d Superintendents Employing both quantitative and qualitative analyses drawn from in-depth interviews and school personnel surveys, the collec tion of data was conducted in three phases. Phase one consisted of inductive and hypoth esis-generating interviews with five district superintendents identified and recommended as instructional leaders (Goetz and LeCompte, 1984). The purpose of these interviews wa s to explore district superintendent's perceptions of functions and respo nsibilities they perform in the promotion of curriculum and instruction (Seidman, 1 991). Phase two consisted of triangulation interviews (based on responses and do mains generated from the phase one interviews) with two randomly chosen principals and one school board member in each district. The third phase of the study consisted of administering questionnaires to all principals and school board members in each of thes e districts who had been active for a minimum of two years during the CAP measurement per iod and tenure of the district superintendent. Like the phase two interviews, the surveys were used in order to explore the articulated actions and behaviors of district s uperintendents. Additionally, systematic review of district documentation was also conducted during the third phase. Selection of Instructionally Focused Superintendent s The ability to locate "instructionally focu sed" superintendents is not an easy task. No politically savvy district administrator would e ver admit that (s)he was not focused on issues of curriculum, instruction and student ac hievement, but the managerially reality of the position often forces the district s uperintendent to concentrate on issues other than instruction (Dunigan, 1980; Hannaway & S proull, 1978; Pitner, 1979).
4 of 24Therefore the selection process of instructionally focused superintendents took a somewhat deductive approach. An initial list of the names of superintendents perceived to be instructionally focused was guided in part by the recommendations of participants in several pilot interviews and conversations (Bogd an & Biklen, 1992;Seidman, 1991;Dwyer, 1984). These recommendations were obtained from se veral sources: Faculty members in the Educational Policy, Organizational and Leadersh ip Studies program at the University of California Santa Barbara who were involved in th e administrative certification program; pilot interviews with three district super intendents, one assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction and tw o elementary school principals located in southern and central California as well as a lecturer in the Confluent Education program at UCSB who had previously served as an elementary school principal and superintendent. This snowball samplin g approach (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992) eventually led to a list of eight superintend ents. While recommendations revealed the names of superintendents, the importance of establishing reasonable quantitative measures of in structional effectiveness was the next step. Two sets of data were examined, demographic d ata on each district and these districts' performance on the California Assessment Program (CAP) achievement test during the tenure of these superintendents. District Demographics : To ensure that these districts led by these super intendents were similar in type (urban, suburban, rural), size and student populations served, demographic data were collected utilizing the infor mation from the California Basic Educational System (CBEDS) for the school years of 1985-86 and 1989-1990. Information on total student population, minority s tudent population and percentages, as well as the percentages of limited English speaking students (LEP) and percentages of dropouts for each of these districts were complied. Each district was then contacted and asked to provide the percentages of students gradua ting and going on to institutions of higher education. Examination of these data reveale d that they were similar in size, percentage of minority and LEP students, number of student who did not finish school and students who graduated and went on to two and f our year institutions. CAP Achievement Test : Until 1990, the California Assessment Program (CA P) achievement test was administered annually to stude nts in the third, sixth, eighth and twelfth grades CAP assess a range of school achieve ment including basic skills, critical thinking and problem solving aligned to the Califor nia State curricular frameworks (Heck, Larsen, & Marcoulides, 1990). State ranked p ercentiles for these grades in the general subjects of reading, word recognition, and math from 1985-86 to 1989-90 for these districts were obtained. A review of these da ta indicated that five of these superintendents were heading districts that had the largest percentile growth in test scores for the areas of reading and mathematics in grades 3, 3&6 and 3,6&8 for the academic years of 1986-87 1989-90 (see Table 1). Of course such scores have been criticized as a sole measure of educational effecti veness, still they have been widely used for research in California schools as a common meas ure of student learning at the state, district, and school level (Hart and Ogawa, 1987; M urphy, Hallinger, Peterson and Lotto, 1987).Table 1 School District CharacteristicsDistrictSchoolsStudent District CAP Percentile Grow th
5 of 24EnrollmentStructure (1986-87 to 1989-90) Grades 33&63,6&8 1159,174K-1211012013829 6,069 K-121122021743115,541K-12371281264109,108K-1253--1755159,527K-127992150 Instrumentation A scheduled standardized interview protocol was developed to ascertain the role of the district superintendent in instructional promot ion and responsibilities (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984). Questions were primarily open-ende d and were based on literature describing superintendent task behaviors and priori ties as well as review of instructional models that have been implemented on a district-wid e level. Phase Two: Triangulation interview questions based on the information and do mains generated by data gathered in the phase one interviews were used with randomly se lected principals and school board members in each district. In order to probe the per ception of these district personnel, interview questions were generally worded and left open-ended. Phase Three: The fact that responses of principals and school board membe rs in the phase two interviews corroborated and confirmed many of the perceptions and actions articulated by the district superintendents, a fifty-two item question naire was constructed and sent to all principals and school board members in each distric t. Survey items were primarily based on five point Likert scale. There were some binary and forced choice items as well, which primarily examined duties, roles and responsi bilities of school principals and school board members.Data Collection All superintendent interviews ranged betwee n one and one half to two hours in length. After each interview session, verbatim tran scriptions were prepared from an audiotape. Interviews of principals and school board m embers were conducted in person and by telephone. These interviews ranged between fifty minutes and one hour and each interview was audiotaped and verbatim transcripts w ere also made. A fifty two item questionnaire based on dom ains and behaviors articulated in the phase one interviews and confirmed in the phase two interviews was administered to every principal and school board member that had be en active for a minimum of two years in each of the five school districts. The que stionnaire sample consisted of forty-four school principals and thirtyone school board members, sixty-three out of seventy five total respondents, an eighty four perc ent response rate, completed surveys. Data Analysis It is true that informants can and do give inaccurate and misleading data, even though they are doing their best to be helpful (Dob bert, 1982). The reliance on self-reported data by district superintendents coul d lead to problems concerning the
6 of 24validity of the information received. Because previ ous research has indicated weak linkages between organizational levels in school di stricts this study understood that perceptions of actions or behaviors at one level of the organization may not be shared with other levels (Crowson, Hurwitz, Morris, and Po rterGehris, 1981; Deal and Celotti, 1980; Hannaway and Sproull, 1978). Answers to interview questions were placed on summary sheets and matrices and then examined to determine if any relationships wer e apparent. A two-part domain analysis for each interview was conducted (Spradley 1979) The analysis included analyzing each interview individually across the qu estions categories. Once individual interviews had been examined and categorized, respo nses were put on a domain matrices that examined district responses. This matrix was e xamined in order to determine if themes or consistency were apparent in the percepti ons of the respondents regarding their role and participation in curricular and inst ructional promotion. The open-ended nature of the questions provided an abundance of da ta on a number of themes. All analysis of the personnel questionnaire was conducted using SYSTAT (version 5.0). Three types of analysis were used on the comp leted surveys. First, descriptive statistics were computed for purposes of summarizin g the demographic characteristics of the sample and the ratings for each item appearing on the survey (frequencies, means and standard deviations). Second, Cronbach's alpha coefficients (Crocker & Algina, 1986) were calculated in order to ascertain the deg ree of internal consistency exhibited by the instrument. Examination of the reliability a nalysis indicated that the instrument exhibited moderated to strong internal consistency. The overall alpha coefficient was equal to .87. Finally, Pearson Product Moment Corre lation Coefficients and Kendall-Partial Rank Correlation Coefficients were calculated to test the overall strength and the relationship of four components of the mode l of superintendent perceived behaviors in district curricular and instructional promotion.Results The five superintendents reported that they were involved in all aspects of decision making in their school districts, but all of them c oncentrated more energy, time and resources to the technical core of curriculum and i nstruction. First, they articulated a personal vision for the education of children and t hrough different leadership styles, successfully wove that vision into the mission of t heir districts. Second, through the hiring and replacing of personnel, involvement of s chool board members, shared decision making and the implementation of various i nstructional strategies they were able to create an organizational structure that sup ported their vision and role as instructional leader. Finally, they monitored and a ssessed the programs and personnel using a variety of hard and soft indicators but alw ays with the objective of making the organization more instructionally sound.Personal Responsibilities Superintendents in this study gave examples of functions that they did in order to promote instruction within their districts. These f unctions are referred to as personal responsibilities and can be defined as functions th at are neither initiated by nor deferred to other members within the organization. The respo nsibilities articulated by the participating superintendents were the establishmen t of an instructional vision, risk taking, being highly visible, modeling and signalin g examples of district valued behavior and acting as a district cheerleader.
7 of 24 Vision Vision has been defined as a set of profess ional norms that shape organizational activities toward a desired state (Coleman & LaRocq ue, 1990). Sergiovanni (1990) defines it as beliefs, dreams and direction of the organization and the building of consensus to get there. The term vision in this stu dy is defined as the personal beliefs about the education of children and the expressed o rganizational goals and/or mission for the school district to accomplish these beliefs Superintendent responses strongly indicated that the establishment of a vision or goals was of paramount importance for the district' s success in instruction. When asked about their role in the instructional process and s pecific things that they did to promote instruction their responses were: "The superintende nt has to have the vision and sense of what can be" (Superintendent 1, hereafter S1). "I t hink my role is to establish the vision for this district and to be sure that everybody tha t works here assimilates and personalizes this vision" (S2). "The vision is real important because it forms a structure or the platform for every decision you make" (S3). "The superintendent has to be more that a catalyst. He must be the keeper and seller o f the vision" (S4). "To secure access to a rich curriculum for all students and support netw orks to help assure that all youngsters are successful is something that we've tried to per meate in terms of our vision for all students" (S5). Some of the personal visions articulated by these superintendents were: "To ensure that all students acquire the knowledge, skills, an d attitudes essential to become productive members of society" (S1). "My commitment to the public is to provide a quality education for all children and to treat peo ple with courtesy and care" (S2). "All students can learn and it is the responsibility of the school to ensure that they are successful" (S4). "I believe it is the responsibili ty of the school district that every student has access to quality educational programs and acce ss to be successful in meeting the goals of those programs" (S5). Though the articulation of a vision was ess ential at the beginning, vision alone is insufficient to promote academic success. The next essential component was the superintendents' ability to successfully integrate the vision throughout the organization. "You have a vision and you transfer that vision int o goals. In a school district, whatever it is that you establish as your goals, should then influence the establishment of district outcomes" (S1). Taking Risks Another part of the articulation process wa s taking risks; not always doing the cautious or safe thing. "If you want to improve you have to be willing to take risks when you believed those risks will lead toward better te aching and more effective learning on the part of students" (S5). The superintendents in this study saw themselves as risk-takers, and expressed a personal responsibilit y to offer instructional programs that they felt were in the best interest for the student s and for the goals of the district. Several of the superintendents recounted events when they e ither eliminated or expanded programs in the district or dismissed popular princ ipals/administrators knowing initially these decisions would risk support and potentially cause a rift in their relationship with members of the school board. High Visibility Personal presence was perceived by these su perintendents to do three things: demonstrate teacher support, monitor classroom inst ruction, and to get a first hand
8 of 24account of what was going on at the various school sites. The superintendents in this study indicated that they enjoyed school visitation s and felt that their presence on school sites signaled their support of teachers and what t hey were trying to accomplish. "I show interest in how kids, in how teachers are teaching and kids are learning, by going to the sites and visiting with the teachers and observing classrooms" (S2). Although they enjoyed visiting schools, superintendents saw schoo l visitation as their opportunity to monitor and evaluate each of the school sites. They were particularly interested in assessing technical core operations and expressed t hat the only way to know what was really "going on" was to spend a good deal of time walking around, looking, asking questions, and being involved. "One of the things t hat I sees as of significant importance is visibility. Frequent visits, meetings and intera ction with staff. Yesterday I visited every elementary summer school classroom. I didn't stay long, but I went and made contact with each one of the teachers. Some places I just stayed fifty seconds, some places I stayed ten to fifteen minutes, depending o n the room, but they're used to that. I never tell them when I'm coming to their campuses. I stop in though and say, "I'm here!" They're not allowed to get on the loud speaker and say that the superintendent is here or anything like that. They can't do that. I want to s ee the real world and everybody's used to that. And so, I'll hit 1,000 classrooms a year" (S1). Finally, they saw personal visits to school s as a way of managing and reinforcing district goals by talking with principals and teach ers about the various program goals and objectives and seeing first hand if district go als were being reached. "Another thing that I like to do and principals and teachers are a ware of this. I always encouraged a room environment that is reflective of the instruct ional program and that includes the display of student work. So, when I visit a classro om, I go in and look at the student work. Now, if I see student work that is really not according to standard, I'll say to the principal, "Have you been in there and looked at th at room?" "Go take a look at it!" They know I'll do that. This lets them know that the ins tructional goals of the district are important" (S3). Modeling "Modeling" and "signaling" in these intervi ews were terms used by the superintendents to mean the same thing. They can be defined as setting personal examples of district valued behavior. "The keeper o f the vision has to signal what is important in the company and you signal them in man y different ways. You signal through what you write. You signal through what you say. You signal through what you do" (S1). Though modeling/signaling by the superint endents occurred most often in meetings with senior staff, principals, teachers an d parents. It also occurred in the classroom. Superintendents indicated that modeling and signaling were articulated through the meeting agendas, in the types of inserv ice and speakers offered for the staff's professional development, and the allocation of res ources given by the district office in the way of staff development. "By supporting financ ially the district's efforts to do better for kids, I try to model it in everything that I do We do a lot of training and a lot of staff development. So, we support teachers so they can le arn to be more professionally competent and we drive the agendas to a certain ext ent by the kind of staff development that we provide" (S2). Cheerleading Cheerleading was defined as recognizing and presenting programs, schools and individuals that reflect and encompass the vision a nd mission of the district. As one superintendent said, "Recognizing islands of excell ence," within the district. It consisted
9 of 24of the public promotion of innovations, strategies and persons that were working and succeeding in achieving district goals. Cheerleadin g most often occurred when the superintendent publicly recognized individuals and groups in district meetings, having them conduct presentations in front of parent group s (e.g., PTA) and the school boards as well as honoring them in district newsletters an d the local paper. "I'm going out there to recognize high performance to help people celebr ate when we have success. Call attention to success. Identify islands of excellenc e and acknowledge that" (S2). Creation of an Organizational Structure Supporting Instructi on Superintendents in these districts emphasiz ed that the possession and articulation of a vision and personal actions were essential but no t sufficient to successfully promote instruction in their districts. The creation of an organizational structure that facilitated and promoted instruction was paramount in instituti onalizing their vision. Responses of the superintendents indicated that this was accompl ished through two means. First is management of the organization. The rudiments of th is strategy as articulated by the superintendents in this study included: Collaborati on with the school board, the hiring, transfer and/or replacement of administrative perso nnel, working and closely supervising school principals, the creation of a hierarchy of d istrict departments, and personal visits to classrooms. The second method was the employment and use of instructional and assessment strategies. These included the use of th e California State Curriculum Framework, districtaligned curriculum, district a dopted instructional strategies, and intensive staff development.Management In the context of these interviews, managem ent represents district organizational policies and personal supervision of members of the organization by the district superintendent in order to facilitate and achieve d istrict goals. School Board Common features among these superintendents were the conditions under which they were hired. All five were recruited by the sch ool board with a mandate to improve the instructional program of the district. They fel t that this was a significant factor in their ability to promote their ideas and vision wit h relative ease and in general encountered minimal amounts of conflict with their boards over instructional issues. Though the membership of the school boards has chan ged during the tenure of each superintendent, the school boards reportedly have s upported the efforts of these superintendents to improve the instructional progra m. To ensure the board's perpetual support, three of the superintendents regularly sen d board members to conferences, to observe other districts, and include them in staff development inservices focusing on instructional strategies that are being implemented within the district. When asked about getting the school board to share in their vision o f instruction and to underwrite them, each superintendent pointed to the fact that they k eep their boards involved and appraised of what is happening in the district and the goals they are trying to achieve. The superintendents in this study expressed that another benefit of their recruitment by their respective school boards was the significa nt amount of leeway given them to replace personnel in the district. This freedom per mitted the superintendents to do two things: (1.) To put key people in important leaders hip positions (i.e., assistant superintendents and principals) and (2.) to create a hierarchy of district departments. Hiring, Transfer and/or Replacement of Personnel
10 of 24 The hiring and placement of personnel was a rticulated as an essential component to the instructional success of their districts. Each superintendent recounted a time when they felt it necessary to replace a member of their senior staff. There were two primary reasons given for these individuals removal. The fi rst was the inertia of the previous administration in the area of instruction and these individual's participation in the inertia. The second and most common reason was the unwilling ness of these people to share in and work toward the "new vision" of the incoming su perintendent. "I had a person who I felt was a good manager, but just not a good instru ctional leader and we moved that person into a job that took advantage of his skills (S5). Only one superintendent said that he replaced a senior staff member because of i ncompetence. "After I put in a new team, I fired another district administrator becaus e he was totally incompetent. You have to get rid of the gate keepers when you come in t o improve a school district" (S1). All of the superintendents articulated that the role of their principals is to be the instructional leaders at their respective sites. A significant pa rt of this responsibility requires the principal to develop detailed site level plans, act ive leadership, planning, and participation in all staff development, frequent ob servation of teachers and grounding teacher feedback in district adopted instructional goals. Superintendents in this study also commente d on the fact that it because this was a different paradigm for several of their "old buildi ng and grounds" oriented principals, they found it necessary to replace principals in th eir districts. One superintendent replaced half of his principals in the past six yea rs, four of them in his first year. The reasons were the unwillingness or inability of thes e principals to share in and work toward the vision of the superintendent. "I had to change a principal because the instructional leadership at that school wasn't what it was supposed to be and wasn't getting to the point where you could see that it wa s going to get any better. The individual was a nice guy, a great guy, but just no t meeting, just wasn't doing it. Couldn't see it. Didn't understand it. Couldn't grasp it" (S 3). Hierarchy of Departments The importance of personnel being-in-the-ri ght-place was also made evident when these superintendents spoke about establishing a hi erarchy of departments within the district. Each of the superintendents maintained th at of all the departments in the district, the instructional department was paramount and that other departments existed to support instruction. In only one district was this hierarchy a formalized district policy, the remaining four districts indicated that there w as clear "understanding" by the staff members in the district office. In order to facilit ate the time necessary to focus on the technical core, superintendents hired and placed hi ghly competent individuals that shared in their vision to head each of the departme nts. According to the superintendents in this study, the assistant superintendents headin g the non-instructional departments, e.g., business and personnel knew of the hierarchy and therefore were given a reasonable amount of autonomy and authority with key check poi nts which permitted easy monitoring by the district superintendents. This al leviated the superintendents from some of the otherwise peripheral organizational con cerns and gave them time necessary to promote technical core issues. Principals The personal supervision of principals by s uperintendents was the most common method used to keep a finger on the pulse of distri ct schools. Much of what was said by the superintendents implied that principals were th e critical line in the successful promotion of an instructional vision. Principals we re required to lead, plan, participate in
11 of 24and act as a resource for teachers at their school site. "We start working on aligning the curriculum and on teaching teachers teaching strate gies that would help them to become more effective. We began a very intense program of supervision, evaluation, and feedback for teachers. We taught the principals all this stuff and sent them forth" (S2). The format of principal superintendent in teraction was fairly standard throughout the five districts. Principals were required to mee t with the superintendent on a regular basis. This consisted of between two to four formal meetings a month plus any meetings with the principals at their school site. Each prin cipal was required to write an instructional and leadership plan for his or her sc hool annually. The goals of these plans were to reflect and integrate district policies and objectives with goals for their particular school. These plans were then read and commented on by the superintendent and returned to the principals. In some cases, because of a lack of specificity concerning goals, principals were required to rewrite and resu bmit it to the district superintendent. The school site plans were used in two rela ted -evaluative capacities. The first acted as an assessment tool of the district office in est ablishing a school's ability to successfully achieve district and site goals outlin e in the plan. The second was in the evaluation of the principal. All of the superintend ent in this study personally evaluated the school principals. By and large, a principal's length of tenure in these districts rested primarily on these evaluations. The evaluations wer e narrative, detailed and very extensive, "No forms or boxes to check off" (S4). F undamentally, they were based on the principal's ability to meet the objectives and goals outlined in the school site plan. For example, in one district a goal for each school was to outline and strategically implement the Madeline Hunter Model. The superinten dent listened to audiotapes of the principals conferencing with teachers about the te acher's usage of the model. These conversations then became part of the principal's a nnual evaluation. Instructional Strategies When selecting an instructional model or di strict wide strategy, there was a consistency across these districts in their criteri a. Their decisions were based on three things. First, the model of strategy would have to facilitate the articulated vision and goals of the district. Second, it was necessary tha t the instructional strategy be grounded in research and practice. Finally, it would have to have a "grass roots" acceptance by a majority of teaching staff. Only two districts made use of the same instructional model, (i.e., Outcome-Based Education and Mastery Learning ) while the remaining three used a variety of modes, e.g., Cooperative Learning and Ma deline Hunter throughout their schools. Intensive Staff Development When a strategy or model had been adopted, extensive staff development was made available to teachers, principals and board members Each of the superintendents expressed confidence in the professionalism and abi lity of their teachers but realized that the teachers could benefit from learning alternativ e ways of presenting material. "I think that we have to let the professionals adapt from a menu of well accepted research and educational practices, and let them use those strat egies that best suit them" (S5). Though each of the districts in this study used a variety of instructional methods, the underlying similarity was that each district ma de available to their staffs workshops, conferences, speakers, resources and eve n courses at local colleges in order to help them to improve their instructional reperto ire. One superintendent captured the idea in this statement, "We saw teacher training as an important part of the effort to improve our instructional program. If people know h ow to teach they will teach. If they
12 of 24don't know how to teach they won't. They'll come up with other things to do to fill the time" (S3). Assessment and Evaluation Once a vision had been articulated and prog rams and personnel were in place, questions such as, "Are the students more successfu l?" "Is the organization serving the children better?" and "Are programs achieving their objectives?" had to be addressed and answered. According to the superintendents of t his study, the next responsibility for the district was to monitor and assess the district 's chosen path. The assessment of instructional success as well as personnel performance relied on the use of both hard and soft indicators. Aside fro m California Assessment Program (CAP) scores as a means of assessing district and g rade level progress in reading, language and math, three of the five districts belo nged to the CAS Squared Consortium. CAS Squared made use of an aligned curriculum and p rovided districts with individual and class scores not measured or reported by CAP. O ther evaluative tools included the school site leadership and instructional plans subm itted by each school principal at the beginning of the school year. Personal observations by the superintendent and district staff as well as other soft indicators. A point of interest of this study was the e valuative criteria used by these superintendents in determining whether or not an in structional program should be retained or replaced. The criterion used by the sup erintendent's was diverse. Three of the districts in this study made use of "soft" indicato rs when making a decision to retain or replace a program, (i.e., teacher and parent feedba ck, peer evaluations, community feedback, and district staff feedback) along with s ome "hard" data, (i.e. CAP scores, district standardized tests, CAS Squared). The two districts using the Outcome-Based Education model made use of "hard" data bands that were tightly aligned to district outcome curriculum goals. If, at the end of one to two academic years, the outcome goals were not being met and or surpassed, the prog ram would be altered or replaced. The underlying criteria in their decisions rested o n the idea of whether or not the organization would be able to serve the needs of it 's students better. If replacing a program (or person) permitted the organization to i mprove student learning the replacement generally would be made. "I think, cons idering everything in the organization, would the total organization be servi ng kids better or worse? If the bottom line is the organization is going to serve kids bet ter if I make that decision (to replace the program) I'm going to go ahead and do it. If I dete rmine it's not, I'm not" (S2).Model of Superintendents Perceived Behaviors In District Curricular and Instructional Promotion By employing responses given by the superin tendents in this study and looking closely at what they articulated as their role in p romoting curriculum and instruction as well as the larger organizational structure a preli minary model of perceived superintendent behaviors was constructed (See Figur e 1).
13 of 24 The model depicts the four significant beha viors these superintendents preformed when promoting instruction within their districts. It demonstrates the flow of their vision and how this vision directs each part of the organi zational structure, from the goals and objectives of the district, to the various programs and personnel and the means of evaluation and assessment of both.Principal and School Board Members Perceptions Superintendents stated that principals and school board members played a pivotal role in the successful promotion of instruction wit hin the district. According to the superintendents, principals primarily accomplished this through the writing of school site instructional plans that incorporated district goal s and objectives, the observation and evaluation of teachers in the classroom, and planni ng and participation in staff development and through the monitoring of the princ ipals in these functions by the district superintendent. School board members (SBM) were encouraged to learn about district instructional strategies in national, state, county and district level workshops and inservices. They were involved in the establishment of district instructi onal goals and objectives and more significantly the board members that participated i n this study articulated an "aligned philosophy" with the district superintendent about what had to be accomplished in order to have an academically successful school district. Other areas of critical importance were fiscal stability of the district and labor peace wi th certified and classified employees. Interview and Survey Data In order to determine whether principals an d school board members functioned in the duties and roles as articulated by the district superintendent and what their perceptions of the superintendent are in regard to his role in the promotion of instruction, this study made use of open-ended, triangulation in terviews (Spradley, 1979) with ten randomly selected principals and four school board members in these five districts. Confirmation surveys were then designed to corrobor ated data received from these key informants (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984). The sample of principals and (SBM) surveyed
14 of 24had to have been active in the district for a minim um of two years during the five years of academic growth. The survey sample consisted of for ty-four school principals and thirty-one school board members, sixty-three out of seventy five total respondents, an eighty four percent response rate, completed survey s. Findings Within district analysis of triangulation i nterview statements and survey responses with principals and SBM revealed that a significant majority of these pivotal personnel possessed similar perceptions of their role and the role of the district superintendent in promotion of curriculum and instruction. Interviews and within district percentages and frequencies demonstrated that principals perceived themselves as leaders and instructional resources at their respective school sites. (See Table 2)Table 2 Percent of Principals Answering "Yes" to Survey Que stions (n=35) Districts 1 2 3 4 5 As a Principal were you required to: Develop site level leadership plans100% 88%100%100% 100% Site plans incorporated district objectives10010010 0100100 Regularly observe teachers teaching100 88100100100Teacher observations based on district instructiona l strategies 71 86100100100 Participate in staff development100100100100100Observed by the district superintendent100 8610010 0100 Principal evaluations based on goals and objectivesdeveloped in site level plan 86100 75 86 80 Meetings with district superintendent were primaril y focused on instructional issues 100 83100100100 Superintendent made frequent school visits100100100 100100 Superintendent observed teachers teaching1001001001 00100 Superintendent met with teachers at school100 8610 0100100 Superintendent is instructionally focused1001001001 00100 Statements and survey responses made it app arent that principals were required by the district superintendent to write site-level pla ns that incorporated district goals and objectives, to observe and evaluate teachers, to le ad and conduct inservices and staff development programs, and to incorporate district a dopted instructional strategies in the curricular format at their school sites. Principals were evaluated annually by the district superintendent and a predominant criteria of their summative evaluation was their ability to successfully meet the goals outlined in their sc hool site plans. Principals also articulated and noted that they perceived their res pective superintendent as instructionally
15 of 24focused. School board members (SBM) confirmed much o f what was articulated in the superintendent interviews. School board members per ceived the district superintendent as instructionally focused and willing to "take risks" in order to promote their instructional vision. They stated and noted a philosophical align ment with the district superintendent on instructional matters, while indicating general involvement in determining instructional goals and objectives for their respec tive districts. (See Table 3)Table 3 Percent of School Board Members (SBM) Answering "Yes" to Survey Questions (n=28) Districts 1 2 3 4 5 As a School Board Member were you: Encouraged by the district superintendent to gainknowledge in instructional strategies 63%100%83%100%100% Assisted in establishment of district instructional goals 75100 50 75100 Overall agreement between SBM and districtsuperintendent in the areas of academic andinstructional issues and programs 100100 83100100 Did the district experience labor disputes with sta ff that interfered with the planning or implementation ofclassroom instruction? 0 0 0 0 0 Did the district superintendent risk popular suppor t to promote instruction? 88 60100 86 80 Is the district superintendent instructionally focu sed?100100 83100100 They indicated that relationships between t he district and certified and classified personnel agencies had not interfered with the plan ning or implementation of instructional issues during these years of measurem ent. When queried about the fiscal stability of the district, SBM had stated that the district had become fiscally stable before or under the stewardship of the present superintend ent. As a group, interviews and within district frequencies and percentages indicated that principals and SBM perceived their respective super intendent as possessing and articulating an instructional vision. They also per ceived the mission of the school district, the criteria used in the selection and implementati on of instructional strategies and staff development as well as the agenda of school board m eetings, the criteria used in the assessment of instructional programs as influenced by the vision of the district superintendent. (See Table 4).Table 4 Percent of Principals and School Board Members(SBM) "Strongly Agreeing" or "Agreeing" to Survey Questio ns (n=63)
16 of 24 Districts 1 2 3 4 5 Superintendent possessed vision100%100%100%100%100%Vision was focused on instruction 93 92 93100100District mission reflected this vision100100100100 91 Vision influenced staff development100100 93100100Vision influenced instructional programs 86 92 9310 0100 Vision influenced school board agenda 86100100100 9 1 Vision influenced principal evaluations100100 93100 82 Vision influenced criteria used in assessment ofinstructional programs 86 92100100100 Vision influenced the modification of districtinstructional programs 93100100100100 Superintendent encouraged collaboration 77 92 92 40 100 Superintendent received input from principals 53100 86 55 70 Superintendent received input from SBM 64 92 65 64 64 Academic success due in part to superintendent visi on and involvement 93 92 93100100 Superintendent strongly focused on curriculum andinstruction 100100100100100 Though a majority agreed that the superinte ndent encouraged collaborative decision making, responses from all districts in this study indicated that collaboration primarily occurred at the school site level with little input from groups such as teachers, principals, and parents at the district level. Principals and S BM perceived that the assessment of instructional programs and their modification relie d on both "hard" and "soft" indicators, while the replacement of district and school site p ersonnel relied more on hard indices (e.g., test scores, ability to achieve stated goals and objectives.) Participants also indicated that the academic success of their respec tive district could be, in part, to the vision of the district superintendent in instructio nal matters.Conclusion The findings and conclusions of this study are limited in their generalizability since they were derived from exploratory interviews and s urvey instruments and were only used in five non-randomly selected medium sized sch ool districts in California. The explanation and interpretation of the findings also has several reasonable alternative explanations. While superintendents in this study c redit personal vision as fundamental to the instructional success of the district, there are at least three important organizational factors that may serve as reasonable alternative explanations for these districts success. They are: 1.) The ability of the superintendents to replace principals and other administrators who did not share the supe rintendent's vision and mission. 2.) The fiscally stable conditions of the district as w ell as the latitude given each of these superintendents by their boards of education. 3.) T he strict alignment of the district curriculum to teaching strategies and district outc omes. Limitations also reveal that
17 of 24further general research is recommended in order to obtain a more complete comprehension of the superintendent's role in curri culum and instruction. With this caveat aside, the findings from t his study suggest a new and somewhat different leadership role for the district superint endent in the core technologies of curriculum and instruction. Emerging from the data were several critical themes demonstrating consistencies among the instructional ly focused superintendents. This included creation of a vision, increased visibility modeling of academic expectations, developing rapport with the school board, and manag ement of instructionally oriented programs. First, this study demonstrates the importan ce of creating an instructionally oriented vision and communicating this vision throughout the school district. For example, each of the superintendents in this study demonstrated a n instructionally oriented vision for academic success. This finding is consistent with o ther research that suggests that educational reform is impossible without visionary leadership by superintendents (Kowalski & Oates, 1993). These superintendents com municated their vision of excellent teaching and learning through continual c ommunication with principals. Carter et. al., (1993) describe the importance of utilizin g principals to carry their message to each individual school in the district. Superintend ents attempted to transform their vision into an instructionally oriented vision for academic success through strong and tightly coupled leadership. Vision and strong leade rship has previously been determined to be a critical element of successful instructiona l leadership (Bredeson, 1996; Carter et al., 1993; Murphy & Hallinger, 1986; Peterson, Murp hy & Hallinger 1987). Second, high visibility was also demonstrat ed by the superintendents in this study. High visibility in schools and in classrooms has be en linked to instructionally effective schools (Bjork, 1993). This visibility also led to the modeling of high academic expectations, which was found to be a critical acti on demonstrated by the instructionally successful superintendents. This is also consistent with past research that deems frequent visits to schools as a necessary component of demon strating the importance of instruction (Carter et al, 1993). These superintend ents visited classrooms frequently throughout the district and reported classroom obse rvations to the principal. Consequently, the superintendents modeled the impor tance of instruction to the teachers, students and principals. Perceived discrepancies, b y the superintendent, between the districts mission and the teaching in the classroom were quickly disseminated to the principal who could act to correct the differences with the individual teacher. Third, each superintendent was able to illu strate the importance of instructional leadership through professional development and sha red decision-making. Each district made available an abundance of workshops and possib ilities of attending conferences promoting alternative teaching methods. This availa bility of professional development opportunities demonstrated the importance of teachi ng and learning in the district. Through these visible opportunities for teachers, e ach superintendent illustrated that teaching and learning was clearly the most importan t objective of the school district. Through providing such professional development act ivities the superintendent is communicating the importance of teaching and learni ng. The study demonstrated the critical nature of the superintendent's individual action of creating an academic oriented vision and maintai ning this vision through high visibility. With each visit to a school the superin tendent modeled the importance of the instructional oriented vision through appearance as well as signaling to the principal when discrepancies arose between the district wide mission and an individual teacher's actions in the classroom. Fourth, each participating school district demonstrated support from the school
18 of 24board for superintendent decision making. In this s tudy, these instructionally focused superintendents had clear support from the school b oard. In fact, most of these five superintendents were hired due to their previous in structional experience and success. This study supports previous research, which has de monstrated the importance of school board support (Griffin & Chance, 1994). Support of the school boards permitted the superintendents in this study to take significant r isks in their promotion of the technical core. This finding has reflects previous research i n this (Kowalski & Oates, 1993). Without the support of the school board, a superint endent is less likely to take risks that could yield academic results due to the fear of los ing his/her job. With the average tenure of a superintendent currently 2 to 3 years, this is a realistic fear. Furthermore, school board support is direct ly related to additional findings in this study. These superintendents were able to exercise power in regard to placement of individuals in positions of leadership (i.e., distr ict administrators and principals) due to the support and freedom in decision making extended from the school board. By allowing the superintendents to place individuals i n strategic positions they are guaranteed to align self-chosen individuals to posi tions that greatly influence instructional leadership. This authority vested by these school boards into their respective superintendents permitted them to replac e administrative team members who were not instructionally oriented and/or committed to the instructional vision of the district superintendent. Previous studies have demonstrated the impo rtance of shared decision making with the superintendency and the school board, yet this study exceeds this interaction with decision making freedom extended to the superintend ent. This finding should lead to new research into the dynamics of decision-making f reedom for the superintendent and effective schools. Fifth, each of the superintendents in this study used assessment and evaluation techniques to determine if the district's school pe rformance was meeting articulated expectations. Their employment of curricular design ed principal evaluation, feedback from district personnel, standardized test scores a nd district instructional programs. This information provided the superintendents in this st udy with feedback mechanisms on the success of their programs. This type of evaluation is consistent with research in this area (Coleman and LaRocque, 1990; Murphy and Hallinger, 1986).ReferencesBjork, L.G. (1993) Effective schools-effective supe rintendents: The emerging instructional leadership role. Journal of School Leadership. 3 246-259. Bogdan, R.C. and Biklen, S. K. (1992). Qualitative research in education. (2nd ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Burns, J.M. (1978). Leadership New York: Harper and Row. Bredeson, P. V. (1996). Superintendent's roles in c urriculum development and instructional leadership: Instructional visionaries collaborators, supporters, and delegators. Journal of School Leadership, 6 243-264. Bredeson, P. V. and Johansson, O. (1997) Leadership for learning: A study of the instructional leadership roles of superintendents i n Sweden and Wisconsin. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association,
19 of 24Chicago, Illinois.Campbell, R.F., Cunningham, L.L., McPhee, R.F., and Nystrand, R.O. (1970). The Organization and control of American schools (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH; Merrill Publishing Co.Carter, D.S.G., Glass, T.E., and Hord, S.M. (1993). Selecting, preparing and developing the school superintendent. (ERIC Document Reproduct ion Service No, ED 393215). Coleman, P. and LaRocque, L. (1990). Struggling to be 'good enough': Administrative practices and school district ethos London: The Falmer Press. Crane, D. D. (1989) The leadership of an insider su perintendent with a cosmopolitan orientation in an expanding and changing orientatio n. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara.Crocker, L. M. and Algina, J., (1986). Introduction to classical and modern test theory New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Crowson, R.L., Hurwitz, E. Jr., Morris, V.C., and P orter-Gehrie, C., (1981). The urban principal: Discretionary decision making in a large educational organization. Chicago. University of Illinois at Chicago. College of Educa tion. Cuban, L. (1984, May). Transforming the frog into a prince: Effective schools research, policy, and practice at the district level. Harvard Educational Review, 54 (2), 129-150. Deal, T.E. and Celotti, L.D. (1980). How much influ ence do (and can) administrators have on classrooms? Phi Delta Kappan 61, 471-473. Dobbert, M. L. (1982). Ethnographic research: Theory and application for m odern school and societies. New York: Praeger. Duignan, P. (1980, July). Administrative behavior o f school superintendents: A descriptive study. Journal of Educational Administration, 28. (1), 5-26. Dwyer, D.C. (1984, February). The search for instru ctional leadership: Routines and subtleties in the principal's role. Educational Leadership, 41. (5), 3237. Edmonds, R. (1979). A discussion of the literature and issues related to effective schools (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 170394).Goetz, J.P., and LeCompte, M.D. (1984). Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research. Orlando: Academic Press. Griffin, G., and Chance, E.W. (1984). Superintenden t behaviors and activities linked to school effectiveness: Perceptions of principals and superintendents. Journal of School Leadership, 4. 69-86. Hallinger, P., and Murphy, J. (1986). The superinte ndent's role in promoting instructional leadership. Administrator's Notebook University of Chicago, 30 (6). Hannaway, J., and Sproull, L. S. (1978). Who's runn ing the show? Coordination and
20 of 24control in educational organizations. Administrator's Notebook University of Chicago. 27 (9).Hart, A.W., and Ogawa, R.T. (1987, Winter). The inf luence of superintendents on the academic achievement of school districts. Journal of Educational Administration, 25 (1), 72-84.Herman, .J.L. (1990). Instructional leadership skil ls and competencies of public school superintendents: Implications for preparation progr ams in a climate of shared governance. Paper presented at the annual meeting o f the Southern Regional Council on Educational Administration. (ERIC Document Reproduc tion Service No. ED 328980). Hitt, W. D. (1990). Ethics and leadership: Putting theory into practice Columbus: Battle Press.Jackson, B.L. (1995). Balancing act: The political role of the urban scho ol superintendent Washington, D.C.: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Kowalski, J., and Oates, A. (1993). The evolving ro le of superintendents in school-based management. Journal of school leadership, 3 380-390). Leithwood, K. (1995). Effective school district leadership: Transforming politics into education Albany, NY.: State University of New York Press. Martin, W. J., and Willower, D. J. (1981, Winter). Characteristics of instructionally effective school districts. Outcomes, 8 (4), 26-33. Murphy, J., Hallinger, P., Peterson, K.D., and Lott o, L. S. (1987). The administrative control of principals in effective schools district s. The Journal of Educational Administration, 15 161-192. Myers, M.D. (1992, Winter). Effective schools and t he superintendency: Perception and practice. Contemporary Education, 63, (2), 96-101. Ogawa, R.T., and Hart, A.W. (1985). The effect of p rincipals on the instructional performance of schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 23 (1), 59-72. Petersen, G. J. (1993). Keeper and seller of the vi sion: The district superintendent's perceived role in the promotion of curriculum and i nstruction. Dissertation Abstracts International, 54 (09), 3285.Peterson, K.D. (1984, December). Mechanisms of admi nistrative control over managers in educational organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 29 (4), 573-597. Peterson, K.D., Murphy, J. and Hallinger, P. (1987, February). Superintendents' perceptions of the control and coordination of the technical core in effective school districts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 23 (1). 79-95. Pitner, N. J. (1979). So go the days of their lives : A descriptive study of the superintendency: A descriptive study of the superin tendency. University of Oregon, Oregon School Study Council. ERIC Document Reproduc tion Service No. ED 165 299.)
21 of 24Pitner, N. J., and Ogawa. R.T. (1981, Spring) Organ izational leadership: The case of the school superintendent. Educational Administration Quarterly, 17 (2). 45-65. Pohland, P. A., and Carlson, L. T., (1992, December ). Upgrading the cohort: A model for admissions to preparatory programs in education al administration. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 6 (2) 123-39. Salley,C.(1979). Superintendents job priorities. Administrator's Notebook. University of Chicago. 28 (1).Schlechty, P. (1990). Schools for the 21st century San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Seidman, I. E. (1991). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for r esearchers in education and the social sciences. New York: Teachers College Press. Sergiovanni, T.J. (1990). Value-added leadership: How to get extraordinary performance in schools San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Spradley, J.P. (1979). The ethnographic interview New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Thompson, J. D. (1967). Organizations in action New York: McGraw Hill. Willower, D. J., and Fraser, H.W. (1979). School su perintendents on their work. Administrators Notebook University of Chicago, 28 (5). Wimpelberg, R.K. (1988, May). Instructional leaders hip and ignorance: Guidelines for the new studies of district administrators. Education and Urban Society, 20 (3), 302-310.Wirt, F. M. (1990) The missing link in instructiona l leadership: The superintendent, conflict and maintenance, (ERIC Document Reproducti on Service No. ED 327945).NoteAn earlier version of this paper was presented at t he Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association San Diego, Califor nia, April 13-17, 1998. I would like to thank James Block, University of California Santa Barbara and Joseph Slowinski, M.Ed., doctoral candidate at Indiana Uni versity, Bloomington, IN for their assistance in the preparation of earlier drafts of this manuscript.About the AuthorGeorge J. Petersen Email: firstname.lastname@example.org George J. Petersen, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Correspondence concerning this article should be ad dressed to: George J. Petersen, Ph.D., Department of Educational Leadership and Pol icy Analysis, 211 Hill Hall,
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Demonstrated actions of instructional leaders : an examination of five California superintendents / George J. Petersen.
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