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Mitchell, Keva Latrice.
Perceptions from the principals' desks
h [electronic resource] :
African American elementary principals and reading curriculum and instruction in a central Florida county /
by Keva Latrice Mitchell.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2004.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 175 pages.
ABSTRACT: This was a collective case study of African American elementary principals in a central Florida county. The study intended to discover through qualitative means, African American elementary principals perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction. More specifically, the study was concerned with discovering and presenting the attitudes, experiences,and beliefs of this specific population of leaders. The African American principal has the unique perception of one who has grown-up and been educated in the midst of the European American dominated system of education, thus making their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction relevant to gaining additional knowledge in the area of literacy leadership. The findings of the study showed that principals prior experiences, whether personal or professional, influenced their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction. The principals in the study discussed their lives and how they valued reading from childhood into adulthood and how these experiences shaped their schools reading programs. The themes discovered from the study were FCAT, NCLB, county reading curriculum, usage of supplemental reading curriculum, reading as a means of communication, modeling, acquisition and application of knowledge, general concern for all children, childhood/adult avid readers, professional sharing, and the building of background knowledge. In addition to the themes discovered, the study had several implications that lead to an understanding of African American elementary principals perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction: culturally relevant leadership, reading is more than just reading, sociocultural perception of reading, collaboration, professional development, and systematic knowledge of reading curriculum and instruction.
Co-adviser: King, James
Co-adviser: Williams, Nancy L.
x Early Childhood Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Perceptions from the PrincipalsÂ’ Desks: African American Elementary Principals and Reading Curriculum and Instructi on in a Central Florida County by Keva Latrice Mitchell A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement s for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Childhood Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: James King, Ed.D. Co-Major Professor: N ancy L. Williams, Ph.D. Kathryn Laframboise, Ph.D. Steve Permuth, Ed.D. Date of Approval: May 25, 2004 Keywords: literacy, leadership, minorit y administrators, power, southeastern county Copyright 2004, Keva L. Mitchell
Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to my fa ther, Ora Lee Mitchell who taught me to never settle for anything less than the bes t. You left me sooner than I expected, but you gave me the strength to finish th is race. I can only hope that I made you proud. Thank you for pushing me when I wanted to give up. Thank you for allowing me to be DaddyÂ’s Â“babyÂ” even in adulthood. I will always cherish our times. This PhD is for you!
i TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract v Preface vii Chapter I Introduction 1 Introduction 1 African Americans and liter acy 1 The perception and power of t he principal 3 Role of Principals and Reading Curriculums 5 Collaboration 7 Professional development 8 Standardized reading tests 9 Problem 12 Purpose of study 12 Significance of study 13 Research questions 14 Definition of terms 15 Organization of study 17 Chapter II Â– Literature Review 20 Introduction 20 African Americans and literacy 20 History of education for African Americans 22 African American language barriers 24 Codeswitching 27 The perception and power of the principal 28 Role of African American elem entary principals in reading instruction 30 Collaboration between admin istrators and teachers 30 Professional development 32 African American elementary principalsÂ’ views of standardized reading tests 35 Summary of chapter 38 Chapter III Methods 40 Introduction 40 Problem 40 Purpose of the study 41 Original research questions 42 Revised research questions 43
ii Design 43 Qualitative research 43 Collective case studies 44 Grounded Theory 44 Researcher 46 Reliability and validity 47 Participants 49 Data Sources 50 Semi-Structured Interviews 50 Tape recording 52 Transcribing 52 Field Notes 53 Research Reflection Journal 54 Procedure 54 Data analysis 57 Summary 59 Chapter IV Â– Results 61 The Principals 62 Tina 62 Fran 65 Betty 68 Sue 71 Carey 74 Elaine 77 Vivian 80 Sarah 82 The Cohort 85 FCAT 85 No Child Left Behind 87 County reading curriculum 89 Usage of supplemental reading curriculum 90 Reading as a means of communication 91 Modeling 92 Acquisition and application of knowledge 93 General concern for all children 94 Childhood/avid adult readers 97 Professional sharing 98 Build background knowledge 100 New questions and answers 101 Summary of research results 108 Chapter V Â– Discussion 114
iii Introduction 114 Culturally relevant leadership 116 Reading is more than just reading 118 Sociocultural perception of reading 121 Collaboration 124 Professional development 126 Systematic knowledge of reading curriculum and instruction 128 Summary of Issues 131 Limitations 132 Significance 133 Recommendations for further research 134 References 136 Appendices Appendix A Research Matrix 160 Appendix B Research Procedures 161 Appendix C Interview Guide 162 Appendix D Reflection Journal Entry 163 Appendix E Abbreviations 164 About the Author End Page
iv List of Tables Table 1 PrincipalsÂ’ Demographics 110 Table 2 Emerging Themes from Principal Interviews 111 Table 3 Supplemental Reading Program 112 Table 4 Description and Purpos e of Supplemental Reading Programs 113
v Perceptions from the PrincipalsÂ’ Desks: African American Elementary Principals and Reading Curriculum and Instructi on in a Central Florida County Keva L. Mitchell ABSTRACT This was a collective case study of African American elem entary principals in a central Florida county. The study intended to discover through qualitative means, African American elementary pr incipalsÂ’ perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction. More spec ifically, the study was concerned with discovering and presenting the attitudes, expe riences, and beliefs of this specific population of leaders. The African American principal has the unique perception of one who has grown-up and been educated in the midst of the European American dominated system of education, thus making their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction relevant to gaining additional knowledge in the area of literacy leadership. The findings of the study showed t hat principalsÂ’ prior experiences, whether personal or professional, in fluenced their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction. The principals in the study discussed their lives and how they valued reading from ch ildhood into adulthood and how these experiences shaped their schoolsÂ’ reading programs. The t hemes discovered from the study were FCAT, NCLB, county reading curriculum, usage of supplemental reading curriculum, readi ng as a means of communication, modeling, acquisition and appl ication of knowledge, general concern for all
vi children, childhood/adult av id readers, professional sh aring, and the building of background knowledge. In addition to the themes discovered, the study had several implications that lead to an understanding of Afric an American elementary principals perceptions of reading curriculum and instruct ion: culturally relevant leadership, reading is more than just reading, so ciocultural perception of reading, collaboration, professional development, and systematic knowledge of reading curriculum and instruction.
vii Preface I would first like to give thanks to God, from whom a ll blessing flow. I would like to thank my mother, Martha Cathryn Devero Mitchell, who is my backbone, and truly the wind beneath my wi ngs. Thank you for spoiling me, and letting me be your little girl a little while longer. You were probably more anxious for me to finish th is dissertation than I. I love you with all my heart, mind, body, and soul. To my energetic son, Kourtland Rashad Mitchell, my unplanned gift from God. Mommy love s you with all her heart, and everyday is a new experience filled with joy and laughter. I just hope that you will value and appreciate acquiring an education as much, if not more than I do. Words cannot express how grateful I am to my committee. Thank you for pushing me to be a better academically and personally. To my co-chairs, Jim King and Nancy Williams, thank you fo r your patience, concern, and support throughout this process. Thank you to Kathryn Laframboise and Steve Permuth for never giving up on me. To Mary Alice Barksdale, I thank you for your words of encouragement and your words of corre ctive criticism. Thank you for everything. To Paula Leftwich, you ar e not only a colleague, but youÂ’re my friend. We began this journey together, and weÂ’ve survived. Thank you for all your support and kind words. Last, I would like to thank five strong, intelligent, and reliable women for all their love and support: Jody Fernandez, Ma rgaret Stockdale, Ruth Sylvester, Robin Thompson, and Rewa Williams, better known as the Â“Phemales.Â” WeÂ’ve
viii faced many personal and professional hards hips during this educational journey, but through faith, friends hip, support, and determination we have accomplished the task we set for ourselves. You are truly my Â“soul matesÂ” in education. I love you, I appreciate you, and I thank God for you.
1 Chapter I Introduction The basic foundation for learning is determined by the ability to read effectively and efficiently. Teachers are primarily responsible for teaching children how to read, with el ementary teachers being the specific initiators of formally structured reading experiences for children (Edwards, 1984; Hoffman, 2000; Nolen, 2001). As a pr ofessional group, elementar y teachers provide the foundation on which subsequent reading skills are built (Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002). Although teachers are heav ily relied upon to teach children how to read, the role of the elementary school principal in the reading process has not been examined in recent studies (Dandri dge, Edwards, & Pleasants, 2000). More specifically, the role of Afric an American elementary principals and their perceptions on reading has yet to be exam ined. Persistently, the voices of African American teachers and administrat ors are silenced by the world of academia that claims to be diverse and non-partisan (Delpit, 1995; Pollard, 1997), thus making it crucial to explor e the phenomena of reading curriculum and instruction from the percept ions and experiences of African American elementary principals. African Americans and Literacy In efforts to comprehend the experiences and perceptions of African American elementary principa ls in regards to reading curriculum and instruction, it is relevant to discuss the historical significance of African Americans and literacy.
2 African Americans have fought many hards hips to gain access to literacy. Literacy was once non-existent among Afri can Americans, but can now be called a right. The history of African Amer icans and literacy is a turbulent one with numerous causalities and injuries. Many individuals were lynched and shot during the struggle to gain access to a free and proper educati on (Dyson, 1993). Despite this painful histor y, the value of reading and writing ranks high among people of color. The attainment of an education by Af rican Americans during the times of slavery and segregation served as proof t hat people of color were not obtuse, but intelligent beings capable of achiev ing diplomas and college degrees (hooks, 1994). They were individuals capable of being colleagues of white professors, white principals and white t eachers; most importantly, African Americans were not the educationally subservient humans they were thought to be in the past (Pollard, 1997). Even though African Americans prov ed themselves more than able to attain an education, language barriers have often caused rifts. These language barriers have existed because African Am ericans have had linguistic experiences and perceptions that have differed from that of their peers and teachers. When schools became integrated, African Amer ican students lost their comfort level with teachers and administrat ors of their own race (Mo ore, 1982). As a direct result of integration, they were thrust in to a world of white, middle class teachers with different beliefs and certainly different linguistic habits of their own. The teachers were not accustomed to the language and cultural heritage of their
3 African American students. Instead of embracing the differences, integrated education typically forced African Americ an students to conform to the rules of their new setting (Delpit, 1995). This assembly of cultures led to many literacy problems for African Americ an children because of the lack of inclusion of their home life with their school life. Elementary principals we re also impacted by this historic change. Many Afric an American principals lost their jobs or were placed in non-leadership positions due to integratio n, thus leading to a significant decline in educational leadership by African Amer ican principals on all levels (Foster, 1990; Franklin, 1990; Pollard, 1997). Despite this loss of leadership among African American pr incipals, the few that survived the reduction have maintained a level of dignity and efficiency while conducting their administrative duties. They have continued to have high expectations for all children and facu lty members (Lomotey, 1989). African American principals have made an effort to instill the core values introduced to them throughout their educational history; the same core values that enabled them to establish and maintain their role and power as principal (Lomotey, 1989; Minor, Onuegbuzie, Withcher & James, 2002). The Perception and Power of the Principal Many believe a personÂ’s perceptions in fluence the manner in which he or she exerts his or her power (Campbel l-Whatley & Comer, 2000). Hsieh and Shen (1998) discuss power from a political perspective which views leadership as bargaining, compromising, negotiation, and exerting influences on the basis of power. The beliefs, attitudes, and experienc es individuals encounter often shape
4 the dynamics of their positi on in an organization, as well as, in their personal lives (Norte, 1999). The power of the principal comes in various forms that are enacted in a continuous relationship wit hin the human experience (Norte, 1999). Principals have the power to coordinate, delegate and even manipulate situations and programs within their school and someti mes within the communities in which they serve. The power of principals in todayÂ’s classrooms transcends those of the past in some ways. They have a responsib ility to their facult y, staff, students, and parents to provide quality leadership a nd incorporate an appropriate learning environment conductive to all students that attend their schools. They must ensure curricula are appropriate for all learners. The accountability age pressures many principals to motivate and provide remediation to many students in their schools who lack the tools ess ential to school success. Â“Technology, demographic shifts, redefin itions of Â“family,Â” te sting and accountability, decentralization and site-based management, violence, changes in the economy, new court mandates related to desegregation, various legislative initiatives such as school vouchers, and the press to priv atize have created a web of conflicting demands and expectations for school princi palsÂ” (Fenwick & Pierce, 2002, p. 1). Principals must collaborate with thei r faculty and their district to ensure students are receiving the necessary skills to be successful on standardized reading tests. This collaboration in cludes ensuring principals and teachers receive appropriate prof essional development.
5 For the purposes of this paper, the pow er of the principal focuses on their role in selecting and implementing their sc hoolÂ’s reading curriculum as it relates to instruction. Role of Principals and Reading Curriculum Elementary school principalsÂ’ job de scription includes ensuring formal reading programs are effective and appr opriate for students (Fraatz, 1987; Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002). Accordi ng to Bean (1995), the initiation of a school reading program is a necessary c harge for principals. Â“It necessitates a deep knowledge and understanding of reading acquisition, reading research, and reading instruction. It also require s an ability to create an atmosphere for change, and thus an understanding of the dynamics and leadership and the change processÂ” (Bean, 1995, p. 3). Th is understanding for change includes ensuring the reading curriculu m meets the needs of the st udents. It is important for administrators to be flexible and understand the need for change that accommodates their students when using a r eading curriculum. Principals must review various reading curriculum and atte nd many hours of district level inservice to be aware of the things that are available to meet the needs of the students. Numerous reading programs and inte rventions are incorporated into elementary school curriculums. A readi ng program inventory by Just Read, Florida (2003) reported t hat over sixteen hundred reading programs are used statewide ( www.justreadflorida.com ). These programs ar e designed to increase
6 reading achievement among developing rea ders, and their uses are sometimes based on a principalÂ’s decisions and knowledge. In addition to utilizing reading program s, principals may foster reading achievement by encouraging students to read more throughout their day (Allington, 2001; Graves, Watts-Taffe, Gr aves, 1999; McCormick, 1995; Zipperer, Worley, & Sission, 2002). So me research shows students who read more and comprehend what they are reading t end to be better students over time (Gardiner, 2001; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Kamhi & Laing, 2001). Several researchers believe students who read more in their day tend to be stronger readers. (Allington, 2001; Hoffman & Mc Carthey; 2000b; Washington & Craig, 2001). Realistic elementary pr incipals understand students need to be motivated to be successful in academics in general, but especially in the area of reading. Principals may use various methods to spark the interest in reading, which perhaps may lead to life long readers who enjoy engaging with expository or narrative text (Bean, 1995). Â“Principal s may, however, impact teaching and classroom practices through such school dec isions as formulating school goals, setting and communicating high achi evement expectations, organizing classrooms for instruction, allocating nec essary resources, supervising teachersÂ’ performance, monitoring student progress, and promoting a positive, orderly environment for learningÂ” (Heck, Lar sen, & Marcoulides, 1990, p.95). Principals may assume the more prepared their students are, the higher their test performance (Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001; Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson,
7 2002). In some cases principals may initiate before and after school programs to assist lower level students and others requi ring additional assistance in preparing for state mandated standardized tests. In other situations, the principal may incorporate other methods to assist in increasing studentÂ’s performance. Some schools have literacy volunteers to provide extra attention to students in the area of reading (Klenk & Kibby, 2000). School accountability makes it important for principals to collaborate with faculty members, parents, student s, and sometimes the community. Collaboration gives individ uals the opportunity to discu ss effective methods of delivering instruction, prepare students for state m andated standardized tests, and assist students with academic achievement. Collaboration Collaboration is important for t he development of successful school reading programs. Principals, teachers, parents, librarians, and students are all partners in the learning process. This partnership allows for positive communication and interaction to occur among the various participants in the learning community. Research shows that successful schools make an effort to actively involve all parties in the le arning community (Baumann, Hoffman, DuffyHester, & Ro, 2000). Their roles coul d be incorporated into the design, implementation, and evaluation of a pr ogram (Blas & Blas, 1999). Engaging in professional development ac tivities allows for collaboration to occur. Professional development enables educators to learn new information or
8 revisit existing knowledge and transfer it in to strategies beneficial to students. Without collaboration and professi onal development, schools may suffer. Professional Development Elementary school administrators also pl ay an integral part in the reading education process by hiri ng and promoting well-prepar ed elementary instructors (Lillibridge, 1979; Stiggins, 2001; Zipperer, Wo rley, & Sisson, 2002). With careful selection of their staff, principals shoul d have confidence in the individuals they hire to effectively teach reading. Howeve r, if principals want successful reading programs, they must take more active roles in the development and promotion of their schoolÂ’s reading curriculum as well. According to Au (1995), an effective reading program can only be developed through an interactive process, informed by current theory and research on literacy instruction, that involves teachers, administrators, librari ans, students, and parents. Proper development of administrators and teachers is important in having a successful reading program that is beneficial to students (Fullan, 2002). Principals must be active in their reading programs if they wish for their students to be successful on state mandated standardi zed tests. Not only should they design reading programs for their schools, t hey must ensure all teachers, as well as themselves, receive the proper prof essional development to continuously support reading (Fenwick & Pierce, 2002; Fraatz, 1987; Lillibridge, 1979; Stiggins, 2001). Many teac hers are not prepared to te ach reading to students. Some college programs only require one course of reading development and problems (Kamhi and Laing, 2001) for pre-service el ementary teachers, while
9 other states like Florida, r equire as many as four courses. In addition, many principals receive little, if any, coursework in reading curriculum and instruction or professional development in the teaching of reading, but are held accountable for developing, implementing, and evaluat ing reading programs in their schools (Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002). If students are to perform adequately on state mandated standardized tests, teachers must receive the nec essary professional development and support, but administrators should allow teac hers the opportunity to participate in the planning and implementation of pr ofessional development (Quinn, 2002; Tyler, 1983). The professional developm ent must be meaningful and pertinent to the schoolÂ’s reading goals. Â“High-per formance schools select professional development activities that directly address their studentsÂ’ needs and correspond with the particular reform agenda of the sch oolÂ” (Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001, p. 56). This study intended to discover, thr ough the principalsÂ’ words, the specific means of support for faculty teaching reading. Standardized Reading Tests Principals are now held account able for their schoolÂ’s studentsÂ’ performance on standardized tests (Ri nehart, Short, Short, & Eckley, 1998). Therefore, it is certainly in a prin cipalÂ’s best interests to understand reading pedagogy. Previously many teachers and par ents were targets of much criticism in terms of student achievement in the classroom and on standardi zed tests. At this point, principals are also feeling t he pressure, thus maki ng them targets of criticism in the age of academic a ccountability (Dandridge, Edwards, &
10 Pleasants, 2000; Stiggins, 2001). This pr essure of accountability has many elementary principals searching for the best practices to ensure that their students are prepared to attain high sco res on the state mandated standardized tests. Forty-nine states have mandated curriculums, and the emerging presence of alternative education such as char ter schools and home schooling serve to provide new consequences of account ability not imagined fifteen years ago (Pierce, 2000). With the current emphasis on standardized testing, it is essential for both student success and school success that principals hav e BeanÂ’s (1995) deep understanding of reading. As reading is a basic component of all high stakes, state-mandated standardized tests, students in schools that emphasize the importance and value of reading shoul d perform better on these tests. Therefore, principals must be even more active in dev eloping reading programs. In the context of the current study, high stakes testing (Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002) consists of state mandated standardized tests. The tests are usually taken in the fourth, eighth, and tenth grades, but with new legislation, testing will be conducted in additional grades. In most cases, the mandated tests are a requirement for graduati on or promotion to the nex t grade (Dever & Barta, 2001; Goddard, Sweetland, & Hoy, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 2001) The American Educational Research AssociationÂ’s pos ition statement (2000) discussed the notion of achievement tests and how t hese tests affect schools and their students. Certain uses of achievement test results are termed Â“high stakesÂ” if they carry serious consequences for students or educators.
11 Schools may be judged according to the school-wide average scores of their students. High sc hool-wide scores may bring public praise or financial rewards; low scores may bring public embarrassment or heavy sanctions. For individual students, high scores may bring a special diploma attesting to exceptional academic accomplishment; or low scores may result in students being held back in grade or denied a high school diploma (p. 1). Before 1980, less than a dozen states in the United States required mandated standardized testing for student s, but in the new millen nium, a majority of the states (over 70%) use high-stakes te sting as a means of assessing students (Hoffman, Assaf & Paris, 2001). State mandated standardized tests, su ch as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) ( www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat.htm ), have changed the way many administrators support their stude nts and teachers. In 1998, the newly elected Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, initiated the Florida A+ plan in public schools. Some individuals view the program as Â“a harsh, standards-based accountability measure that assigns gr ades from A to F to each elementary, middle, and high school in the state of Florida. StudentsÂ’ scores on the FCAT determine each schoolÂ’s gradeÂ” (George, 2001, p. 28). Ot hers support the program because they believe it holds schools, administrators and teachers accountable for their studentsÂ’ learning. In addition, it allows parents and other community individuals to view tangible evidence of a schoolÂ’s commitment to teaching and preparing students for standardized tests. As a result of these state
12 mandated tests, principals are expected to increase achievement for their students more than ever. Problem Research supports the importance of the Â“funds of k nowledgeÂ” (Moll, 1994) with which young children enter fo rmal education. African American children bring with them different sets of funds of knowledge than European American children whose funds of knowledg e more typically match that of the schoolsÂ’ teachers and administrators (D elpit, 1995, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 1994). Presently, there is minimal research doc umenting the perception of principals in relation to reading curriculu m and instruction. More s pecifically, in terms of African American elementary principals, t he research is basically insufficient. African American principals have the unique perception of one who has grown-up and has been educated in the midst of the European Am erican dominated system of education, thus investigating their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction is relevant to individuals in the world of academia and politics who desire to gain insight on the phenomena of reading leadership through this specific population of educators. By virtue of their leadership within an educational system that is arguably Eu ropean American centered, African American principals can be seen as starti ng a chasm of difference. Therefore, an interview study of these uni que individuals was warranted. Purpose of the Study The push towards high-stakes testing makes reading an important issue at all levels. Now more than ever, prin cipals, teachers, reading specialists,
13 counselors, librarians, students, and parent s must collaborate to make reading a successful and viable experience for child ren (Au, 1995; Bean, 1995; Edwards, 1984; Fraatz, 1987; Huges & Ubben, 1994; Quinn, 2002; Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001; Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002). Since reading is the basic foundation for all learning, it encompasses all subject areas (Ediger, 2000; Pavonetti, Brimmer Cipielewski, 2003; Sanaco re, 1977; Smitherman, 1998). Culturally relevant teaching has b een addressed by Ladson-Billings (1994, 2001), but culturally relev ant educational leadership has not been examined in the context of elementary school principals thus making it essential to discover African American elementary principalsÂ’ perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction in their schools. Many times t he voice of the principa l as it pertains to reading curriculum and instruction is not heard (Dandridge, Edwards & Pleasants, 2000). Further, research on elementary school adm inistration tends to focus on overall school effectivene ss and not specifically upon effective reading education (Blas & Blas, 1999; Brookover, 1985; Dantley, 1990; Fortenberry, 1985; Heck, Larsen, & Marcoulides, 1990; Lezotte & Bancroft, 1985; Uline, Miller, Tschannen-Mor an, 1998). The information gathered in this study may enable principals and others interested in literary leadership to learn more about the perceptions of Afri can American elementary princi pals as it pertains to reading curriculum and instruction. Significance of Study Since reading is an important issue in American society, and it has its beginnings in the elementary schools, the perceptions and experiences of
14 elementary school principals was exami ned. Researchers must understand the African American school leader sÂ’ perceptions and experiences in efforts to fully comprehend reading curriculum and instructi on in their schools. It is these perceptions that may estab lish and aid in the develop ment of successful reading programs that produce life long lear ners and readers who value and respect reading and its importance in our society. Research Questions The questions I attempted to answer through a collective case study leading to grounded theory are: What are the perceived relationship s among African American elementary principals, their perceived linguistic ex periences, and their perceptions of school literacy? What are perceived experiences of African American prin cipals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? Based on experience as a teacher and an administrator, how do African American principals perceive reading to be addressed in their schools? How does prior experience with readi ng influence African American principalsÂ’ perceptions of their leadership of readi ng instruction in their schools? What principal-initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests?
15 Definition of Terms Accelerated Reader (AR) is tracki ng system used to aid students in becoming more efficient readers by te sting their knowledge of books they have read. Students complete a quiz by computer based on the book and receive a numerical score. Â“Accelerat ed ReaderÂ’s philosophy is that by using the system, students are motivat ed to read more and better booksÂ” (Pavonetti, Brimmer, & Cipielewski, 2003, p. 300). Administrator, for the purposes of this study, and principal maybe used interchangeably. The term refers to the person who leads a school. Basal series is a reading program composed of a Â“graded series of student texts, workbooks, skill sheets, unit tests, teacher manuals, and supplemental material (Christie, Enz & Vuklich, 1997, p. 174) Ebonics/Black English/Af rican American English is defined as Â“dialects usually (but not exclusively) spok en by low socio-economic level blacks among themselves, and characterized by the presence of a significant proportion of particular phonological and syn tactic features different from standard EnglishÂ” (Cullinan & Kocher, 1974, p. 197). Florida A+ Plan for Education is designed to improve schools and provide for accountability through a system of monetary awards for both low and high performing schools. In addition, the plan addresses issues of school safety, social promotion and teacher certification (Rosenthal, 2002). Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is the test given to students in grades 3 through 10. The te st is composed of a criterion and
16 norm referenced section. FCAT te sts students in reading, writing and mathematics. In 2003, students were also tested on science for the first time (Rosenthal, 2002). Â“The primary purpose of the FCAT is to assess student achievement of the higher-order cognitive skills represented in the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) in R eading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science. A second purpose is to compare Florida students to the Reading and Mathematics perform ance of students across the nation using a norm referenced test (NRT)Â” ( www.firn.edu/doe/sas/fcat:htm ) No Child Left Behind (2001) was est ablished to narrow the achievement gap. Â“T his program was created to demonstrate how local initiatives can help meet a state's definition of adequate yearly progress and attain specific measurable goals for improving student achievement and narrowing achievement gapsÂ” ( www.ed.gov ). Professional development is the opportunity for teachers and administrators to further expand t heir knowledge in areas related to curriculum and pedagogy (www.fldoe.org/teacher/resource). Reading curriculum is the plan a school has enacted in order to guide the learning of students in the cont ent area of reading (Bean, 1995). Reading First is a nationwide effort to develop profici ent readers. The initiative is based on scientific research. Â“T he program is designed to select, implement, and provide prof essional development for teachers using scientifically based reading progr ams, and to ensure accountability
17 through ongoing, valid and reliable screening, diagnostic, and classroombased assessmentÂ” ( http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst ). Star Reading is a reading assess ment computer program used to determine a studentÂ’s reading level (www.renlearn.com). Sunshine State Standards (SSS) are the curric ulum standards for the state of Florida ( www.firn.edu/doe.htm ). Title I is Â“ designed to support state and local school reform efforts tied to challenging state academ ic standards in order to reinforce and amplify efforts to improve teaching and l earning for students farthest from meeting state standards. Individual public schools with poverty rates above 40 percent may use Title I funds along with other federal, state, and local funds, to operate school -wide programs to upgrade the instructional program for the whole schoolÂ” ( www.ed.gov/programs/titleipara ). The goals of the program are to provide additional instruction to ch ildren who qualify; provide additional funding to schools and districts that serve a high population of low-income families; train educators to know t he needs of the special population of students; and improve the academic ac hievement of eligible participants in comparison to their peers (www.edweek.org/context/topics). Organization of the Study Chapter one was an introduction to the topic of elementary principals and reading in their schools. The chapter also introduces the elements that may affect reading programs in schools. T he problem and purpose of the study was
18 discussed along with the specific questi ons to be addressed. In addition, definitions of terms relevant to the study were provided. Chapter two focused on the review of literature related to reading. The literature included, African Americans and literacy, the perception and power of the principal, the role of the African American element ary principals in reading instruction and how African American el ementary principals view standardized testing. Chapter three discussed collective ca se studies leading to grounded theory. The qualitative study used interviews and field notes to access information from African American elem entary principals to discover their perceptions of their knowl edge, desires, and concerns in relation to their schoolsÂ’ specified reading programs. This study intended to bring to light African American elementary principals Â’ perceptions of their practices and beliefs in the area of reading instruction through collect ive case studies (Stake, 2000) leading to grounded theory (Hatch, 2002; Patton, 2002) Collective case studies allowed the experiences and the percept ions of African American elementary principals to be introduced and explored as a series of separate, but collect ive cases, that lead to a comparing and contrasting of the cases and ultimately developed into grounded theory. Chapter four introduced the results from the interviews with the principals. The chapter began with an introduction, a br ief discussion of each principal, a discussion of the principals as a cohor t, answering of the research questions, and a conclusion of the chapter.
19 Chapter five provided a discussion of the major issues that emerged as a result of the study. The specific areas discussed are reading is more than just reading, socio-cultural perception of reading, co llaboration, professional development, systematic knowledge of r eading, limitations, the significance of the study within todayÂ’s educational se ttings, and recommendations for further research.
20 Chapter II Literature Review Introduction Exploring the principals Â’ perceptions about reading is crucial to studentsÂ’ success. Leadership and reading develop ment should coincide with one another if students are to achieve the nec essary reading foundation. As the chosen leaders of schools, principals make the major decisions that may influence and determine student achievement (Ediger, 1998). Principals have various roles including, organizers and delegaters of authority and the responsibility to maintain ov erall school cohesion and effectiveness (Pounder, Ogawa, & Adams, 1995). Since pr incipals make major decisions in these areas, it is vital for their percepti ons to be explored as they relate to reading curriculum and instruction. This chapter evaluated and discussed research relevant to the study. The chapter discussed African Americans and lit eracy; the perception and power of the principal; the role of African American elementa ry principals in reading instruction, and principalsÂ’ perc eptions of standardized testing. African Americans and Literacy The relevance of studying Africa n American elementary principals and their relation to reading education wil l be examined through the history of education for African Americans and the language barriers between African Americans and their teachers.
21 The number of African American t eachers has declined throughout the United States, and as the majo rity of principals are recr uited from the teaching faculty, there is an increasing decline in African American principals (Cole, 1986; Irvine, 1988). According to the National Ce nter for Educational Statistics (2003), approximately 7 percent of African Americans received bachelorÂ’s degrees in the field of education, while 34 percent of African Americans received masterÂ’s degrees in education. Many question the re duction in a profession that once was highly respected in the African Americ an community (Edwards & Polite, 1992). According to Irvine (1988), many Af rican Americans are choosing more prestigious professions to a ssist them in becoming financia lly stable. As a result, many African Americans who once major ed in education prior to desegregation are now opting for other professional opti ons that are available (Hunter-Boykins, 1992). Principals arguably have certain attribut es not found in all educators, such as leadership skills, multi-task orientati on, and the ambition to accept additional responsibilities. African American pr incipals may have an additional set of qualities that may or may not be found in white principals. Lomotey (1994) identifies three qualities of African American principals: a) Â“commitment to education of all students, b) confidence in the ability of all students to do well, and c) compassion for, and understanding of all students and the communities in which they liveÂ” (p. 204). Due to of the large number of African American children in todayÂ’s schools, there exists an expanding need for African American principals (Zacher, 2002). Black student s need Black role models other than
22 professional athletes and entertainers fo r the development of self-esteem and identity (Cole, 1986). Afri can American children need to see individuals that mirror them and are seen as successful to help them gain an appreciation for their heritage (Yee & Fruth, 1973). This mirror image may provide the necessary motivation for African American children to achieve success. In addition, it is important for all children to be exposed to successful African Americans. History of Education for African Americans African Americans and literacy were once considered non-compatible in America. In the early c enturies of American history, African Americans were forbidden to read, write, or be educat ed in general (Carruthers, 1994; LadsonBillings, 1994). This prohibition occurred because knowledge was, and still is, perceived as power (Giovanni, 1994). Duri ng this period, slave owners knew if African Americans gained the necessary power of an education, they would become a threata threat to their white culture, a th reat to their perceived domination, and a threat to the life they were accust omed to living (Edwards & Polite, 1992). For years, African Americans have struggled for the right of equal education. Â“The chronicle of the civil rights movement in the United States illustrates the centrality of education to the fight of African Americans for equal opportunity and full citizenshipÂ” (Ladson-Bil lings, 1994, p. ix). African Americans endured lynching, bombings, boycotts, sitins, and other sacrifices. Many Americans, not just African Americans, sacr ificed their lives for the sake of the struggle for educational equality.
23 In spite of the struggle, many Afri can Americans succeeded in attaining an education. They fought against the racist and political ploys initiated by those trying to prevent African Americans from bettering themselves. But if there has been one overwh elming effort made by Blacks since the beginning of our Americ an sojourn, it has been the belief in the need to obtain education. The laws that were made against our reading, voting, holding certai n jobs, living in certain areas, were made not because we were incapable; you donÂ’t have to legislate against incapability. No one tells an infant, Â“You canÂ’t walkÂ”; one tells that to a toddler. No one tells a six year old, Â“You canÂ’t drive,Â” one tells that to a fi fteen-year-old. No one tells a man or woman, Â“You canÂ’t read,Â” unless there is the knowledge that if that person becomes educated, he or she will no longer be my slave; will no longer sharecrop my land, will no longer tolerate injustice (Giovanni, 1994, p. 92-93). Their success served as proof that Afric an Americans were intelligent beings not to be considered educationally submissive to whites (Butchart, 1994; Carruthers, 1994; hooks, 1994). African Americans became teachers and principals in efforts to expand the knowledge base and social progress (Butchart, 1994) of African Americans. During the years of segregation, educators were valued in the African American communities because t hey were considered the intellectual individuals (Edwards, 1999; Hooks, 1995; McCullough-Garrett, 1993). These individuals usually attended historically Black colleges and universities because
24 they were not welcomed or were refus ed admission to white institutions of learning (Hunter-Boykins, 1992). Once schools were integrated, many African American children were lost in the transition (McCullough-Garrett, 1993). This transition included new curriculum, new teachers, and new peers. Gone were the teachers who made them feel secure and assisted them in achieving academic goals (Moore, 1982). Gone were the unique pedagogies, caring natures, and conversations of the African American teacher (McCulough-Garre tt, 1993). They were replaced with white teachers, many whom were not accu stomed to instructing children of color (Johnson, 1970). Gone were the peers w ho looked and spoke in the same manner, replaced by the various hues of skin making a transition similar to that of the African American student. The integration of schools caused various problems for the African American student. Among these difficultie s were unfamiliar language barriers, which were challenged and criticized, and their dialects and reading skills causing many to suffer academ ically (Johnson, 1970). African American Language Barriers One issue with African Americans and literacy concerns the perceived and actual language barriers. African American children an d adults often speak with a common dialect viewed as a form of slang (Delpit, 1998). During the early 1970s, Dr. Robert L. William s introduced the term Ebonics, derived from the words ebony, meaning black, and phonics, which refers to sound (Haute & Perez, 2000; Hoover, 1998; Seymour, A bdulkarim, & Johnson, 1999; Smith,
25 1998). Ebonics is also known as Afric an American English or Black English (Bragdon, 1974; Cullinan, 1974; Jaggar, 1974; Smith, 1998; Smit herman, 1983). Ebonics is perceived as a lesser form of English even though it has standard rules of grammar and is based on African language and culture. Â“Ebonics/African American Language has a num ber of other characteristics, including semantics, intonation, favored genres, sociolinguistic rules, speaking style, learning and teaching style, and world view/themesÂ” (Hoover, 1998, p. 72). In 1996, Oakland School Board of Education rendered the decision to recognize the language many Afric an Americans brought to school. The recognition included an instructional pl an that would enable African American students to learn Standard American Engl ish without compromising the language spoken in their home environment (Haute & Perez, 2000; Hoover, 1998). Â“The board further maintained that Ebonics, the home/community language of African American children, should not be stigmatized, and that this language should be affirmed, maintained, and used to help Af rican American children acquire fluency in the standard codeÂ” (Perry, 1998, p. 3). Students with language differences need to feel comfortable in their educational environment because language is seen as a means of transmitting cultural values. They should never f eel ostracized because they canÂ’t speak standard American English. Many Afri can American children speak the language that is spoken at home (Johnson, 1970; Sulentic, 2001). Teachers are quick to dismiss Ebonics as a form of language becau se of their middle class values when there exists evidence that explains social, linguistic, and cultural factors
26 that have shaped and maintained Ebonics as a legitimate and viable dialect of English (Aaron & Powell, 1982; D ean & Fowler, 1974; Nembhard, 1983; Seymour, Abdulkarim, & Johnson, 1999). Instead of embracing the Ebonics and using it as a path to teaching Af rican American student s standard American English literacy, teachers are often qui ck to correct students or label them as special education students (Cullinan, 1974; Dean & Fowler, 1974; Haute & Perez, 2000; Sulentic, 2001). Â“A huge mi smatch can and often does occur when educators lack the knowledge, understandi ng, and acceptance of their studentsÂ’ language and culture, especially when it differs from their ownÂ” (Sulentic, 2001, p. 24). According to Gordon and T homas (1990), unless students can access their own cultural currencies as vehicles for learning, and thereby inform their mental functions by the contexts in whic h they live, learning may become difficult. In addition, they must be allowed to use in teractions and strat egies relevant and established within their own cultures or they can and will suffer academically (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). Teachers often lack understanding of their African American studentsÂ’ language and its origins (Jaggar, 1974; Perry, 1998). Teacher education programs usually do not expose pre-serv ice teachers to language diversity courses or courses that a ssist in understanding the st ructures and content of African American English (Cullinan, 1974; Sulentic, 2001). For teachers to be accepting of the language, they must become competent in its foundation and structure (Hoover, 1998). Thus African American teachers and principals who are sensitive to Ebonics can serve as a crucial link to literacy attainment.
27 Despite the support for Ebonics, it is important for African American children to learn Standard Am erican English, but their home environment and cultural heritage should not be ignored (Dean & Fowler, 1974; Delpit, 1998; Seymour, Abdulkarim, & Johns on, 1999). Â“If we are goi ng to celebrate diversity in our classrooms, we must learn to be respectful not ju st of various literatures, but of the various knowle dges, rooted in various l anguages, that our students bring with them into the classroomÂ” (Jonsber g, 2001, p. 51). The use of a childÂ’s home language and cultural environment should be used in connection with educational objectives (Boykins, 1984; Dean & Fowler, 1974; Goodman, 1965). When children see their home environment in connection with their school environment, they gain confidence in thei r educational abilities. Once this confidence is gained, they are able to acquire additional skills like standard American English that are necessary to be successful in Iife (Haute & Perez, 2000; Jaggar, 1974; Seymour, Abdulkarim, & Johnson, 1999). Codeswitching In the context of literacy, African American principals are compelled to be overly cautious in terms of communicating ve rbally and in writing. The historical precedent of African Amer icans and literacy makes African Americans, in general, self-conscious and timid in certain educational and professional environments leading many African Americ ans to codeswitch. Codeswitching is defined as using two or more linguistic varieties in the same conversation or interaction (Flowers, 2000). Â“Codeswitch ing can serve a variety of social functions. Power and solidarity are major uses for alternating linguistic variants.
28 Which language implies authority, however, depends on the special circumstances of the situat ion and on the identities of the participantsÂ” (Flowers, 2000, p. 223). Codeswitching allows indi viduals to move beyond the perceived and actual language barriers that prohibit many Af rican Americans from succeeding in certain fields by ack nowledging the import ance of standard American English and home language. Throughout their educational lives, African American principals and African Americans in general, have been scr utinized if they did not properly utilize standard American Engl ish, thus their views on literacy are particularly interesting and in the area of literacy in struction, informative. Researching African American elementar y principalsÂ’ perceptions and experiences will introduce new paths not actively explored. The insight given by this group of individuals may add depth to issues relating to reading curriculum and instruction, and how they perceive and exhibit power in their schools. The Perception and Power of the Principal Many believe a personÂ’s perceptions in fluence the manner in which power is exerted. Yukl (1989) viewed power as the influence a leader may or may not have over the attitudes and behavior of their subordinates. Hsieh and Shen (1998) discussed power from a political per spective that views leadership as bargaining, compromising, negotiation, and exerting influences on the basis of power. Bierstedt (Shapiro, 2000) focused on power from a social standpoint in which the school should be considered a so cial institution with varying roles and positions. Principals hold a unique position t hat often requires them to perform
29 different roles. While performing these roles, principals should maintain the power and authority of their organization, but they must exert their power carefully to be successful and effective leaders (Shapiro, 2000). The beliefs, attitudes, and experiences individuals encounter often shape the dynamics of their positi on in an organization, as well as, in their personal lives (Norte, 1999). The power of the principal comes in various forms, and is a continuous relationship in the human expe rience (Norte, 1999). Principals have the power and responsibility to coordinate, legislate, collaborate, delegate and even manipulate situations and program s within their school, and sometimes within the communities in which they serve (Brunner, 2000). The power of principals in todayÂ’s classrooms transcends those of the past in some ways. According to Dr ake and Roe (1999), Â“the old patterns of principal behavior will not be sufficient to meet the new opportunities for leadership. No longer can the principa l spend time on efficiently organized administration to indicate that his or her role is being competently fulfilledÂ” (p. 113). They have a responsibility to thei r faculty, staff, students, and parents to provide quality leadership and incorporate an appropria te learning environment conductive to all students that attend their schools. They must ensure curricula are appropriate for all learners. T he accountability age pressures many principals to motivate and provide remedi ation for many students in their schools because they lack the tools essential to school success. Principals must collaborate with their faculty and their dist rict to ensure student s are receiving the necessary skills to be successful on standardized reading tests. This
30 collaboration includes ensuring principa ls and teachers re ceive appropriate professional development. Â“The principal of today and of the future must increasingly be willing to prepare for wise, critical participation in a society characterized by conflict, chronic change, and increasing interdependency. New technologies to obtain, analyze, and communi cate information are arising dailyÂ” (Drake & Roe, 1999, p.114). Role of African American Elementary Principals in Reading Instruction Elementary principals play a crucial ro le in developing reading programs in their schools. Kletzein (1996) conduct ed a study of reading programs in nationally recognized elementary schools. The researcher found that principals in these schools incorporated numerous liter acy activities with the support of the assistant principals, reading specialists teachers, librarians, staff, students and parents. The principals in the schools played an active role in their schoolsÂ’ reading curriculum and instru ction programs. Â“Principal s of most of the schools play an active role in encouraging reading. Some principals go into classrooms and talk with children about their reading; some invite the students to their offices; some sit with them in the cafete ria or on the playground; but all of them participate in listening to children read and in talking to them about readingÂ” (Kletzien, 1996, p. 268-269). Collaboration Between Admi nistrators and Teachers For the purposes of this study, coll aboration was defined as the social discourse among teachers and administrat ors in a learning community that enables them to see multiple perspec tives and communicate effectively and
31 efficiently (Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). Ma ny researchers stress the importance of principals and teachers collaborating to make reading a practical experience for all students. This collaboration im plies there should be a means of communication between the principal and the teacher (Afflerbach, 2000; Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001). Lomotey (1994) discusses that leaders in organizations develop and initiate relevant and coherent goals that will cause the least amount of confusion and conflict am ong individuals in the school setting. They incorporate these goals in an effort to develop positive interaction between principals and teachers that will lead to higher student achievement. Â“If the principals facilitate and embody clear goals, the likelihood is greater that other members of the organization will interna lize these goals, thereby increasing the probability of greater organi zational harmonyÂ” (Lom otey, 1994, p. 205-206). Classroom teachers and principals are im portant in the selection of the reading curriculum, but media specialist s, support staff, par ents, and the students themselves should not be excluded fr om the reading curriculum design and decision making process. Blas and Blas (1999) stated that successful schools are those that make an effort to involv e others in the desi gn, implementation, and evaluation of teaching. The study suggested that pr incipals who are effective constructors of knowledge and are posit ive instructional leaders incorporate meaningful opportunities for professi onal collaboration through reflective discussions, peer coaching, study groups and observations. While Sulzer, Wolfson, and Rabenburg (2002) state t hat the best way to accommodate and activate a positive literacy environment is for schools to act as a team and make
32 school-wide literacy attainm ent a reality. Heck, Lar sen, and Marcoulides (1990) discovered that principals in high achi eving schools collaborate with others in their school. Â“Teachers and administrator s should work together toward common beliefs about how students learn to r ead and what types of instructional techniques are most effective in promot ing reading achievementÂ” (Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001, p. 54). Pounder, Ogawa and Adams (1995) c onducted a quantitative study to discover the relationship between or ganizational leadership, effective organizations, and school effectiveness. The data source consisted of surveys from elementary and high school employ ees. A random stratified sampling was employed to conduct the study. One finding of the study was that leadership varies from school to school. In addi tion, the researchers discovered that leadership is associated with performanc e and the efforts initiated by public schools to implement shared decisionmaking might improve the teacher performance and student achievement performance. Professional Development of Teachers and Administrators in Reading Instruction Teachers and administrators should re ceive professional development in reading instruction to assist all student s in becoming competent and successful readers (Afflerbach, 2000; Wohlste tter & Malloy, 2001). Teachers and administrators who receive the opportuni ty to participate in professional development tend to improve their teaching practice and reading curriculum design (Afflerbach, 2000). Â“Staff developm ent, in order to be successful, must focus on both principals and teachers, as their performance affects all other
33 aspects of effective schoolingÂ” (For tenberry, 1985, p. 433). Teachers and administrators need to remain aware of current research based learning strategies and methods (Allington, 2001; Lezotte & Bancroft, 1985). This incorporation of professiona l development can occur in multiple opportunities: inservice programs, enrollment in graduate level courses, active attendance at national, state, and local conferences, and review of profe ssional journals and educational articles relevant to the fi eld of reading curriculum and instruction (Ediger, 2000; Misulis, 2001). The continuous professional devel opment received by teachers and administrators will assist them in delivering more effective instruction to students while allowing them to be the recipi ents of new knowledge (Barth,1986; Fortenberry, 1985). Campbell (2002) comple ted a study with teachers in grades K through 6 and reported that teachers view professional development as an important component in lit eracy and reading education. The teachers supported professional development as long as it is meaningful and has opportunity to observe, collaborate and brainstorm with ot her teachers to provide the support (Quinn, 2002). Desimone, Porter, Garet, Yoon, and Birman (2002) conducted a longitudinal study with re sults parallel to Campbel lÂ’s (2002) that suggested teachers would alter their teaching methods to students providing they received quality professional developm ent opportunities that are relevant and reasonable to implement. Stallings (1989) reported that there are posi tive and significant differences in the reading achievement scores of students whose teachers
34 participated in professional development ac tivities, due to teachers receiving the opportunity to become reflective, collabor ative, and knowle dgeable in reading curriculum and instruction. The Jackson Staff Development plan is an example of professional development activities that have a posit ive effect on principals, teachers, and student achievement on standardized tests (Fortenberry, 1985). Students in this predominately Black school district in creased their scores on the California Achievement Test (CAT) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Teachers in this school district were the recipients of systematic, structured, ongoing training programs, which focused on outcome-based-instructi on delivery and emphasized the following components: a) accommodating the vari ability in student aptitude and achievement, b) increase in instructional delivery time which took into account students varied learning styles c) enabling teachers to focus on students in small and large group settings, d) enabling teachers to deal with outside distractions inherent in many individualized and learner responsive instructional systems, and e) enabling teachers to maximize student benefits from curriculum units carefully sequenced according to a hierarchy of skills and concepts and diagnostic evaluations based di rectly on those skills and concepts (Fortenberry, 1985). The importance of remaining aware of cutting edge research cannot be overstated. Educators, whether teac hers or administrator s, must remain knowledgeable about current strategies, tr ends, and issues relating to education curriculum and instruction. Administrato rs and teachers who remain aware of
35 research based reading instruction, not only gain valuable per sonal knowledge, but they gain knowledge that can and s hould be transferred to students to better educate and develop strong, successful readers. African American Elementary Principals Â’ Views of Standardized Reading Tests Principals may view testing in differ ent ways. Some may view testing as a way to chart student success and to hold teachers accountable for student learning, while others may view testing as a negative factor in schools today or as Â“big brother is watchingÂ” syndrom e (Leithwood, Steinbac h, & Jantzi, 2002). Whatever the view, principals are now held accountable for their studentsÂ’ learning and for ensuring they are pr epared to successfully take specified standardized tests. One way principals can assist st udents in achievement is to encourage students to read. McClan ahan (2001) conducted a stud y on the high school level with tenth graders that concluded if students are to be successful at standardized tests, they must incorporate additional independent reading time in class and at home that is both effective and purpos eful (Hoffman & McCarthey, 2000). A weakness in this study is that the res earcher only surveyed tenth graders from the English II College Prep and English II Honors classes, a population that doesnÂ’t have trouble achieving high reading scores on standardized reading tests. Nonetheless, the study is rele vant because it addresses the issue of increasing reading achievem ent on standardized tests, which is important to principals on all levels.
36 Hallinger, Bickman, & Davis (1996) discovered through their study that principals have no direct effect on st udent achievement in reading, but the study did find that female principals are perceiv ed to have more of an effect on student achievement in comparison to male c ounterparts. The researchers discovered principals have more of an effect on t he teachers who deliver the instruction to the students, thus leading indirectly to student achievement. An ethnographic study of nine first grade teachers conduct ed by Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston (1998) supported t he conclusion that princi pals and teachers influence student achievement. West (1985) conducted a quantitative st udy that concluded principals do indeed have an effect upon student achievement. Â“Reading achievement was higher in those schools in which the teac hers perceived that the principals had high expectations for the students and math achievement was higher in those schools in which the principal provided inst ructional support for the staffÂ” (West, 1985, p. 460). Students take cues from indi viduals in positions of authority. If the principal held the students accountabl e for their achievement and provided the necessary tools to perform effectiv ely, then students tended to strive for educational success. Goodard, Sweetland, and HoyÂ’s (2000) findings supported the conclusions of West. The purpose of their study was to discover if there was a relationship between school effectiveness enhanced by a high academic emphasis and achievement scores. The quantitative study used surveys as a data source to gain information from teacher s and students. The resu lts indicated that if
37 individuals in authoritative positions (i.e ., teachers and administrators) set clear, attainable goals and expectations, students w ould work hard to be successful. In addition, schools with a stronger academ ic emphasis, the higher the studentsÂ’ achievement scores. Students who were highly involved in literacy learning through various reading and writing op portunities initiated by their teacher increased their achievement scores (Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston, 1998). In addition, the teachers used scaffolding to further support studentsÂ’ learning environment. Edwards (1984) conducted a quantitative study to explore the relationship between perceived leadership behaviors and demographic characteristics of principals and the reading ac hievement levels of student s in elementary schools. The study had two categories of principals Category one explored principals of schools with more effective reading programs, while category two explored principals with less effective reading pr ograms. The study concluded that a relationship existed between the principalÂ’s leadership behavior in relation to the schoolÂ’s reading program and reading achiev ement level of it s students. The study also found that schools with more effective reading programs and higher achievement had principals who were more visible, supportive, receptive, and active in the schoolÂ’s reading program They went above and beyond to make studentÂ’s learning a viable experience. They utilized parents, other community members and resources to assist in st udentsÂ’ academic success. In addition, the principals in more effective schools appeared to be reflective and considered
38 themselves to be responsible for student achievement. The primary purpose of the quantitative study was to link school e ffectiveness, principal leadership, and student reading achievement. This section discussed the various views of elementary principals surrounding standardized reading tests, mo re specifically, the accountability pressure principals encounter and the push for high student achievement. The design was well intended, but due to the dear th of research focusing on African American elementary principals, the section discussed standardized reading tests and achievement in a generalized fashion. Summary of Chapter The purpose of this literature review was to introduce various issues related to African Americans and the role of the principal. The chapter began with an introduction followed by a discussion of the African Americans and literacy. This section attempted to introduce the obstacles African Americans encountered in the context of literacy as it has occurred throughout history to present time. Also included were the various language barriers some African Americans may or may not have encountered while in their school settings, and codeswitching. The perception and power of the principal allow ed the researcher to discuss the relevancy of power and percepti on and how it related to the role of the principal in the elementary school. Mo re specifically, how the perception and power affected the decision-making of the principal.
39 The role of the African Americ an elementary prin cipal in reading instruction allowed for literature to be introduced and discussed in the areas of collaboration between adminis trators and teachers; prof essional development of teachers and administrators in reading instruction; and African American elementary principalsÂ’ views of standardized reading tests. The weaknesses of majority of the af orementioned research in the context of this study was that the above research generalized all principals. The current study focused upon the views and experie nces, which may or may not have been unique to the African American elementar y principal. This qualitative study examined African American el ementary principals through a collective case study framework that lead to grounded theory. Chapter three focused on the methodology for the study.
40 Chapter III Methods Introduction Understanding the actions and views of African American principals and their impact on the educational context is significant because the experiences of principals can shape the social, educat ional, and professiona l context of the reading curriculum and instruction withi n a school. The qualitative study used interviews and field notes to access information from African American elementary principals to discover thei r perceptions, knowledge, desires and concerns in relation to their schoolsÂ’ specified reading programs. This study intends to bring to light African Amer ican elementary princi palsÂ’ practices and beliefs in the area of reading instruction through collective case studies (Stake, 2000) leading to grounded theory (Hatch, 2002; Patton, 2002). Collective case studies allowed the experiences and t he perceptions of African American elementary principals to be introduced and ex plored as a series of separate, but collective cases, that led to a compar ing and contrasting of the cases and ultimately developed in to grounded theory. Problem Research supports the importance of the Â“funds of k nowledgeÂ” (Moll, 1994) with which young children enter fo rmal education. African American children bring with them different sets of funds of knowledge than European American children whose funds of knowledg e more typically match that of the schoolsÂ’ teachers and administrators (D elpit, 1995, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 1994).
41 Presently, there is minimal research doc umenting the perception of principals in relation to reading curriculu m and instruction. More s pecifically, in terms of African American elementary principals, t he research is basically insufficient. African American principals have the unique perception of one who has grown-up and has been educated in the midst of the European Am erican dominated system of education, thus investigating their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction relevant to individuals in the world of academia and politics who desire to gain insight into the phenomena of reading leadership through this specific population of educators. By virtue of their leadership within an educational system that is arguably Eu ropean American centered, African American principals can be seen as starti ng a chasm of difference. Therefore, an interview study of these uni que individuals was warranted. Purpose of the Study The push towards high-stakes testing makes reading an important issue at all levels. Now more than ever, principals, teachers, reading specialists, counselors, librarians, students, and parent s must collaborate to make reading a successful and viable experience for child ren (Au, 1995; Bean, 1995; Edwards, 1984; Huges & Ubben, 1994; Quinn, 2002; Wohlstetter & Mallo y, 2001; Zipperer, Worley, & Sisson, 2002). Since reading is the basic foundation for all learning, it encompasses all subject areas (Ediger, 2000; Pavonetti, Brimmer Cipielewski, 2003; Sanacore, 1977; Smitherman, 1998). Culturally relevant teaching has b een addressed by Ladson-Billings (1994, 2001), but culturally relev ant educational leadership has not been examined in
42 the context of elementary school principals thus making it essential to study African American elementar y principals and their perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction in their schools. Many times the voic e of the principal as it pertains to reading curriculum and instruction is not heard (Dandridge, Edwards & Pleasants, 2000). Further research on elementary school administration tends to focus on overall school effectiveness and not specifically upon effective reading education (Bla s & Blas, 1999; Brookover, 1985; Dantley, 1990; Fortenberry 1985; Heck, Larsen, & Marcoulides, 1990; Lezotte & Bancroft, 1985; Uline, Miller, Tsc hannen-Moran, 1998). The information gathered in this study ma y enable principals and other s interested in literary leadership to learn more about the perc eptions of African American elementary principals. Original Research Questions What are the perceived relationship s among African American elementary principals, their perceived linguistic ex periences, and their perceptions of school literacy? What are perceived experiences of African American prin cipals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? Based on experience as a teacher and an administrator, how do African American principals perceive reading to be addressed in their schools? How does prior experience with readi ng influence African American principalsÂ’ perceptions of their leadership of readi ng instruction in their schools?
43 What principal-initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests? Revised Research Questions Based on my findings, the studyÂ’s or iginal research questions were revised. The data that support that revi sion are included in Chapter Four. The revised research questions follow: What are the perceived experience s of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? How does prior experience with reading, both personally and as a teacher/administrator, influence African Americ an principalsÂ’ perceived leadership of reading instruction in their schools? What principal initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests? Design Qualitative Research Qualitative research was the method of choice for this study. Qualitative research occurs in a natural setting (Hatch 2002; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Qualitative researchers in tend to discover the experie nces of individuals in settings familiar and unfamiliar to them. A true qualitative researcher strives to make sense of individualsÂ’ everyday lives (Hatch, 2002). Â“Qualitative research is an approach to social science research t hat emphasizes collecting, descriptive data in natural settings, uses inductive thinking, and emphasizes understanding the subjectsÂ’ point of viewÂ” (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003, p. 261) The study
44 examined the views of African American el ementary principals as they converse with the researcher about teaching reading, the promotion of reading, reading interventions, reading achievement, prof essional development and its effects on their schools. Their words, deeds, and motives cannot be properly established through a quantitative study, but must be brought to the forefront through qualitative methods that focus on their experiences and perceptions. Collective Case Studies A case study is defined as the st udy of specific phenomena, which may be simple or complex (Mitchell, 1983; Patton, 2002; Stake, 2000). A collective case study involves studying several cases at once. Stake (2000) defined collective case study as Â“jointly studying a number of cases in order to investigate a phenomena, population, or gener al conditionÂ” (p. 437). The study focused on the populati on of African American elementary principals in a central Florida county Studying this population lead to an understanding of African Am erican elementary principal sÂ’ perceptions of the phenomena of reading, and how the phenomena related to their personal and professional experiences. Grounded Theory The study was qualitatively des igned using grounded theory for the purposes of exploring the perceptions of African American elementary principals about reading curriculum and instruction in their schools. The collective case study design allowed the researcher to understand the meaning of events and interactions within the participantsÂ’ environment (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003). The
45 structure of the study a llowed elementary principals the opportunity to voice comfortably the nature and rationale fo r their schoolsÂ’ reading programs. Grounded theory is a general methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1994). Many researchers use it in efforts to develop fully and to explain the phenomena they choose to study. Grounded theory focuses on the proc ess of generating theory (Patton, 2002). Â“It emphasizes steps and procedures for connecting induction and deduction through the const ant comparative method, comparing research sites, doing theoretical samp ling and testing em ergent concepts with additional fieldworkÂ” (Patton, 2002, p. 125). A constant comparative method of analysis was employed to review themes continuously as they emerged from the data sources (Hatch, 2002). This constant comparative method (Cohen, M anion, & Morrison, 2000) allowed the researcher to employ inductive thin king and it can be employed from the conception of data collection. Accordi ng to Bogdan and Biklen (2003), inductive thinking occurs when researchers go from the specific to the general. This inductive reasoning allowed the analysis to emerge during data collection, which for the purposes of this study can be viewed as grounded theory. Grounded theory begins with general c oncepts and develops into more detailed concepts. Specifically, the concepts are formulated, analytically developed and the conceptual relationshi ps are posited (Strauss & Corbin, 1994). The conceptually formed relationshi ps include multiple perceptions from the studyÂ’s participants, which are gr ounded directly and indirectly in the phenomena being studied. Grounded theory allowed a connection to develop
46 among the various perspectives through patterns and processes of action/interaction that in turn are asso ciated carefully with specified conditions and consequences (Strauss & Corbin, 1994). The study was designed to discove r the African American elementary principalsÂ’ perceptions of their experiences, and actions as they related to the field of reading. A collective case st udy enabled the researcher to capture how African American elementary principals perceived reading, described reading, felt about reading, judged reading, remember ed reading, made sense of, and talked about reading with others (Pa tton, 2002). Studying Afri can American elementary principals through the theor etical scope of grounded theory intended to give the researcher a clarified u nderstanding of the p henomena of reading from a series of perceptions that are o ften overlooked and misjudged. Researcher As a researcher I attempted to c onduct the study with limited bias, but due to human nature, preconceived notions we re in place. As a teacher by profession, IÂ’ve always viewed the principal as an organizer who delegated authority to subordinates (Dandridge, Edwa rds, & Pleasants, 2000). By admitting to the potential for bias, I entered the study with a better ability to avoid it. One reason for the study was to hel p me look beyond my preconceived notions and focus on the perceptions of African American elementary school administrators in regard to their percept ions of their personal and professional reading experiences. In my experience, many teachers feel administrators are insensitive to the needs of their facu lty and students because they often exclude
47 faculty and staff in the decision making process or they fail to communicate effectively with teachers. This study atte mpted to allow the voices and opinions of principals to be expressed openly and honestly by ensuring anonymity and remaining non-judgmental. Reliability and Validity The issue of reliability and validity are important to any study, whether qualitatively or quantitatively designed. Reliability concer ns itself with researcher trustworthiness (Graber, 1991; Lincoln & Guba). In the study, the researcher made an effort to ensure confidentialit y and attempted to create an interview atmosphere that exhibi ted the aura of camar aderie and trust. For the study to be reliable, the res earcher conducted the study with as much precision as possible. This was accomplished by incorporating research procedures that enable the study to be conduc ted in a consistent and responsible manner. The research should exhibit re sults that are dependable and consistent (Langenbach, Vaughn & Aagaard, 1994). Multiple sources of data collection allowed the researcher to establish re liability by strengthening the grounding of theory (Eisenhardt, 1989). Reliability can also be affected by any irresponsible acts in the measurement or assessment process, by instrumental decay, by assessmentsÂ’ that are tedious and time-consuming, or through other factors that may cause alienation to the studyÂ’s advancement (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The current study attempted to avoid these th reats to qualitative reliability by having multiple data sources, peer debriefers, and member checks.
48 Peer debriefers allowed the researcher to have additional reviewers to study the data that emerged. The debr iefers were chosen based upon their experience in the area of reading curriculu m and instruction. The incorporation of peer debriefers increased the reliability because they were expected to contradict or support the findings introduc ed to them by the researcher, which aids in trustworthiness. Â“When the indepe ndent judgment ran par allel to that of the investigator, dependability was enhanced. When it did not, there was cause for probing, reviewing, clarification, and reconsiderationÂ—though not always revisionÂ” (Graber, 1991, p. p. 44). In this study, differe nces in the perceptions of the researcher and the peer debrie fers were minimal. In addition to peer debriefers, princi pals were invited to review the transcripts of the interviews to c heck for accuracy, volunteer additional information, and validate the findings of the researcher (Graber, 1991). This method of review is called member c hecking. Hatch (2002) defined member checking as the Â“verification of informa tion or extension of information developed by the researcherÂ” (p. 92). Even though eight principals par ticipated in the study, only four chose to review their transcr ipts. Out of the four principals who reviewed their transcripts, none refuted any information presented in the transcripts. Validity discusses the confirmation of facts discovered through research. Developing a precise research agenda will enable the researcher to check and recheck the information received from the respondent. Validity can be dissected further into external and internal validity (Meier & Brudney, 1993). External
49 validity is concerned with genera lizing as it relates to the issues in the study, while internal validity focuses on the c ausal links that develop from conducting the study and analyzing the data fr om the study (Cone & Foster, 1993; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2002; Meier & Brudney, 1993). Participants Participants for the study were Afri can American elementary principals from a centrally located county in a sout heastern state in the United States of America. Due to the design and the pur pose of the study, only principals were interviewed. Assistant principals and reading specialists did not serve as alternates for the principal interviews because it was vital to view the phenomena of reading from only the perc eption of the principal as an instructional leader. Assistant principals and r eading specialists often have an alternate view of the phenomena to be studied, or may not hav e the power to impact school-wide literacy practices. Their position descrip tion and outlook may differ from that of the principal in numerous ways. Specif ically, the power the principal has in relation to the assistant principal and t he reading specialist was critical. The power of the principals allowed them t he opportunity to organize their school and curriculum from their own perception. Eight African American elementary principals were selected to participate in the proposed study. The researcher intended to interview the complete pool of African American elementary principals, but this goal was not achiev ed. Principals were chosen through available selection from the countyÂ’s limited population of African American elementary principals.
50 Data Sources Semi-Structured Interviews Many qualitative researchers value in terviews because of the information that is generated. Interviews provi de researchers with the necessary data needed to discover the experiences of the participants being studied. The interview process permitted the res earcher to probe the participant for information not brought forth during dire ct observation (Hatch, 2002; Seidman, 1998). For the purposes of this study, t he researcher incorporated a semistructured interview protocol (Appendix C). A semi-str uctured interview can be an in-depth interview (Hatch, 2002) that allows the researcher to have an interview protocol to guide the interview. The interview was designed to explore the perceptions and experienc es of the African Americ an elementary principals. However, the protocol does not require a strict wording or order of questions. Rather, the protocol will list topics to cover. The interviews lasted approximately sixty minutes. Each interview was audiotaped and the researcher wrote field notes to assist in the clarity of the interviews, and to provide a break for the intensity of one-on-one interviewing. The participant had knowledge of the tape-recorder and was insured of confidentiality. Each participant was gi ven information about his or her rights and each signed a permission form. As a res earcher, it was my responsibility to protect the rights of the par ticipants volunteering in th e study and to comply with the standards expected and suppli ed by the Institutional Revi ew Board (IRB). In
51 an effort to further protect the studyÂ’s participants, I completed the on-line IRB training required by the Univer sity of South Florida. Face to face, semi-structured interv iews were conducted with eight African American principals. One advantage of fa ce-to-face interviews was adaptability, thus allowing the researcher to clarify vague statements or make changes as the interview proceeded. In addition, the face-to-face interview permitted the interviewer to build a relationship of tr ust and camaraderie with the principals to gain more information (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000; Seidman, 1998). However, there existed several disadvantag es of in-person interviews: the lack of anonymity for the principals; a conceivabl e opportunity for interviewer bias; and the possible expense of time and m oney (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000; Seidman, 1998). The lack of anonymity was addressed by using pseudonyms when the research was analyzed and written. A research reflection journal was maintained by the interviewer to main tain awareness and m onitor for possible interviewer bias. The possible expense of time and money was addressed by scheduling the interviews at a time c onvenient for the researcher and the principal being interviewed. Principals were asked questions based on the interview protocol developed by the researcher. A second interview was not conducted with the principals because it was not warranted. The interviews allowed the researcher to further understand the experiences of the principals in the study (Seidman, 1998; Patton, 2002). Â“A basic assumption of in-depth interviewing research is
52 that the meaning pe ople make of their experience affects the way they carry out that experienceÂ” (Seidman, 1998, p. 4). Tape recording All principal interviews were audio taped in an effort to preserve the contents of the interview session. Tape recording allowed the researcher to review and comprehend the information introduced, discussed, and evaluated during the interview. The audiotape wa s a tangible portion of data, which confirmed information received during the interview session. Â“Tape-recording offers other benefits as well. By pr eserving the words of the participants, researchers have their original data. If something is not clear in a transcript, the researcher can return to the source and check for accuracyÂ” (Seidman, 1998, p. 97). Transcribing Interview transcriptions (Hycner, 1985) we re completed by the researcher. Once transcribed, the researcher review ed the text and highli ghted or bracketed important themes, thus crafting a pr ofile (Hycner, 1985; Seidman, 1998). The rationale for crafting a profile, according to Seidman (1998), is to provide an order in which the researcher can convey interview data to readers. Transcribing allowed the researcher to have a written copy of the interview session. The audiotape used during the interview session s was transcribed in an effort to preserve the interview information on paper In addition, the researcher had a written copy to share with the elementary principals. In an effort to member check the data received from t he principals, the principals were allowed to review
53 and reflect upon the transcribed information. Principals were once again assured of confidentiality because they were assigned pseudonyms to maintain the confidentiality of their identity. Field notes The second data source was field notes obtained from interviews. The field notes included non-verbal behav iors and the environmental context. According to Bogdan and Biklen (2003) fiel d notes are the wri tten accounts of the researcherÂ’s experiences while conducting research. The field notes were used as a means of clarification or support. The incorporation of field notes allowed the researcher the opportunity to be reflec tive and conscious of the events that developed during the qual itative study. Â“Field notes can provide any study with a personal log that helps the researcher keep track of the development of the project, to visualize how the resear ch plan has been affected by the data collected, and to remain aware of how he or she has been influenced by the dataÂ” (Bogdan and Biklen, 2003, p. 111). A ccording to Hatch (2002), field notes are taken while the researcher is in t he field observing individuals and the setting. The field notes include descriptions of c ontexts, actions, record of the physical setting, and conversations written in as much detail as possible considering the constraints placed on the researcher at t he given time (Lofland & Lofland, 1995). The field note data was used as a means to validate the findings from the interviews. In addition, the field not es provided the researcher with the opportunity to further explore the atti tudes, social interactions and other information from the principals.
54 Research Reflection Journal The last data source was a reflective journal (Appendix D) kept by the researcher. The purpose of the journal was to a llow the researcher the opportunity to reflect on the events that occurred during the interviews and to discuss, describe, and clarify events that occur during the dev elopment of the study (Burgess, 1981). Hatch (2002) suggest ed it is relevant to keep a separate journal in efforts to moderate impressions and preliminary interpretations that go beyond the information written in the field notes. Since a constant comparative method of analysis was employed, it wa s pertinent that the researcher be consistent in journaling. The researcher journaled daily in efforts to stay abreast of any personal bias, emerging information, and/or other events. In addition, the researcher remained focused on the pur pose of the study and gained necessary insight to understand principals and their perceptions of reading in their schools. As a qualitative researcher, the importance of remaining reflective as the study developed could not be underst ated. The act of being reflective allowed the researcher to be aware of the influence and bias as it pertained to the study. The reflective journal allowed the researcher to remain aware of their personal Â“belief systems and the cultural norms that have helped shaped their identitiesÂ” (Slifkin, 2001, p. 5). The journal also al lowed for emerging hypotheses. Procedure For a collective case study, which leads to grounded theory to be effective and provide meaningful data, the res earcher created research procedures (Appendix B) to develop theory properly. Once the IRB approval was granted to
55 conduct research in the county, the res earcher contacted t he African American elementary principals for the study. The principals to be studied were an available sample from the countyÂ’s popul ation of African American elementary school principals (Hatch, 2002; Mile s & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 2002). Once approval was granted and the samp le obtained, the principals were contacted by phone to initiate and schedule an interview. During the face-to-face interviews, field notes were taken to clarify points made by the principals, document physical settings as well as social interactions. In addition, principals were ensured of the confidentiality in relati on to their interview responses. Once the first interview was conducted, the re searcher began transcribing the tapes in efforts to code emerging data as it was collected (Charmaz, 2000; Miles & Huberman, 1994) and began journaling in the research reflection journal. The researcher listened to t he audiotape from the in terview and began typing the words stated by the principal and interv iewer. The researcher composed a transcription text similar to a script from a movie or play. The researcher made every effort to include pauses, sounds, and interruptions that occurred while in the interview setting. Once the script was completed, the coding of the data began. Â“Through coding, we start to def ine and categorize our data. In grounded theory coding, we create codes as we study our dataÂ” (Charmaz, 2000, p. 515). As the researcher began coding, thus began the init iation of theory development. The transcript text was reviewed to di scover important points relevant to the research questions. These points were coded according to their relevancy to
56 the research questions. These coded point s were placed on construction paper to create a new text differ ent from the transcript tex t. This new transcript was reviewed for common themes. These t hemes were coded and classified into categories that reflected the purpose of the study. The field notes were reviewed for important points. The points were highlighted by the researc her. The highlighted info rmation was extracted from the field notes and collected on a page for further analysis. This information was coded and reviewed for more commonalities relevant to the study. The new information received from new notes was assigned themes and these themes were placed into categories relevant to study. The information received from the interviews and the field notes were reviewed for common themes and issues re levant to the study. As the data was reviewed, emerging themes became appar ent. These emerging themes were placed into categories relevant to the study and coded in efforts to develop grounded theory. Throughout the study, a reflective jour nal was maintained. The journal was used as a means to support or to contradict issues introduced during the interviews and field notes. The journal gave the researcher the opportunity to clarify, comment and question events occurring during interviews and visits. In addition the researcher document ed and commented on various social interactions that occurred prior to t he interview and during the course of the interview. The journal was reviewed to highlight pertinent information relating to the study. The highlight ed information was coded and placed on construction
57 paper for a more intense review. This review led to themes relevant to the study. These themes were assigned categories t hat reflected the purposes of the study and were compared and contrasted to the themes developed from the other two data sources. The data from the interviews, field notes and the journal was organized and analyzed separately for the purposes of the study. Once each data source was analyzed, the results from each data source were reviewed for commonalities and differences. The comm on themes were extracted from the data sources, placed on construction paper, and placed into categories. The differences were noted and placed in the appropriate context to thoroughly discuss the topic. This method of tr iangulation (Patton, 2002) increases the credibility and reliabilit y of the research. Data Analysis Data analysis was the search for meaning among the topic being studied. Once the meanings were discovered, they were organized, written, and communicated in a manner to disseminat e to the world of academia (Hatch, 2002). A constant comparative met hod was employed to analyze the data collected from the principals. The data from the interviews, field notes, and reflection journal was organized separatel y (Seidman, 1998; Patton, 2002). The interviews were transcribed, continuous ly reviewed, and codes were created for emerging data. The field notes, like the interviews, were reviewed on a continuous basis to code emerging data. Coding enabled the researcher to connect the common themes introduced by research data. The data source
58 resembled a script with the principal and the researcher being the primary characters. The assigning of codes enabled the researcher to group common occurrences and themes as they emerged. The last data source, a research reflection journal, was a continuous process throughout the study. Once the data was organized, each data source was reviewed separately. When the data was organized s eparately, it was then anal yzed separately. After the data was analyzed, the researcher convened a peer debriefing session. Three qualitative researchers with an educational background in reading curriculum and instruction served as peer debriefers (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The debriefers were chosen due to thei r knowledge of reading curriculum and instruction. Two of the debriefers re ceived their doctorate in curriculum and instruction specializing in reading and language arts. The third debriefer is preparing to defend her proposal in the same program in the near future. Incorporating a peer debriefing sessi on into the research process added credibility to the study and increases inte rnal validity (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The peer debriefers reviewed the transcr ipts and the codes that emerged from the data collection to check for consisten cy and clarity. Each peer debriefer was given a copy of the original transcr ipts, the highlighted transcripts, and the themes and categories script to review the data analysis process taken by the researcher. Individuals participating in this review were not informed of the principalsÂ’ identities due to confidentiality reasons. Prior to the debriefing session, the peer debriefers were tr ained to analyze and code data. The researcher provided a refres her training to assist in the analysis process.
59 The identified themes were plac ed together on a single script by highlighting pertinent information from t he transcription text. The new version allowed the transcripts to be analyzed wit h a strict eye (Seidman, 1998). This allowed the information received from the data sources to be compared and contrasted case by case, and data sour ce by data source. Charmaz (2000) stated in order for the constant com parative method of grounded theory to be properly administered, the researcher s hould Â“(a) compare different individuals, which may or may not include their perceptions, experiences, beliefs or situations, (b) compare dat a from the same individ uals with themselves at different points in time, (c) compare inci dent with incident, (d) compare data with categories and, (e) compare a category wit h other categoriesÂ” (p. 515). An additional set of themes and ca tegories emerged from the comparing and contrasting of the data. The res earcher highlighted in formation that stood out to him or her. Â“As you read, ask yourself wh ich passages are the most compelling, those that you ar e just not willing to put aside. Underline them. Now you are ready to craft a narrative bas ed on themÂ” (Seidman, 1998, p. 103). Summary of Chapter The purpose of this chapter was to discuss the design and procedures to be utilized for this qualitative study. The study was a collective case study (Stake, 2000) using an emphasis of gr ounded theory. In addition, a constant comparative method of data analysis was utilized to review themes as they emerged from the data sources. The c onstant comparative model was used to
60 analyze the data with the research questions guiding the data collection and analysis. Eight African American el ementary principals were interviewed for this collective case study. An interview gui de was created in efforts to guide the interview. In addition to the interviews field notes were taken and a research reflection journal was maintained by the research to remain aware of biasness and other important information that emerged during the data collection. The collective case study allowed t he researcher to study the African American elementary principals as a collectiv e unit, but also as individuals. This method provided the opportunity to explore and discuss the principalsÂ’ attitudes, beliefs, and experiences as it relates to reading curriculum and instruction. Understanding and discovering the per ceptions of African American elementary principals in t he area of reading is perti nent to student success and school success. This study allowed pr incipals to voice and to discuss their doubts, concerns, experiences, and succe sses through qualitative means, thus serving as a means to in form the fields of reading and educational leadership about the importance of under standing principals thinking about literacy in their schools. The information brought forth in this qualitative study will be disseminated to individuals in the educatio nal field, political arena, and others who have a genuine concern for education.
61 Chapter IV Results This chapter presented the reported per ceptions of eight African American elementary principals in the area of reading curriculum and instruction in a central Florida County derived from a colle ctive case study. The results of the study are presented in a narrative form to provide a detailed and descriptive picture of the data that emerged. Through interv iews, field notes, and a researcher reflection journal, themes patterns, and categories emerged in relation to reading curricu lum and instruction. This qualitatively designed study wa s developed for the purpose of investigating five questions: What are the perceived relationship s among African American elementary principals, their perceived linguistic ex periences, and their perceptions of school literacy? What are the perceived experience s of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? Based on experience as a teacher and an administrator, how do African American principals perceive reading to be addressed in their schools? How does prior experience with readi ng influence African American principalsÂ’ perceptions of their leadership of readi ng instruction in their schools? What principal-initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests?
62 The research questions guided the collecti on and analysis of data reported in the collective case study. Eleven African American el ementary principals met the selection criteria for the research. These criteria were to be an African American principal in a school with grades PK through fifth grades or kindergarten through fifth grades. Eight African American elem entary principals were interviewed for the study although eleven met the researcherÂ’s criter ia. One principal declined due to lack of experience, two others were cont acted numerous times via phone and e-mail and chose not to respond to the interview request. Therefore, a total of eight African American elementary principa ls participated in the study. The participants will be discussed in chronological order of their interviews. After the principals have been introduced and discu ssed individually, the principalsÂ’ responses will be discussed as a cohort followed by the answering of the research questions. Table one pr ovides the demographic data of the participants. The cohort discussion wil l introduce the themes and categories (Table two) that emerged during the data analysis and I will state conclusions immediately followed by suppor t from the principalsÂ’ in terview, field notes, and the research reflection journal (Cone & Fo ster, 1993). From this information, a comparison and contrast of the cases will be revealed. The Principals Tina: Â“Reading is life, itÂ’s like bloodÂ”
63 Principal Tina is a first year principal in the county. She has a total of seventeen years in education, eleven as a teacher, and six years as an assistant principal. She has experience teaching read ing in the elementary grades and believes that there is Â“no perfect plan for every child Â” (interview, December 2003) in regards to reading instruction. This personal philosophy of Principal Tina is based on the concept that students enter school with different experiences and personal expectations. T hese differences may assist or hinder their learning to read. Principal Tina defines reading as the understanding, expressing, and sharing of written text. In her opinion, reading is more than just the reading of words. According to Tina Â“reading is the comprehending of printed textÂ” (interview, December 2003). If students are to be successful in life they must be able to read and apply the knowledge. Â“Reading is life; itÂ’s like bloodÂ” (interview, December 2003). The reading curriculum used in the school is the Harcourt Trophies (www.harcourtschool.com) series adopted by the county. The program consists of ninety minutes of uninterrupted reading instructional time. The school also utilizes other resources to assist their students in becoming pr oficient readers: Sing, Spell, Read & Write (www.singspell.com), which is a phonics based program design to help the schoolÂ’s first graders; and Leap Frog (www.leapfrog.com), an interactive l earning program. These programs are
64 supplementary programs t hat are included in hopes to improve academic achievement. In TinaÂ’s opinion, there are severa l components of a successful reading program: exposure to writt en text; the ability to articulate words aloud; shared reading experiences; teacher read alouds on a daily basis; children imitating and acquiring fluency; singing and reading wo rds; and opportunities for students to hear themselves read. She based thes e components on her experience as an elementary teacher and the cour ses she took in college. Teachers in TinaÂ’s school receive professional development through several avenues. They receive prof essional development from the book company representatives, as needed, to hel p the administration and faculty to familiarize themselves with the r eading curriculum and effective reading strategies. Principal Ti na mentioned the professional development is beneficial to her faculty majority of the time. The district also initiates numerous workshops that teachers may attend to increase t heir knowledge of reading instruction. Since Tina is a principal that believes in remaining aware of current reading research, she encourages her faculty to approach her with arti cles, conferences, and other workshop opportunities available outside of the school district. Her only stipulation is that teachers make a conscious effort to implement the knowledge they gain to enable their students to be successful in reading, which is difficult to know because she is not always able to observe the teachers on content knowledge gained from professional development opportunities.
65 Tina can be described as a principal that supports reading and believes children learn in different ways. She s upports her teachers gaining knowledge to assist students in becom ing life-long readers. Fran: Â“Reading is a way out of povertyÂ” Principal Fran is the leader of a Title I ( www.ed.gov/programs/titleipara ) school in a rural area of the county. She asked to review the interview questions prior to beginning the interview because she wanted to be precise. She has twenty-six plus years in education and taught reading for sixteen years at the elementary level. When asked about her personal defini tion of reading, she gave an answer with social and educational implications: Reading is a way out of poverty. ItÂ’ s a way of communicating. ItÂ’s a way of understanding many other world i ssues. Without reading you would have a difficult time of being able to co mmunicate effectively. So, I really, really, do think reading is a must. It is a survivor tool. It is a survivor technique. It opens up all kinds of door s. It opens up all kinds of worlds. When one is able to read and understand w hat is being read, it gives them a distinct advantage (int erview, December 2003). She is the leader of her schoolÂ’s reading program and she believes she provides the necessary organization and support needed to ensure her teachers and students receive quality training and instru ction in reading. Her role as the leader includes her being a facilitator, as well as a delegator.
66 FranÂ’s childhood shaped the way she pr omotes reading in her school. As a child, she was an avid reader and believed that reading helped her to learn about the world in which we live. Reading opened doors and windows of opportunities for her. Â“You c an learn about life if youÂ’re able to readÂ” (interview, December 2003). The school utilizes the district reading curriculum, which is Harcourt Trophies ( www.harcourtschool.com ) and incorporates other resources to raise achievement on state mandated tests, strengthen reading skills, and actively engage students. Accelerated Reader (AR) (www.renalearn.com), Star (www.renalearn.com), and Cu lyer Reading Strategies (Newman, 2002) are programs that she believes have had a positive effect on the students. AR ( www.renalearn.com ) is a program that assigns points to books based on their reading levels. Once st udents have read a book, they take a computerized test about the book and they receive AR ( www.renalearn.com ) points based on their test score. More spec ifically, it is a tracking system used to aid students in becoming more efficient readers by testing their knowledge of books they have read. Star ( www.renalearn.com ) is another program of Renaissance Learning. The Star ( www.renalearn.com ) program is a reading assessment computer program used to determine a studentÂ’s reading level. The program tests vocabulary and contex t clues more than reading level comprehension. The students are given the test based upon their current grade level. Star is the assessment system used to determine what level the child should be reading in the AR book. Culyer Reading Strategies (Newman, 2002) is
67 a program that works to increase the readi ng comprehension levels of students. Â“The program uses an indirect model, where administrators and key teachers meet once a month for allday development sessions. The educators then relay the information and plans to their entire school, where principals learn how to administer the most effective reading stra tegies and teachers learn how best to apply these strategies to t he classroomÂ” (Newman, 2002). According to Fran, a successful reading program encompasses various components: quality reading teachers; teachers who actively engage students; modeling; school leader who values readi ng; a school leader who believes in the teachers and the students; and teachers who are willing to give every child an opportunity to learn and be successful. For this to occur principals should hold themselves responsible for remaining aw are of current reading research, reading trends, and reading standards and mandates. In her opinion, principals should want whatÂ’s best for their students to be successful, thus making it important to incorporate current information relev ant to the area of reading. Whether the state sets standards, guidel ines or goals, as principal you should always set goals for your school. So to me, being successful does not depend on what the state has deci ded my children need to learn. Success is what is actually being taught at the school. And what the school gives the kids need to learn. You should not have to have a state mandate and tell us what needs to be taught; we should do that ourselves. It should be an automatic thing that th is is what the students need to be taught at these grade levels (interview, December 2003).
68 There are many ways principals can in clude current res earch. Principal FranÂ’s elementary school has learning comm unities, which are opportunities for faculty to share new and ex citing articles and books in the field of reading and education in general. The administrat ion and faculty often read books and articles and forward the information to other staff members. Other times the teachers and administrators engage in round table discussions at grade level meetings or faculty meetings. Principal FranÂ’s faculty has the opportunity to attend district held workshops and other models of trainings. Fran values professi onal development because she understands the importance of remaining current on reading instruction. Struggling readers are i dentified through teacher observations, test data from guidance, reading inventories and FCAT (www.fldoe.or g) scores. Identifying the students in this manner a llows them to be placed at their instructional reading level and not their frustration level. If a child is identified as a struggling reader, he/she receives morning or afternoon tutoring to bring them to grade level. Often this individualized a ttention is needed to increase studentsÂ’ reading achievement. Principal Fran is a school leader who makes reading a priority for all faculty and staff in her school. She not only leads her school in making reading a priority, she sets examples. The examples are what assi st in motivating students to become life long readers. Betty: Â“Reading helps you to operate in other peoplesÂ’ worldsÂ”
69 Principal Betty is a soft-spoken wom an with a great deal of experience in education. The majority of her thirty-three years in education has been as an administrator. Her education experience as it relates to reading instruction includes various coursework in reading and she often engages in reading current reading research to stay informed of the trends occurring in the field. Her personal definition of reading is Â“comprehending and understanding of written wordsÂ” (interview, Dece mber 2003). The comprehending and understanding enables individuals to comm unicate efficiently and effectively when needed. In her opini on, if students are to pros per, they must be able to read and apply what is being read in the appropriate situations. Principal Betty has many roles in her schoolÂ’s reading program. She is ultimately responsible for the reading program and ensuring it is delivered properly to the students. It is her responsibility to remain abreast of reading standards at the state and f ederal levels to guarantee her teachers are prepared to teach reading, students are learning nec essary skills and strategies, and that her students are ready for standardized tests. Â“I provide leadersh ip so that each person can get what they need for the st udents of this elementary school to be successfulÂ” (interview, December 2003). The importance of reading cannot be over stated for Betty. In her opinion, she is motivated internally to promote pos itive reading experiences in her school. Reading is a part of her personal, as well as professional life. Betty is an avid reader and encourages her stude nts and staff to do the same. One can often walk into the school and find the office st aff reading childrenÂ’s books as a way of
70 promoting reading throughout the school. Ot her ways reading is promoted is by giving awards to students, having author talks, character days, and special reading projects completed by the students. In BettyÂ’s words, Â“reading helps you to operate in other peoplesÂ’ worlds. It exposes you to other environments, and culturesÂ” (interview, December 2003). This exposure is what assists in building students background knowledge, which is an important feature in adding to the comprehension and motivation of students. For a reading program to be effective in BettyÂ’s school, it must include the Â“Fab FiveÂ” components from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB): phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabul ary, fluency, and comprehension strategies. It is also relevant to hav e adequate instructional time that includes ninety minutes of uninterrupted daily readi ng instruction for all grades. In addition, Betty states that when parents participate in their childÂ’s reading education, students tend to be more prepared. Betty believes principals who ar e knowledgeable about state reading standards and research tend to have strong reading programs. She feels it is relevant for principals to read and then try to implement beneficial strategies that may assist in improving st udentsÂ’ overall reading experience. Even though she supports the implementation of new informati on, she recognizes that it takes time and commitment from teachers for things of this natur e to be successful. If the teachers are committed to incorporating new strategies or progr ams, then it will probably be successful due to the overwhel ming support. Betty recognizes that
71 the principal is only one person in a school setting, and it takes the dedication of other individuals to ensure a pr ogram works and is effective. To ensure that teachers remain aw are of current reading trends, Betty encourages teachers to attend profe ssional development opportunities. Professional development occurs in several ways in BettyÂ’s school. The administration and teachers co llaborate internally by sh aring books, articles, and initiating professional study groups. There are also external training opportunities offered by the sc hool district and consultants. The professional development allows Betty and her teachers to identify and assist struggling readers and effectiv ely assesses their reading level. Through training and experience, teachers are able to look at previous test scores from FCAT (www.fldoe.org), t eacher assessments and observations, and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) ( http://dibels.uoregon.edu.index.php ) to identify the readers and determine their goals and objectives. They assist the struggling readers by utilizing various reading strategies, tutoring, and constant monitoring. Betty knows with the constant change in the education system it is pertinent for students to receive a quality f oundation in reading. Additionally, she feels a well-established instru ctional leader that makes r eading a priority aids in the preparation of academically savvy st udents who value and love reading. Sue: Â“Reading of material to gain knowledgeÂ” As one walks into Principal SueÂ’s hum ble, visitor-friendly school, it is obvious reading is a priority. The sc hool is an older, remodeled school. The
72 principal makes her own copies. In addi tion, every staff member that comes through the office door makes an effort to speak to the ch ild sitting in the clinic and me. On the table are magazines, and on the shelves, childrenÂ’s literature books, which another child who is in the o ffice for disciplinary reasons takes the time to search through. The recepti onist is tutoring a student in reading and language arts and encourages the student to tell her a story prior to writing it for a class project. Principal Sue has twenty-nine years of experience in education. Fifteen of those years have been as a school adminis trator, while the other fourteen have been as a classroom teacher. During her tenure as a teacher, she achieved her certification in reading and took coursework in reading curriculum and instruction while working towards her masterÂ’s degree. Her personal definition of reading is the Â“reading of material to gain knowledgeÂ” (interview, December 2003). This knowledge enables individuals, young and old, to explore and experience new things while reading. This definition and explanation of reading motiva tes her internally to promote reading in her school. From her experience, s he knows and values reading because of its effects on life. SueÂ’s school is a school that takes pr ide in literacy education. Often her role as a literacy leader in the schoolÂ’s reading program leads her to give books to students to increase their personal libr aries, tutor struggling readers, and model successful reading practices. In addition, the school has celebrations to award students for positive readi ng gains and achievement goals.
73 Because reading is relevant to the school, Sue participates in the several reading initiatives to assist her sch ool in advancing their academic and standardized achievement performance. The elementary school is a Reading First School, which provides additional materials and trainings for the teachers and administrators through the NCLB (2001) legislation. The school also participates in the Florida Lite racy and Reading Excellence (FLARE) (www.edcollege.ucf.edu/flare/Flarehom e.htm), and the school received the Comprehensive School Reform Grant (www.fldoe.org) that also provides additional funding to schools that qualify for the grant. Sue believes the components of a su ccessful reading program consist of the Â“Fab FiveÂ”, which is part of the NCL B Act (2001). The program supports the inclusion of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies. The components of NCLB (2001) require principals to be knowledgeable about current reading research and mandat es. Sue believes principals need and should know what to look for when they enter and observe their classroom teachers. If principals are to be effective and efficient instructional leaders, they need current knowledge to increase their awareness. Teachers and administrators rece ive trainings on current reading initiatives in several ways. The district provides different trainings or workshops in the area of reading. Since the school is a Reading First School, training is delivered on a continuous basis. The Readi ng Coach often trains the faculty of the school in reading instruction as needed.
74 Principal Sue is a person who supports reading. She believes in acquiring knowledge to be a power and information sour ce to her faculty and students. In her opinion, if we go back to the basics, and put more faith in the teachers our students may prosper. In her words, Â“I donÂ’t think we need more programs. We need to let teachers teachÂ” (interview, December, 2003). Carey: Â“Everything we do is hinged on readingÂ” Principal Carey is the leader of a Title I ( www.ed.gov/programs/titleipara ) school located in the northern sector of this central Florida County. There is evidence throughout the main office and the pr incipalÂ’s office that reading occurs daily. Books and magazines for all levels line tables and shelves. Students come into the front office with library books in their hands and sit quietly and read while waiting to be acknowledged. Carey discussed that her educational experience in reading occurred in her MasterÂ’s degree coursework. This concentration of reading during her Masters allowed her to have more exper ience going into the classroom. She was able to relate and help students to appreciate reading and the power and influence it has over peopleÂ’s lives. Acco rding to her, Â“reading is the foundation of everything and everything we do is hinge d on readingÂ” (interview, December 2003). That makes motivating and prom oting reading in her school a personal matter because she wants all her students to be successful. Carey has established several mechanisms to ensure reading success is implemented, celebrated and appreciated throughout the school. Trophies are awarded to students who have met their re ading goal each nine weeks. The
75 school sponsors family and library nights to extend literacy to studentsÂ’ family members. And most im portantly, reading is taught for no less than ninety minutes a day. Several programs are utilized in Care yÂ’s school in addition to the Harcourt Trophies mandated by the dist rict. AR and the Star ( www.renlearn.com ) program are used as well as the Compass Lab, whic h is a computerized program used to track student success in reading. The program is designed for the student to work on an individual basis. When asked to discuss her personal definition of reading, Carey elaborated to ensure I received a comple te and comprehensive understanding of her conception. Reading would be a thorough understanding of printed text, but before you get to the thorough under standing there has to be a sense of decoding words; there has to be a process of understanding what is expected from you in terms of the reading so ther e needs to be some sort of purpose setting first. As adults we kind of figure out things when we choose material, but when we give students ma terial to read, we need to make sure that they underst and the purpose; that they have a background before reading so that under standing is easier for them to have. Many times we give them reading material and they have no concept of what youÂ’re talking about and then we wonder why they donÂ’t understand. They donÂ’t understand because they donÂ’t have the background thatÂ’s needed to appreciate the material that th ey have (interview, December 2003).
76 This definition leads to an explanati on of her role in her schoolÂ’s reading program. She views herself as the instructional leader who bears the ultimate responsibility of what occurs in her school on a daily basis. To be effective in her schoolÂ’s reading program, she is visibl e among her faculty and students. She considers herself to be a hands-on pr incipal because she ensures students are gaining the necessary skills to acquire literacy. Unlike other principals in the st udy, Carey approaches the components of a successful reading program from another perspective. Carey believes the most important component of a successf ul reading program is an enthusiastic teacher who is grounded in the steps to promote success. Children should also be able to identify with whatever is being re ad. It is important for students to view people that reflect themselves. This is especially true for minorities. Teachers should include books from various cultures to invoke a sense of pride among minority students. They mu st be allowed to build thei r background knowledge. In addition to building knowledge, it is rele vant to include their prior knowledge to assist in the building. The inclusi on of prior knowledge enables students to connect their world with their school worl d. This allows them to actively participate in their learning. Lastly, t eachers should also provide a purpose for reading for students to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Carey admits she makes her job a pr iority. Reading and learning is a personal matter for her. S he makes every effort to l earn more about the field of reading to assist her students and staf f with being successful. She fully understands the challenges fa cing students in todayÂ’s schools in the age of
77 accountability and makes every effort to pr ovide effective instructional leadership so her students and staff may prosper. Elaine: Â“The ability of a person to decipher and comprehend the written wordÂ” Principal ElaineÂ’s school is located in a rural area of the county. The school is categorized as a Title One and a Reading First School. Many of the individuals in this area are farmers or migrant workers who work hard for what they have. Elaine has thirty years in educ ation. Unlike other principals in the study, she received her bachelors and master s degrees in history. This allows her to view reading from the perception of the content areas. Her experience includes teaching secondary social studies and African American History on the community college level. When I was in middle school, one of the things that we always complained about is that fact that the kids we re not good readers. And it was very difficult to teach them math, scienc e or social studies because students couldnÂ’t read the text. And that was especially true with social studies because if you canÂ’t read the material then you have to find other ways to get it across because they donÂ’t have any idea. They canÂ’t determine what the topic is really all about. So thatÂ’s been my experience, and once I got into administration, IÂ’ve been in elementary administration all of the time so thereÂ’s been an overriding emphasis on reading in the elementary schools and my training has been where I received more skills. IÂ’ve had the Reading First Training (interview, December 2003).
78 The experiences Elaine had in the classroom enable her to personally define reading as Â“the abili ty of a person to decipher and comprehend the written word. Put it into meaningful form where they can understand what is being related to themÂ” (interview, December 2003). She went further to discuss that students must move beyond Â“calling wordsÂ” and head towards the understanding of the words. Elaine views her role in her schoolÂ’s reading program as ultimately an overseer and leader. It is her job to revi ew the total picture and provide support to teachers and resource personnel. She also ensures that the school has the necessary materials, schedules and training. When asked what motivates her to promote reading, Elaine provided an elaborate reflection. It always bothers me when I see people who are out in the community who donÂ’t have those skills that they need and I know they donÂ’t have those skills that they need and sometime s they have personal problems. They can sometimes trace them all back if they were better students or readers, they probably wouldn Â’t have made some of the choices that they made. And they wouldnÂ’t be in the situat ion that theyÂ’re in. So in a sense, IÂ’m looking at it from kind of an end resu lt. I would rather do what I can to make sure that these kids are good readers because that opens up the whole world for them. A nd by that I mean, if yo u can read even if youÂ’re not taught a particular subject, if you can read well, you can teach yourself. If you can read well, you can open up any doors that are
79 available to you simply by knowin g where to get the information or knowing what to do. If you canÂ’t r ead, youÂ’re kind of stifled and you donÂ’t even try to go into other avenues. If y ou look at data, I think you will find that most of those kids that donÂ’t read well are the ones who are more likely to drop out once they get to hi gh school. They are more likely to struggle in high school and if they do fi nally graduate, theyÂ’re not going to push it any further. If there is a desire to go beyond that, you will find there are so many road blocks that t hese kids are more likely to give up rather than push ahead. So therefore itÂ’s just a stumbling block if you donÂ’t get that basic foundation for reading and I feel like the better we train them in terms of readi ng, weÂ’re going to find theyÂ’re going to be more successful and itÂ’s going to help societ y as a whole (interview, December 2003). The specific reading programs used in the school are the district chosen series, Harcourt Trophies (www.harcourt school.com); Sing, Spell, Read, and Write ( www.singspell.com ) for the first grade; AR and Star (www.renalearn.com); and Leap Frog ( www.leapfrog.com ). Since the school is a Reading First School (www.ed.gov), students are scheduled fo r ninety minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction. ElaineÂ’s background and experience pr ovides an interesting perception of reading instruction. Having experience on the secondary level allowed her to see the importance of reading across the curri culum, which allows reading to be taught in every subject ar ea. The experiences assist her in being a hands-on
80 principal that interact s with students and teachers. Her love of reading encourages and motivates students to read for their present and their future. Vivian: Â“Practice what they teachÂ” Vivian is an energetic person with many plans for her school With thirtyone years in education, she has experi ence at the elementary and secondary levels. Her reading experience includes teaching English, taking courses in reading curriculum and instruction; operat ing a preschool with a strong reading focus; participation in the FLARE ( www.edcollege.ucf.edu/flare/flarehome.htm ); and the various training opportunities included in the Reading First Grant Initiative (www.ed.gov). The previously mentioned experiences led Vivian to define reading as the inclusion of phonics, comprehension of the written text, vocabulary, and fluency. These are some of the necessary co mponents of an effective reading program as well. Also included are strong, pr epared teachers, who ar e enthusiastic about teaching and take the time to Â“practice what they teachÂ” (interview, December 2003). A supportive administrator that places the needs of her students and teachers above their own also aids the reading program. The importance of reading goes back to childhood experiences for Vivian. The love of reading and books were instilled in her at a young age. This love motivates her to promote reading throughout her school and community. Ways she promotes reading are by having book give-aways or drawings for students to receive books; modeling, which allows students to view another individual focusing on positive reading interaction; Â“books and breakfastÂ” is an incentive
81 that invites certain students to have breakfa st with the principa l and share a book of their choice; and awards for the mo st AR (www.renalear n.com) points gained in a nine week period. In addition, the school encourages reading among the family and community by having Family Nig ht, which allows students to invite family members to the media cent er to read books together; community sponsored reading incentives that provide donations to the school to purchase books for students and additional reading materials for the school; and Media Night combines computers and literacy to allow family members to research topics with their children. Professional development comes in a variety of ways at VivianÂ’s elementary school. Since it is a Reading First (www.ed.gov) school, administrators and faculty receive conti nuous training on reading instruction. She admits that her teachers can be some what resistant towards the additional training. In a perfect world, her staff would be excited and eager to attend training and implement their new knowledge, but in reality, they resist because of the other constraints and stipulations being placed on them through county, state, and federal mandates. Despite th is reluctance, Vivian stresses to her teachers that the reading initiative is her e to stay and they must do what is necessary to increase their professi onal knowledge, st udent achievement, and studentsÂ’ overall academic success. Struggling readers are identified through severa l methods: DIBELS (http://dibels.uoregon.edu/index.php), a read ing diagnostic test; teacher made assessments such as running records, and the Compass Lab (www.polk-
82 fl.net/DrNERobertsEl/compass_computer_lab .htm). The readers are assisted by receiving after school tutoring and tutoring during school by Title I ( www.ed.gov/programs/titleipara ) tutors. Vivian is a principal who believes in involving the community and initiating creative means to promote reading. As one looks around the school, the evidence of reading is prevalent. Rooms boa st of innovative reading corners that allow students to be comfor table and have positive reading interactions. Her leadership will continue to allow the school to grow with an appreciation for reading. Sarah: Â“Acquisition and application of knowledgeÂ” Nestled in a middle-inco me neighborhood in a central Florida county is the youngest of the principals in the study. Prin cipal Sarah is a first year principal in a non-title one school who has a total of ten years educational experience. SarahÂ’s experience in education includes three and a half years as a classroom teacher. During this experienc e she had various reading instructional opportunities. She taught language arts at the middle school level, which allowed her to utilize and incorporate r eading strategies she believed to be beneficial to studentsÂ’ academic growth. When asked to give a personal defi nition of reading, Sarah described reading as being Â“the acquisition of knowled ge and the application of it. Not just the reading to receive knowledge, but the ability to apply the knowledgeÂ” (interview, December 2003). According to Sarah, students should know how to read for all purposes. Readi ng for enjoyment is important to initiate and motivate
83 students, but they must learn how to read for information. It is this type of reading that shapes the majority of the state mandat ed tests. It is this type of reading material that students must pa ss on the FCAT (www.fldoe.org) to proceed to the next level of their academic education. Due to the pressures of st ate mandated tests and governmental requirements, SarahÂ’s percepti on of her role in her schoo lÂ’s reading program is of great importance. She provides the ov erall leadership for the schoolÂ’s reading program in terms of motivation, resour ce personnel, and always makes reading a focal point to her staff as well as her students. On a daily basis Sarah sees and recognizes the necessity of an education. She sees the necessity of being able to read. According to Sarah, students often come to school without t he necessary foundation to be successful in reading. This is especially true for some minority students in SarahÂ’s school. Sometimes the students lack parental suppor t, access to materi als, background knowledge, or the motivation. This leads to SarahÂ’s thoughts on t he components of a successful reading program. The most important component for Sarah is to have reading instruction and curriculum that builds background kno wledge for the students. It is also relevant to have a program that incor porates and effectively utilizes vocabulary acquisition. Including phonics instruction, main ideas, and sequencing makes the program complete, but Sarah is quick to remember the struggling readers in her school. A successful reading program also includes paths to identify, accommodate, and motivate stru ggling readers. Sarah belie ves it is important to
84 know and learn the students you are dea ling with and their reading styles. Research is important in composing t he proper program because in her words, Â“what works for one school may not work for anotherÂ” (inter view, December 2003). She is an advocate of parental invo lvement and volunteerism. Tutors are actively sought out to assi st the struggling readers. Principals who are knowledgeable about reading research and current reading mandates aids in the promotion, motivation, and activation of successful reading programs. Â“Research allows y ou to be more informed about whatÂ’s out there and gives you ideas on how to effectiv ely utilize what you have. And so the more information you have about something, the more informed youÂ’re going to be and the better decisions you can makeÂ” (interview, December 2003). Professional development plays a part of being knowledgeable about current reading trends and issues. Administrators and teachers in SarahÂ’s school receive training through the district by attending professional development days, state and national c onferences, and other wo rkshops. Unlike other principals mentioned in the study, SarahÂ’s school is not a title one school, thus limiting its resources. As an administrator, Sarah feels it is her charge to search for grants and free opportunities that will assist her teacher s in the area of reading instruction and curriculum. S he stresses the relevance of planning accordingly when funds are limit ed for professional development. Sarah is an enthusiastic, young principal with ideas and the motivation to support it. She has a love for reading t hat she spreads to her students and staff through modeling and remaining a constant means of support. Not only does
85 she venture into her teachersÂ’ classrooms to read to students, but she also reads to her faculty during meetings as a way of sharing the impor tance of reading. According to her, helping her faculty rema in aware of the im portance of reading enables them to focus and forward this importance on to their students in order for them to be successful at the present time, but also in their future academic endeavors. The Cohort The purpose of this portion of t he chapter is to discuss the themes, patterns, and categories that emerged wit hin and across the principal cohort. Table two provides a visual of the t hemes, the principals that discussed the themes, and the categories that defined the themes. A brief discussion of the themes will take place with comments from the principals to add support. The themes in the study were placed into two specific categories; public requirements and personal perceptions. I defined public requirements as those themes that are initiat ed and required by the local school district, the large southeastern state, and sometimes t he federal government. Personal perceptions are the themes t hat emerged based upon the personal and professional experiences, expectations, and/ or the power exerted by the principal as a leader. The personal perceptions ma y influence how the principals choose to exert their power in relation to their schoolÂ’s reading program. FCAT (www.fldoe.org) FCAT (www.fldoe.org) is a subject that causes some principals to cringe. The body language some of t he principals exhibited at the mention of FCAT
86 (www.fldoe.org) was an attitude of frustrat ion. The principals rolled their eyes, smacked their lips, sighed heavily, and tight en their arms across their chests as an act of silent defiance of the state te st. FCAT (www.fldoe.org) has been known to cause stress in administrators, teachers, and students because of the pressure to perform. Prin cipals worked hard to ensure their students are not only prepared to take the test, but also prepar ed to achieve the necessary scores to promote them to the next gr ade level. Many of the schools in the study had signs that positively promoted FCAT (www.fldoe.org). The signs offered encouraging words for the students to read, reading and math strategies, and hopefully offered an incentive to score we ll. Despite the positive encouragement, some principals question the limitations the test sets on students. Some principals voiced concerns about the time allotted for students to take the test, while others worried about the low ESE score s and how they affected the overall population of the school. Tina: Â“Some students need additional ti me on the FCAT. If they were allowed more time, they would probably achieve a higher score.Â” Sue: Â“We are focusing on reading and other areas tested rather than reaching the total child.Â” Elaine: Â“There is a great deal of pr essure at the elementary level with FCAT. My faculty is concerned about reading and the FCAT data. Last year our students performed well on the test, but at the end, when the ESE scores were incorporated, it hurt our overall school grade. This is not
87 fair to the students or to the teachers that wo rked hard to include ESE student scores.Â” While Tina, Sue, and Elaine have reservations about FCAT (www.fldoe.org), another principal apprecia ted its impact on reading instruction. Vivian: Â“The reading materi als that we use, the methods of instruction, the extra and added dimensions such as extending the day and the staff development must all be high yield components.Â” FCAT (www.fldoe.org) is indeed a subj ect that reveals various attitudes and beliefs. The majority of the principa ls in the study do not speak favorably towards the FCAT (www.fldoe.org), while ot hers think itÂ’s a great idea. Clearly FCAT (www.fldoe.org) is an area that conjures a debate; a debate that will continue as long as the test is in FloridaÂ’s schools. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) The reading initiative has arguably sparked praise, controversy, and concern throughout the country. The init ial purpose of NCL B (2001) was to incorporate stronger accountabilit y mechanisms and increase student achievement among AmericaÂ’s schools. In addition, the act was intended to change the cultural composition of the schools to enable the less fortunate students to have a better educational experience ( www.ed.gov/nclb ). The pressures from the local, state, and federal governments have principals scattering to incorporate and utilize effectiv e reading programs and strategies to assist their students. In addition, some of the principals view the NCLB (2001) act as a mechanism to divert our country back into the system of segregation in
88 an indirect way. Two of the principal s in particular, viewed the programs of NCLB as a means to cause division among the races. In addition, with the new school alternatives such as choice, m agnet and charter schools, this causes additional separation. Betty and Sue may not necessarily support the NCLB (2001) initiative, but they support the reading instructional co mponents introduced by the act. They believe that phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension strategies are all valuable tools in a successful reading program. These tools will assist in students being successful in reading. In addition to those components, many of the principals are proponent s of the ninety minutes of uninterrupted reading instruction for all grades. Fran: Â“Reading comes first. You donÂ’t interrupt students on the intercom. Interruptions cause childrenÂ’s train of thought to break.Â” NCLB (2001) is a controversial topic in our society today. The act has brought about additional pressures and standar ds that children are expected to accomplish. This additional pressure on students has also added pressures on the principals and teachers. Despite this fact, principals are making every effort to ensure students and teac hers are prepared to meet the qualifications necessary to succeed. The eight principa ls introduced in this study believe in professional development and professional sharing as avenues for their teachers to learn additional material that will benefit their students. In addition, they continuously search for programs and met hods further prepare their students for standardized tests and academic achiev ement. Three of the principals
89 discussed the relevancy of having energet ic and positive teachers. In their opinion this is an initial step in ensur ing students are pre pared and are positive towards learning. County Reading Curriculum All of the principals discussed t he county curriculum. The researcher posed the interview question, Â“how is y our schoolÂ’s reading curriculum chosen?Â” Every principal answered the question in a si milar manner. The principals in this central Florida County have little to no input on the selection of the reading curriculum for their schools. Every el ementary school must use the Harcourt Trophies (www.harcourtschool.com) Readi ng Series mandated by the school district. According to the principals in the study, teachers were selected from various schools across the county in conj unction with county officials to choose the districtÂ’s reading curriculum. Pr incipals seemed to not be concerned about this process because the teachers are t he individuals instructing the students majority of the time. Tina: Â“Teachers know what they wan t. Teachers have more of a hands-on by being in the classroom. The further you are out of the classroom, the further away you are from the needs of the children.Â” The principals in this study showed little concern for not assisting in choosing the countyÂ’s curriculum, but they made every effort to understand the curriculum and provide the resources requir ed for their teachers to relay to the content effectively and efficiently.
90 Usage of supplemental reading curriculums Supplemental reading curriculums (Table 3 & Table 4) allowed the administrators the flexibil ity to provide the resour ces to strengthen teachersÂ’ approaches for struggling readers, furt her accelerate average readers, and enhance above average readers. Supplemen tal reading programs also provide extended reading development that is desig ned to assist in increasing studentsÂ’ scores on the FCAT (www.fldoe.org). This use of supplemental reading materials comes in the form of computer labs, reading and writing strategies, and other curriculums. In the four Reading First schools, the supplemental programs are expected to provide additional inst ruction in the areas of phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary (S opko, 2002). Supplemental programs should be used in conjunction with a core comprehensive program such as the Harcourt Trophies (harcourtschool.com) curri culum currently being utilized by the county. Tina: Â“The Compass Learning Lab is designed to help students on an individual basis with increas ing their reading levels.Â” Fran: Â“Our school uses the Culyer R eading Strategies to teach students how to read and to improve their achiev ement on standardiz ed reading tests.Â” Betty: Â“Our main reading curricu lum is the Harcourt Trophies (www.harcourtschool.com) adopted by t he county, but we also utilize Accelerated Reader and the Compass Lab. The Compass Lab is to help our students increase their reading achievement.Â”
91 Elaine: Â“We use SRA for ESE students; Sing, Spell, Read, and Write for our first grade students; a nd the Leap Frog Program. Vivian: Â“In our school we have the Star and AR program s, SRA, and I encourage teachers to bring in other thi ngs to help supplement the reading programs. Many time s teachers have activities that have worked for them in the past with reading achievement, and I support them when they incorporate it into their instruction.Â” Supplemental reading programs are necessary components. They provide additional attention to student s and their reading deficiencies. The principals in this study chose t he supplemental progr ams based upon their studentsÂ’ needs, faculty recommendation, an d their own personal observations. Reading as a means of communication Three of the eight principals viewed reading as a means of communication. Tina, Fran and Carey vi ew communication as important for students to prosper and excel in the world of academia. Not only is communication relevant in school it is relevant in their lives outside of the school setting. Communicating effectively is a real life challenge. Communicating allows students the opportunity to convey their messages verbally and in a written manner. Communicating also allo ws them to underst and what is being communicated through written text. Tina: Â“Reading is not just the reading of words.Â” Fran: Â“Reading is a way out of pove rty. ItÂ’s a way of communicating.Â”
92 Carey: Â“Reading is the foundation of ev erything. Everything that we do is hinged on reading.Â” Reading as a means of communicati on was a theme that the principals introduced due to the importanc e of reading in society. From their personal experience, they know that if students want to establish and conquer their goals in life, they must be able to comm unicate effectively and efficiently. Modeling Modeling allows students to view others while they read or interact with reading materials. More specifically, m odeling is a teaching strategy where the teacher thinks out loud and demonstrates stra tegies. Each principal in the study mentioned the importance of modeling for students. By modeling, students are able to receive a positive experienc e and interaction with reading. All participants in the study participated in modeling to assist students in appreciating reading. According to the principals in the study, modeling occurred through various activities in the school. Princi pal Fran and Principal Vivian stated they often visit the classrooms to read to students and vice vers a. In addition, several of the schools utilize the last thirty mi nutes of school to allow everyone in the school time to read silently. This includes every admin istrator, teacher, secretary, and all stud ents. This practice letÂ’s st udents know that reading is a priority to everyone in their school.
93 Principal Elaine modeled by talkin g about reading with the students in class and during assemblies, having s pecial announcements during the morning and afternoon announcements, and inviting guests to read for the students. In general, modeling provides student s with the opportunity to view and interact with their teachers, administrators, others in their lives within in the context of reading. Modeling gives students an example to follow and hopefully develop an appreciation for reading. Acquisition and application of knowledge The principals in the study realize t hat reading is more than just the calling of words. For reading to be meani ngful, students must acquire knowledge and then apply the knowledge they gained. Students will only be successful in reading once they are able to accomplish this task. Betty: Â“A person can learn a lot from reading.Â” Sue: Â“Read to gain knowledge.Â” Carey: Â“The understanding of printed text.Â” Elaine: Â“The ability of a person to decipher and comprehend the written word. Put it into meaningful fo rm where they can understand what is being related to them.Â” Sarah: Â“The acquisition of knowle dge and the application of it. Not just the reading to receive knowledge, but the ability to apply the knowledge.Â” The acquisition and application of know ledge is a relevant skill for children to be successful in their school academics, but also the state mandated tests that
94 are required of them. Students must move beyond just being able to read words. They must also be able to apply and utiliz e the information in the written text. General concern for all children The principals in this study showed a concern for all children regardless of their ethnicity and believed that all ch ildren should be given the opportunity to engage in positive reading experiences. But several concerns with African American children were introduced. Tina, Fran, Betty, Carey, and Sarah mentioned the struggles many Afric an American students encounter while in elementary school. Sometimes they lack the necessary foundation and motivation needed to be successful in reading and in school. This lack of foundation and motivation often delays t he African American studentsÂ’ academic progress until they have caught up with thei r peers, which in turn may influence their achievement on standardized tests. Sue: Â“ThereÂ’s a lack of parental encouragement to read at home. Research shows, that the more you read the better your reader will become. Practice makes perfect.Â” Vivian: Â“If the child does not hold a love and appreciation, thirst and desire to know more, when that same child sits for a standardized test and is presented with a passage to read that he or she perceives to be "too long", they do not attempt to r ead the passage or attempt to answer the questions without reading the passage first. These same children, when introduced to a reading assignment in the classroom, will groan and count the pages to see how much reading they are being required to
95 complete. While on the other hand, the child who has this love and respect for learning and gaining knowledge through reading can hardly wait until the teacher stops talking and allows them to read. I was like that in school. I read everything and everywhere.Â” One principal discussed from her expe riences that many African American children dislike reading because it is more visual. They can relate to activities that are more hands-on and less visual. In th is instance it is relevant for teachers to incorporate different learning strategi es that will enable all students to learn. Fran: Â“Students are starting school with zero skills, which makes them start behind.Â” Vivian: Â“Perhaps reading is not modeled for them at an early, impressionable age.Â” Sarah: Â“With African American childr en there is a challenge to foster a love for reading. African Americ an kids are hands-on learners instead of visual learners. It is important to motivate African American children to love to read. Educators should be able to take information and give it back to them in a way that will prov ide knowledge and make it applicable to them.Â” African American students should f eel included in their schoolÂ’s curriculum. This inclusion will help them feel comfortable within their school. Carey: Â“It is important for students to see people that reflect themselves. It is important that minorit ies see other minorities in the books they read at
96 school. This makes them feel a sens e of pride. Hopefully this will encourage them to want to read.Â” Several principals discussed African American children and reading in a predominately white society. The discussi on included, but was not limited to standardized tests, fairness in the syst em, and the push to excel academically from home and from school. Sue: Â“I believe that all children ca n learn if given the instruction and opportunity to learn. I donÂ’t think race should be a factor. Teach all children, no exceptions.Â” Fran: Â“Give all children the opportunity to learn to read.Â” Vivian: Â“I sincerely believe that in education, as is in love and war, everything is fair. In the era in wh ich I came of age, education in the African American community was hel d in high esteem, every parent wanted their son or daughter to obta in as much education as possible. College was the buzzword in our home from the time that the first infant was born. My father vigorously encouraged all six of us to excel academically and obtain college degrees and we all did. We rose to the level of his expectations.Â” Regardless of their backgrounds, students should all be given the opportunity to positively interact with r eading according to Principals Tina, Fran, and Carey. This can be accomplished by exposing students to different strategies and activities. The principals realized that what works for one student
97 may not work for another. Therefore it is pertinent to incorporate and utilize appropriate and applicable mechanisms to expose students to reading. Tina: Â“It is important to expose st udents to written text as much as possible.Â” Childhood readers/avid adult readers Principals Tina, Fran, and Vivian discu ssed appreciating a love for reading and literacy at an early age. Each menti oned telling stories or reading books to learn information. They admitted that this initial start had an effect on how they value reading as adults. Tina: Â“I donÂ’t remember when I could not read. I mean, like you said, I remember my parents not necessarily reading me a book, but telling me stories. And we took turns telling st ories. And when a book was there, we just read. I donÂ’t reme mber ever struggling.Â” Fran: Â“I loved to read as a child.Â” The principals early initiation into reading influences their perception of how reading is addressed in their school s and what mechanisms they feel are necessary and applicable to the students in their schools. Principals Betty, Elaine, Vivian, and Sa rah called themselves avid readers. They read for personal enjoyment and for professional advancement. Professional advancement and growth in cludes becoming knowledgeable about current reading trends and issues, and legisl ation involving education. Each of the principalÂ’s offices has shelves lined with books on various topics.
98 Betty: She reiterated, Â“You can learn a lot from readi ng, thatÂ’s why I read. It allows me to operate in other peoples worlds.Â” Elaine: Â“I must be kn owledgeable on a professiona l level because I must meet the necessary expectations of the state and county officials. A principal can not afford not to be knowledgeable.Â” Vivian: Â“I have an innate love for boo ks. I also know that if a child can read, thereÂ’s nothing else a child canÂ’t do.Â” Sarah: Â“Reading allows me to make more informed decisions when it comes to my school.Â” The perceptions that the principals hold influence how they exert their power over their schoolÂ’s reading program s. A personÂ’s beliefs and experiences often guide them in how they make decisions (Norte, 1999) Vivian: Â“Reading receives t op priority at my school.Â” The majority of the principals in this study were childhood readers and continued their love of reading as adults. This love of reading spurred the principals to make reading a priority to be valued by students, faculty, and fellow administrators. Professional sharing Several principals spoke highly of co llaborating with other faculty to learn new methods for teaching reading. Fr an, Betty, Carey, and Sarah spoke of utilizing their peers to acquire new informa tion and apply it accordingly in their schoolÂ’s reading curriculum.
99 The administrators in the study supported reading and forwarding it to their faculty members. They also enc ourage their teachers to share information with fellow faculty members and the administrator s. This professional sharing and collaboration allows the schools to remain aware of new research and strategies that may be beneficial. Fran: Â“We have learning communities. We share things with each other. We read books and then pass them on. If itÂ’s a hot issue, a round table discussion will take place. We s hare many professi onal books and articles because many of the sta ff members are in graduate school. Among the books shared are Schools that Work (1993) by George Woods; Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (1993b) and Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1993a) by Howard Gardner; WhatÂ’s Worth Fighting For in Your School (1996) by Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves; and one of my favorites, A Framework for Understanding Poverty (2001) by Ruby Payne. The learning communities are school-wide but the interaction is usually done at the grade level meetings When I purchase professional materials I usually purchase enough to s hare with the staff.Â” Betty: Â“We often receive traini ng through internal discussions and meetings. We have professional st udy groups, and modeling activities.Â” Administrators also discussed the re levancy of collaborating during team and faculty meetings. These opportunities allow the admi nistrators and faculty to brainstorm and consider the needs of the children. In addition, it provides
100 support for those who are feeling over whelmed with reading instruction and need the positive input of their peers on how to improve their instru ctional delivery and organization. Build background knowledge The last theme to be discussed is t he building of background knowledge. Five out of the eight principals in t he study discussed the relevancy of giving students a purpose for their reading, and ensuring the necessary background knowledge is built for students to comprehen d the information presented to them while in class. Carey: Â“As adults we kind of figure out things when we choose material, but when we give students material to read, we need to make sure that they understand the purpose; that they have a background before reading so that understanding is easier for them to have. Many times we give them reading material and they have no concept of what youÂ’re talking about and then we wonder why they donÂ’t understand. They donÂ’t understand because they donÂ’t have t he background thatÂ’s needed to appreciate the material they have.Â” Sarah: Â“One component of a succe ssful reading program is building background knowledge for students.Â” The building of background knowledge is often confusing for some educators According to the principals in this study, the building of background knowledge is important if students are to relate to t heir reading activities. In the
101 principalsÂ’ opinions, teachers are responsible for provid ing additional material to assist students in understanding stor ies, or comprehension passages. New Questions and Answers As the results of the study emerged, I struggled with the redundancy of the original questions. To avoid bei ng redundant, and to provide a thorough application of the research, new questions were formed: What are the perceived experience s of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? How does prior experience with reading, both personally and as a teacher/administrator, influence African Americ an principalsÂ’ perceived leadership of reading instruction in their schools? What principal initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests? My rationale for adjusting the research questions is based upon the research methodology employed by the study from its conception. This collective case study leading to grounded theory began with general research questions used to guide the data collection and analysis. As the results emerged, I felt the need to alter the questions to specifically grasp the perceptions of the African American elementary principals. Strauss and Corb in (1994) discuss that grounded theory allows a connection to develop among the different perspectives through patterns and process of action/interaction that in turn are associated with specific conditions and consequences. Simply put, my questions began as a general guide for data collection and analysis and dive rted to more direct questions to
102 eliminate redundancy, and bri ng to light the experiences of the eight African American principals. What are the perceived experiences of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? The principals in the study had varied experiences with reading instruction. Principals Tina, Fran, Sue, and Carey had experience with reading on the elementary level, while Betty, Elaine, Vivian and Sarah had reading instruction experience on the secondary level. The principals with experience on the elementary level had somewhat different experiences with reading instruct ion. Tina taught reading as a teacher of second, fourth, and fifth grades on t he elementary level, while Fran taught reading for sixteen years. During her sixteen-year tenure, Fran pushed students to realize reading is important to survive in so ciety. Â“Without reading youÂ’ re not going to be able to do anything else. Unlike Fran and Tina, Su e pursued a certification in reading. Her masterÂ’s degree in curriculum and inst ruction enabled her to learn various concepts, strategies, and theories. She made an effort to apply the knowledge she gained from textbooks applicable to her classroom and its students. As an elementary teacher, she taught grades se cond and fourth. Carey, on the other hand, felt she was more prepared to enter the classroom to teach reading due to her concentration in reading instruction during her first masterÂ’s degree. In addition to coursework at the graduate level, Carey spoke highly of her in-
103 service opportunities she has engaged in that assisted in broadening her knowledge base of reading instruction. Principals Betty, Elaine, Vivian, and Sarah had a varying perception of reading instruction due to their teaching experiences in the secondary content areas. Betty taught English on the secondary level and had multiple experiences with reading. Elaine had experience in the social studi es content area. This is an area that many children tend to struggle with due to lack of reading comprehension skills (Beck & McKeown, 1991; Schoenbac h, Braunger, Elaineleaf & Litman, 2003). In addition, the standardized test s, such as the FCAT (www.fldoe.org), has reading passages consisting of social studies content. Elaine: Â“When I was in middle school, one of the things that we always complained about is that fa ct that the kids were not good readers. And it was very difficult to teach them math, science or social studies because students couldnÂ’t read the text. And that was especially true with social studies because if you canÂ’t read the material then you have to find other ways to get it across because they donÂ’t have any idea.Â” Due to the struggle students were having with reading in the social studies content, Elaine had to continuously initiate and incorporate methods to assist students in comprehending the text by utilizing supplementary material. She utilized strategies and concepts such as incorporating literature, using word maps, guided reading activities, and cloze passages (Allington & Cunningham, 1999; Blachowicz & Fisher, 2002; Grav es & Graves, 2003; Schoenbach,
104 Braunger, Elaineleaf & Litman, 2003) that students were able to apply in her classroom, and in other content area classrooms as well. Vivian holds a bachelorÂ’s degree in English Education. Her teaching experience includes, but is not limited to teaching high school English, middle school language arts, drama and speech. While teaching English courses, reading was a focal point due to the comp rehension and application of material. In agreement with the countyÂ’s curriculum, she required students to read novels and plays to increase the knowledge of various genres of literature. In addition to teaching high school Englis h, language arts, speech an d drama, Vivian was previously the director of an early childhood l earning center that focused on early literacy development. Principal Sarah has a unique backg round in terms of her reading experiences. Prior to becoming a teacher she worked for a television network assisting in the production of television sh ows. Her teaching experience includes teaching journalism, television producti on and language arts. While teaching language arts she utilized different reading activities and strategies to make reading fun and motivating for students. The principals in this study came to their principal positions with varying experiences and perceptions of reading instru ction. It is these perceptions that make their schoolÂ’s reading program uni que and personable. Their experience influences the power of how their reading program operates.
105 How does prior experience with r eading, both personally and as a teacher/administrator, influence African Americ an principalsÂ’ perceived leadership of reading instruction in their schools? Principals in the study stress ed the importance of making reading a priority in their schools and in their studentsÂ’ lives. They want all children to be successful, but it goes beyond that. Ea ch of the principals in the study mentioned of reading being a lifeline, a way out of poverty, a way to communicate, and a way to ensure success in life. Tina: Â“Reading is life, itÂ’s like blood.Â” Fran: Â“Reading is a way out of poverty. ItÂ’s a way of communicating. ItÂ’s a way of understanding many other world issues.Â” Sue: Â“If you canÂ’t read, you canÂ’t do anything.Â” Vivian: Â“If a child can read, ther eÂ’s nothing else a child canÂ’t do.Â” The struggles that the princi pals have seen as teachers and administrators enable the principals to make a connection with their students. They take into account their personal life when they are addressing reading and other academics. Often the students come to school with the bare necessities and little, if any, parental involvement, t hus prompting principals to engage and assist their students in other ways to pr omote and motivate t hem to read and be successful. Fran: Â“Teachers and administrators do most of the teaching due to low parental support.Â”
106 Elaine: Â“We have little parental involv ement, but thatÂ’s because many of the parents are working and tr ying to make a living.Â” Vivian: Â“We create comfortable plac es for our students to read and use their imaginations. If we as adults like to be comfortable when we read, why shouldnÂ’t students be the same way.Â” This promotion and motivation someti mes comes in the way of awards, but sometimes it occurs by instilling a sense of pride and accomplishment. Betty: Â“We make reading a priority by giving awards, having author talks, and character days.Â” Sue: Â“We have nine week celebrati ons to award positive reading gains and goals. Carey: Â“Our school normally gives tr ophies to students that have met their reading goals.Â” Elaine: Â“Our school promotes (r eading) through talks, announcements, and modeling how everyone reads.Â” On a personal level, several principal s discussed being childhood readers and avid adult readers. This innate appreciation for reading influenced their perception of reading and its im portance in schools today. Vivian states it best when she discusses her personal history wit h reading and how it affects the way reading is taught in her school. Vivian: Â“I was and still am an avid r eader. I chose English Education as a major in college because of my love and appreciation for the written expression in any form. Reading receives top priority at my school, it is
107 taught based on scientifically based res earch and personal trial and error methods, and any "Best Practices" t hat are shared by other colleagues.Â” Principal Sue concurs with Vivian Â“Reading is strongly emphasized.Â” What principal-initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievement on standardized tests? The prominent ways students are assisted is through the use of supplementary reading programs and tuto ring. The two components forge a relationship that allows the opportuni ty for students to be successful in academics and reading achievem ent on standardized tests. Supplementary reading progr ams are those used in ad dition to the district mandated reading series, Harcourt Trophi es (www.harcourtschool.com). The principals have the opportunity to have t heir voices heard in terms of selecting supplementary reading program s. Often they collaborat e with their teachers to make appropriate and beneficial select ions based on their studentsÂ’ needs. Programs such as AR (www.renalearn. com); the Compass Lab (http://www.polkfl.net/DrNERobertsEl/compass_computer_lab .htm); Culyer Strategies (Newman, 2002); Leap Frog (www.leapfrog.com); and Sing, Spell, Read, and Write ( www.singspell.com ) are examples (see Table 4, p. 112) that are utilized and incorporated in the schoolÂ’s to eng age and promote the ac hievement of the students. Tutoring occurs before school, during sc hool, and/or after school at all of the schools in the study. The tuto ring allows for students to receive individualized attention without the pressure they may receive in a whole group
108 setting. Tutors are often teachers, parents, and interested members of the community that want students to succeed. Sometimes tutors have students read to and with them to increase fluency. In addition, the activities that were introduced during the reading block are re viewed for clarity during the tutoring sessions. The supplemental progr ams are used in class, and during tutoring sessions. According to the principals, the extra reading programs and tutoring assists in the development of conscious and knowledgeable readers that can apply what theyÂ’ve learned to different situations. Often this transfer of knowledge enables students to be vers atile and successful in reading. Summary of Research Results This collective case study examin ed the perceptions of eight African American women in the area of reading curriculum and instruction in a central Florida county. The major purpose for conducting the study was to discover and present these perceptions of African American elementary principals in the context of reading curricu lum and instruction. The themes in the study were cat egorized into two categories, public requirements and personal perceptions. The themes that emerged throughout the study that were categorized in to public requirements were FCAT (www.fldoe.org), NCLB (2001), usage of supplemental reading curriculums, and county reading curriculum. The themes in personal perceptions were reading as a means of communication, modeling, ac quisition and application of knowledge, general concern for all children, childhood readers/avid adult readers,
109 professional sharing, and building of background knowledge. These themes emerged as a result of interviews, field notes, and a research reflection journal. As the principals participated in the st udy, they expressed an appreciation for being interviewed and assisting t he world of academia in becoming knowledgeable about the perc eptions of African Americ an elementary principals.
110 Table 1 PrincipalsÂ’ Demographics Principa l Age Rang e College s Attende d Levels of Educatio n Years in Educatio n Years as an administrato r (Including AP years) SchoolÂ’s Student Demographic s Tina 41-50 USF Nova BS, MEd 17 6 White 50% AA 48% Hispanic 2% Fran 51-60 BCC USF BS, MEd 26 20 White 51% AA 12% Hispanic 37% Betty 51-60 PCC USF Nova BS, MEd, EdD 33 23 White 60% AA 20% Hispanic 10% Asian 10% Sue 51-60 Knoxvill e College USF Nova BS, MA, EdD 29 15 White 58% AA 28% Hispanic 13% Asian 1% Carey 51-60 FAMU BS, MS, MEd 29 14 White 70% AA 20% Hispanic 10% Elaine 51-60 BCC UCLA BA, MS 30 10 White 60% AA 22% Hispanic 18% Vivian 51-60 USF Nova BA MEd 31 5 White 59.8% AA 19.6% Hispanic 18.5% PI 3% Sarah 31-40 UNCChapel Hill USF BA, MEd 10 3 White 67% AA 17% Hispanic 11% Appendix E contains abbrev iations for Table One
111 Table 2 Emerging Themes from Principal Interviews Themes Categories Tina Fran Betty Sue Carey Elaine Vivian Sarah FCAT (www.fldoe.org) X X X X Public requirements NCLB (2001) X X X X Public requirements Usage of supplemental reading curriculums X X X X X X Public requirements County reading curriculum X X X X X X X X Public requirements Reading as a means of communication X X X Personal perception Modeling X X X X X X X X Personal perception Acquisition and application of knowledge X X X X X Personal perception General concern for all children X X X X X Personal perception Childhood readers/avid adult readers X X X X X X Personal perception Professional sharing X X X X Personal perception Build background knowledge X X X X X Personal perception
112 Table 3 Supplemental Reading Program Table Principal Mandatory Reading Program Supplemental Reading Programs Systematic Title I School Reading First School Tina Harcourt Trophies Sing, Spell, Read & Write Leap Frog Yes No Yes Fran Harcourt Trophies Culyer Reading Strategies AR Star No No No Yes Betty Harcourt Trophies AR Star Compass Lab No No No Yes X Sue Harcourt Trophies AR Star Compass Lab No No No Yes X Carey Harcourt Trophies Culyer Reading Strategies AR Star Compass Lab No No No No Yes Elaine Harcourt Trophies SRA Sing, Spell, Read & Write AR Star Leap Frog Yes Yes No No No Yes X Vivian Harcourt Trophies AR Star Compass Lab No No No Yes X Sarah Harcourt Trophies AR Star SRA No No Yes No
113 Table 4 Description and Purpose of S upplemental Reading Programs Supplemental Program Purpose of Program Culyer Reading Strategies A pr ogram introduced by Richard and Gail Culyer that works to increase the reading comprehension levels of students (Newman, 2002) SRA The program utilizes mu ltisensory instruction. It uses an integrated language approach that uses listening, writing, reading, and language arts skills. The program incorporates various components to prevent phonics from being the only skill taught to students (www.sraonline.com). Compass Lab A computerized program used to track student success in reading and math in compliance with the Sunshine State Standards. Leap Frog Hands-on learning systems designed to positively engage children in learning. The programs are designed based on current research (www.leapfrog.com) Sing, Spell, Read & Write The pr ogram incorporates sequenced systematic, explicit phonics instructional strategies to build fluent, independent readers. The program is designed to integrate current research on brain function, language acquisition, and reading to efficiently and effectively reach various types of learners (singspell.co m). The program is designed to support the five components of the Reading First ( www.ed.gov ) initiative. Accelerated Reader (AR) A tracking system used to aid students in becoming more efficient readers by testing their knowledge of books they have read. Students complete a quiz by computer based on the book and receive a numerical score (www.renlearn.com). Star A reading assessment computer program used to determine a studentÂ’s reading level (www.renlearn.com).
114 Chapter V Conclusion Introduction The purpose of this study was to discover the perceptions of African American elementary principals in regards to reading curriculum and instruction. In addition, the study attempted to address attitudes and beliefs in the context of reading curriculum and instruction in t he elementary school. The first portion of the chapter provides a review of t he procedures and the questions that guided the study. The rest of the chapter is organized to allow for discussion of the significant issues that emerged as a resu lt of the collective case study (Stake, 2000): culturally relevant leadership, r eading is more than just reading, sociocultural perception of reading, coll aboration, professi onal development, systematic knowledge of readi ng, limitations, the signifi cance of the study within todayÂ’s educational settings, and reco mmendations for further research. The study wa s designed to be qualitative. It was a collective case study leading to grounded theory (Stake, 2000). The study utilized semi-structured interviews, field notes, and a researcher re flection journal as data sources. The data sources were analyzed separately on an on-going basis and then combined to allow the researcher the full view of the participantsÂ’ perceptions and experiences as they discussed r eading curriculum and instruction. The init ial research questions that guided this qualitative study were:
115 What are the perceived relationship s among African American elementary principals, their perceived linguistic ex periences, and their perceptions of school literacy? What are the perceived experience s of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? Based on experience as a teacher and an administrator, how do African American principals perceive reading to be addressed in their schools? How does prior experience with readi ng influence African American principalsÂ’ perceptions of their leadership of readi ng instruction in their schools? What principal-initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests? The research questions that emerged as a result of repeated data analysis were: What are the perceived experience s of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? How does prior experience with reading, both personally and as a teacher/administrator, influence African Americ an principalsÂ’ perceived leadership of reading instruction in their schools? What principal initiated methods or approaches are used to assist students with reading achievem ent on standardized tests?
116 The new questions eliminated redundancy in the research findings and enabled the researcher to focus on the pertinent i ssues relevant to the African American elementary principals and thei r perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction. Culturally Relevant Leadership Culturally relevant leadership is a newly developed term that encompasses power, perception, knowledg e, and lastly social and cultural influences. The principals made an effort to optimize the power they have in their schools by effectively utilizing t heir perception. Their perception is enhanced through acquired knowledge relati ng to their field of expertise, personal and professional experiences, and personal beliefs. These characteristics assist in the development of a culturally re levant leader. The elementary principals in this study pr ided themselves on remaining aware of their personal culture and her itage, as well as the cu lture and heritage of their students, faculty, and the surrounding communi ties in which they serve. This awareness and appreciation may lead to t he principals providing quality leadership that encourages all students to excel. In terms of this study, culturally re levant leadership allowed for African American principals to provide effe ctive and productive leadership in an institution that is predomi nately controlled by white males. True culturally relevant leaders are able to code-switch and utilize their power and perception to make learning beneficial for their students. They are able to look beyond the immediate and look towards the fu ture by implementing programs and procedures that will provide add itional support for their students. The principals
117 in this study made a conscious effort to implement supplemental reading programs, tutoring oppor tunities, and other educational mechanisms in an attempt to further prog ress the academic achievement of their students. Much like culturally relevant teachi ng (Ladson-Billings, 1994), culturally relevant leadership seeks to empower students and teachers through intellectual, social, and emotional, and po litical means that will aid in acquiring additional knowledge, skills and abilities. This empowerment creates an overall positive school learning env ironment that is benefic ial for students and the teachers. One theme that emerged as a result of the study that related to culturally relevant leadership was the general concern for all children. Five out of eight principals discussed the importance of all children receiving an equal and appropriate education. The principals fu rther expressed the notion that all children can learn, but the method in which they are taught thatÂ’s relevant. Culturally relevant leaders are knowledgeable about issues occurring in their field. The leaders remain awar e of current research and mandates that may influence their school and its students. They insure that their teachers are prepared to instruct their students by encouraging and sometimes requiring them to attend professional development opportuni ties that will increase their personal and professional knowledge, overall academic achievem ent of students, and the students achievement on standardized tests.
118 In addition to gaining knowledge via pr ofessional development, culturally relevant leaders provide opportunities for their staff to colla borate and share on a professional level. Culturally relevant leaders not only monitor what happens in their schools, but they seek to understand what occurs within the community in which their studentsÂ’ live. Reading is More Than Just Reading The majority of the principals in th is study viewed reading as more than just the Â“process of constructing meaning from written textsÂ” (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 7). Gal da, Cullinan, and Stri ckland (1993) defined reading as the Â“transacting wit h the text to create meaning; it is bringing meaning to a text in order to create meaning fr om itÂ” (p. 124). T he principals extended these meanings to incorporate reading as a way out of poverty, a way of communicating, a way to become successful in life. Reading was described to be more than the reading of words, but as a way prospering and succeeding in society. Six of the participants attended school during the time of integration. They were able to see the transition fr om segregation, to the new world of integration. They came from a time when education was highly respected and valued in the African American comm unity (Edwards, 1999; hooks, 1995; McCullough-Garrett, 1993). From the inte rviews, it was gathered that many of the principals were pushed to excel academically by their parents. Two participants in particular spoke of how t hey read with their parents and how their parents pushed them to excel in school in efforts to encourage them to attend
119 college. Their parents had seen and ex perienced many of the struggles encountered by African Americans in te rms of literacy, and made an effort to instill positive reading habits within their children, to pr event them from enduring many of the same obstacles they enc ountered. In addition, many of the participantsÂ’ parents did not have college deg rees and expected their children to achieve and accomplish more in com parison to what they had accumulated during their lifetimes. One issue the study was concerned with was how principals' prior experiences with reading, both personally and as a teacher/administrator, influenced their leadership of reading instru ction in their schools. The question led to several conclusions that ai ded in understanding how the principalsÂ’ experiences influenced their leadership of reading instruction in their schools. According to Norte (1999), the beliefs attitudes, and experiences individuals encounter influence how they lead their or ganization. This is also applicable to the principals in this collective case study. They discuss ed their personal and professional experiences in regards to reading instruction and how these lead to their current perceptions. A majority of the principals in the st udy considered themselves to be avid readers, whether during their childhood or during adulthood, and viewed reading as a means of communication to survive in the world today. From their personal experiences as children and adults, they kn ow that if children are not pushed to read and excel, they will be left behind, especially minority children who often lack a strong foundation or exposure to r eading prior to beginning school (Baker
120 & Wigfield, 1999; Campbell-Whatley & Come r, 2000; Delpit, 1995; Steele, 1992; Washington & Craig, 2001). This is one of the primary reasons the principals in this study made and continue to make read ing a priority in their schools. The participants expressed a desire to give all children the opportunity to have positive interactions with reading and quality reading instru ction. They attempted to practice this when they were teacher s and continued to stress it to fellow administrators and faculty members. These personal and professional experiences discussed in the interviews assisted the principals in setting goals and expectations, which are important fo r any reading program to be successful (Lomotey, 1989; Murphy, 2004). According to the principals in this study, reading was valued during their childhood and it extended beyond the ability of just being able to read. This runs counter to what they ar e witnessing among their populati on of minority children in their schools. Reading was more than just an educational instrument; it was and still is a social and cultural device as well for the principals in this study. The principals reported that t here are other factors that need to be considered when a child is learning to read, and these other factors should be taken into account if children are to prosper academically and on standardized reading tests. They know what challenges African AmericanÂ’s are faced with in society and that they must read to operate in otherÂ’s worlds; t hey must read because it is a survivor tool and technique; and they must read to have any opportunity to prosper. As one participant so forcefully stated, Â“reading is life; itÂ’s like bloo d.Â” It must be remembered that blood flows throughout the body, not just in one particular area.
121 And if reading is like blood, it goes beyond the school environment. It encompasses other areas such as; cult ure, nutrition, fa mily, language, and economic status that enable reading for children to be a success or a failure (Scott-Jones, 1995). Sociocultural Perception of Reading The definitions of reading introduced by the principals in this study were expanded beyond the ability to call words and comprehend. Some principals took the meaning of reading and transferred it into a socio-cultural perspective. A sociocultural view of literacy requires indi viduals to view reading, not just as the act of reading, but should take into a ccount the learnersÂ’ experiences, shared experiences with others, and their cult ural experiences (Gee, 2000). Â“A sociocultural understanding of learning and development focuses on the cultural resources that mediate an individua lÂ’s participation and engagement in social practiceÂ” (Razfar & Gutierrez, 2003, p. 39). Viewi ng reading through a sociocultural lens allowed principals to understand how children read, and how to improve reading for the students in their par ticular schools (Razfar & Guiterrez, 2003; Torres-Velasquez, 2000). The principa ls reported that th ey utilized reading in multiple contexts, audiences, and pur poses depending on the situation (Lu, 1998), thus extending it beyond a textbook de finition of reading in the educational setting. The principals in this study vi ewed reading as more than what happens inside of the normal school setting and took into account other social, environmental, and cultural factors t hat may influence reading and reading
122 acquisition (Espinosa & Burns, 2003; Galda, Cullinan & Strickland, 1993; Rothstein, 1991). From their perception, if students are to acquire the necessary achievement on standardized reading tests, school and social factors must be taken into account to effectively access their reading developmen t (Griffith, 2002; Pershey, 2003; Torres-Velasquez, 2000; Vi adero, 2003). According to Razfar and Gutierrez (2003), it is difficult to address literacy without including other factors such as, culture, history, and values. The out side forces sometimes have an effect upon how children learn to r ead and their achievement on standardized reading tests (Pershey, 2003). Â“A st udentÂ’s development cannot be understood by a study of the individual; we must also examine the external social world in which that individualÂ’s life developedÂ” (Jaramillo, 1996, p. 136). One such force is poverty (Allington, 2002; Au, 2000; Corley, 2003; Espinosa & Burns, 2003). Several principals viewed reading as a wa y out of poverty. According to ScottJones (1995), Â“poverty is a status variable that is cons istently associated with low educational achievement and low educationa l attainmentÂ” (p. 107). Children in poverty are less likely to have access to r eading materials at an early age, which may cause them to be delayed when they start school, thus possibly affecting their reading achievement (Allington, 2002; Espinosa & Burns, 2003; Pressley, Dolezal, Roehrig & Hilden, 2002). Another factor that may influence reading and reading acquisition is the family and environment of the children. ChildrenÂ’s earli est experience with literacy is in the home interacting wit h parents, siblings, and extended family members (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott & Wilkinson, 1985; Espinosa & Burns, 2003;
123 Morrow, 1993). Â“Reading begins in the home, children acquire knowledge before coming to school that lays the f oundation for reading. They acquire concepts for understanding things, events, thoughts, and feelings, and the oral language vocabulary for expressing these c onceptsÂ” (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 21). This socializat ion allows children to be introduced into language learning, and early reading skills (Booth & Ro wsell, 2002; Pressley, Dolezal, Roehrig & Hilden, 2002). The childÂ’s culture plays a role in reading development as well (Espinosa & Burns, 2003). Students should have t he opportunity to see their culture reflected in their reading curriculum and t heir teacherÂ’s instruction (Au, 2000; Booth & Rowsell, 2002 ). Several principals discu ssed the relevancy of students being able to identify with what is being read in class. The principalsÂ’ statements parallel the conclusions of Gordon and Thomas (1990) who discussed that students should be able to access their own cultural currencies as vehicles for learning. Harchar and Hyle (1996) conducted a study with principals and discovered that the administrators recogni zed that children learn much of what they know outside of school and not fr om their classroo m teacher. The administrators went further to discu ss that the outside knowledge should be recognized, appreciated, and used. In this study, many of the principals attempted to utilize their studentsÂ’ home environment with their school environment by incorporating activities that included their parents and siblings. Several of the principals held litera cy and computer nights for the parents and students to attend together as a m eans of encouraging parent and student
124 involvement in learning. Parents were al so invited to visit the school and share books with their childÂ’s class. The principal s also included activities in the school that focused on the various cultures of their students. The outside elements that effect ch ildrenÂ’s lives cannot be ignored. The principals in this study appeared to encompass childrenÂ’s home and school environments to assist in understanding the most appropriate method to help them in being successful academically and on standardized reading tests. The collaboration that ex isted between administrators and teachers was relevant. This collaboration allo wed administrators and teac hers to discover the best methods to promote achievement, while accounting for social, economic, and cultural factors. Collaboration Collaboration was defined in chapter tw o as the social discourse among teachers and administrators in a learning community that enabl es them to see multiple perspectives and communicate e ffectively and effici ently (Gutherie & Wigfield, 2000). Many of t he principals in the study spoke of engaging in learning communities within their schools that allo wed them to collabo rate with their faculty. They spoke of having grade le vel meetings, leadersh ip teams, literacy teams, and program m eetings as a way to establish goals and priorities for the studentsÂ’ learning and the over all school (Booth & Rowsell, 2002). The meetings allowed the administrators, teachers, and other facult y members to communicate and discuss issues relevant to reading achievement (Booth & Rowsell, 2002; Murphy, 2004). Similar to the study by Blas and Blas (1999) that discussed
125 successful schools allow their administr ators and faculty to collaborate, the principals in the study strived to provide opportunities for professional collaboration through discussions, study gr oups, and observations. According to Bottoms (2001), Â“successful principal s lead teams composed of assistant principals, team leaders, department heads, and others who share a common point of view on raising student achievement The principal should focus the staff on the important things: teaching challenging content, engaging students in learning and constantly seeking ways to ra ise achievementÂ” (p. 4). In this study, the principals made it a priority to co llaborate with their faculty and other staff members to develop a su ccessful reading program. On a professional level, the principals in the study constantly looked for opportunities to increase their studentsÂ’ overall academic achievement and their achievement on standardized test, thus ma king it necessary for principals to collaborate professionally with faculty memb ers, district repr esentatives, parents, and students (Harchar & Hyle, 1996). According to Heck, Larson, and Marcoulides (1990), this type of collaborat ion that occurred with the participants in this study is needed for their school s to be high reading achieving schools. Professional sharing with faculty me mbers was an import ant issue with the principals in the study. Five out of the eight principals di scussed the importance of remaining aware of current reading research, and how it was accomplished as a school in general. In addition, P apalewis and Fortune (2002) conducted a study that supported leadersh ip teams collaborating weekly to ensure they were working towards the school goals and to share best practices. According to
126 Bottoms (2001), administrators should cr eate learning communities to allow teachers the opportunity to collaborate. This collaboration of core academic subjects and elective teachers is a practical way for teachers to connect and develop effective teaching practices and me thods to assist students. Several principals in the study spoke of utiliz ing learning communities as a method of relaying information to other teachers in the school. This often occurred during the grade level meetings. Collaboration appeared to be important to the principals in this study. The committees and teams established in t he schools exhibit an effort to make reading a priority. Professional Development Some of the participantsÂ’ experiences with reading instruction involved attending professional development course s. The principals supported teachers and fellow administrators attendance at professional development courses because it enabled them to better serve the students academic and achievement needs in reading (Afflerbach, 2000; Ha rchar & Hyle, 1996; Murphy, 2004; Wohlstetter & Malloy, 2001). In addi tion, Booth and Rowsell (2002) discussed the importance of principals to be seek ers and gathers of knowledge as a means to model the importance of attending pr ofessional development. According to a study conducted by Papalewis and Fort une (2002), continuous staff development allowed the administrators and teachers to remain aware and assisted in meeting the new challenges that confronted thei r schools. While Bottoms (2001), stated that effective leaders provi de opportunities for their st aff members to strengthen
127 their academic knowledge while lear ning new research-based and studentcentered instructional strat egies. Â“Popular Â“sit and get,Â” Â“hit and run,Â” and Â“spray and prayÂ” training sessions must be r eplaced with effective research-based practices for professional development which include factors such as support, feedback, duration, planning, and teacher reflectionÂ” (Swan, 2003, p. 248) The principals mentioned that pr ofessional development occurred in numerous ways within and outside of the school setting: Active participation in state and national conferences; graduate cour sework; district level trainings; onsite trainings with administrators and/ or teachers; and learning communities (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott & Wilkinson, 1985). Depending on the school and their level of funding, they received additiona l reading instructional training through Title I www.ed.gov/programs/titleipara and the Reading First ( www.ed.gov ) initiative. According to Murphy (2004), principals that are e ffective ensure their teachers and administrators have the opportunity to attend professional development opportunities such as conf erences as a means to extend their current content area knowledge. Despite the popularity of professional development among the majority of the participants, one principal spoke about her staff not being overly excited or cooperative in terms of receiving pr ofessional development because they believed it was being forced on them by district and state mandates. These findings are similar to those in a study completed by Harchar and Hyle (1996) that discussed administratorsÂ’ beliefs c oncerning mandates being a barrier to teachers. Some teachers in this study were unwilling to attend professional
128 development opportunities because the mandates set by the county and state prohibited them from teaching holistic lear ning methods. Many of the teachers in the school did not support some of the professional development because it was not relevant to them as educators or thei r students. However, they didnÂ’t find fault with the professional dev elopment that proved to be beneficial to the growth of the school or the students. These fi ndings parallel QuinnÂ’s (2002) discussion about teachers supporting prof essional development as long as it is meaningful. Professional development is an area that invoke s mixed emotions among administrators and teachers. The most important component is professional development should be meaningful and provide a purpose for teachers and administrators. When staf f members support professiona l development courses, they are more likely to process the gained knowledge, and incorporate the new knowledge into their classrooms to be disseminated to their students. Systematic Knowledge of Readi ng Curriculum and Instruction A majority of the principals in the study exhibited a systematic knowledge of reading curriculum and instruction. Especially when asked to define the components of a successful reading progr am. For the purposes of this discussion, I defined systematic knowl edge of reading curriculum and instruction in laymanÂ’s terms as a direct and int ense phonics based instructional program (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott & Wilkinson, 1985; Arrasmith, 2003; Cambourne, 2002; Cunningham, 2002; Gar an, 2002; Paterson, 2002). Â“In itÂ’s most effective form, phonics instruction benefits most from direct teaching that is systematic, that is, it follows a predictable plan or curriculu mÂ” (www.indiana.edu/~reading/phonics).
129 When describing the components of a succe ssful reading program, majority of the principals mentioned phonemic awar eness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies, which are t he components of the NCLB (2001). In addition, many of the definitions of reading included being able to decode and decipher words. Many of the programs the principal s have in their schools relate to phonics. For example, Sing, Spell, Read & Write ( www.singspell.com ) was described on its website as being a Â“multi-sensory, phonics-based reading program that supports all five key componen ts of reading instruction called for by the Reading First InitiativeÂ” ( www.singspell.com ). This particular program was used with first graders in some schools but can also be used in Pre-K and Kindergarten grades. Across the nation there is a trend that exhibits a strong emphasis in the Reading First initiative. Many schools show similarity in core reading programs, professional development, and assessm ents (Manzo, 2004). This trend may also have an influence as to how principa ls direct the reading programs in their schools. The approaches principals are now being pressured to incorporate in their schools are known for being grounded in scientific research (Manzo, 2004; www.fcrr.org/FCRReports). Â“Scientifically based reading research is research that applies rigorous, systematic, and obj ective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading developm ent, reading instruction, and reading difficultiesÂ” (www.fcrr.org/FCRReports ). The reading program being used in this Central Florida County is considered to be one of the five core reading programs
130 that meet the Reading FirstÂ’s criteria fo r research based materials (Manzo, 2004) and is systematic. This systematic knowledge of readi ng curriculum and instruction that emerged from the data collection may hav e occurred for several reasons: the continuous professional dev elopment being received by the administrators and faculty; and/or the prior professi onal and personal experiences of the administrators. A porti on of the systematic knowl edge from my perception is based on the continuous training the pr incipals received related to the Reading First ( www.ed.gov ) initiative. They have training on the initiative, they are asked to explain the initative to the parents, they have flyers on their desks promoting the initiative, and they have numerous m eetings with their faculty, county and state officials. This constant interact ion with systematic inst ruction may influence a principalÂ’s beliefs and attitudes. T here may be a misalignment between what principals actually believe and what t heir job requires them to implement and support. Another portion of the system atic knowledge may exis t from the principalsÂ’ prior professional experienc e as teachers, but also their personal educational experience as it relates to reading. Si x of the principals were educated during the mid 1950s and 1960s. During this time, many schools still relied upon phonics to teach children how to read (He ilman, 1998; Moustafa, 1997). Their personal experience with phon ics may have lead to their relying upon the method to teach their students how to re ad when they were teachers.
131 Systematic reading has proponents and opponents (Altwerger, Arya, Jin, Jordan, Laster, Martens, Wilson & Wiltz, 2004; Coles, 2000; Smith, 1999). Administrators have little to no voice c oncerning their reading curriculum in their schools. They are required to impl ement programs mandat ed by the county, state, and/or federal government Despite this fact, the principals in this study appeared to make efforts to promote r eading and reading achievement in their schools. Summary of Issues The previously discussed conclusions are relevant in understanding the perceptions of African American elementary principals, and principals in general. A study of this caliber added to the limited current res earch on elementary principals and reading curriculum and instruct ion, but more specifically, the study gave light to a specific population of elementary principals who are often overlooked. The results of this study gave insight about a group of individuals who appeared to be knowledgeable and had y ears of experience with a wealth of information just waiting to be unleashed and shared with the world of academia if only given the opportunity. An ERIC ( www.ericfacility.net ) search further supported the lack of current research on African American elementary principals in the context of reading curriculum and inst ruction. In additi on, I contacted the National Association of Elementary Principals (NAESP) ( www.naesp.org ), which also stated there is no stat istical data on African Americ an elementary principals. Despite having to utilize a European American dominated curriculum, the African American principal s presented in this study were able to use the
132 curriculum to their advantage. They were able to Â“code-switchÂ” between the traditional curriculum agendas and the spec ific needs of their young readers in efforts to promote success in academi cs and on standardized reading tests. Tina discussed in her interview that there is no perfect plan for every child, while Sarah concurred by stating what works fo r one school, may not work for others. These statements exhibited how princi pals realize they must adjust the curriculum and instruction that happens in their schools to suit their students and their needs. Limitations The major limitation within this collective case study is the represented sample size. Eight out of an eligible eleven African American elementary principals from this central Florida C ounty participated in the study. Even though the participating sample provided adequate data, a larger replication study involving additional counties in the la rge, southeastern state, and/or samples from other states would yield more reliable results. Utilizing different geographical areas would allow other c onsiderations, themes, and patterns to emerge. A second limitation is the gender of the participants. All of the participants in this collective case study were wom en, thus giving the researcher a totally female perception of reading curriculum and instruction. A larger scale study increases the possibility of including male participants. Having male and female participants strengthens t he study and incorporates additional validity and reliability.
133 The final limitation was the ages of t he participants. Only two participants did not fall into the 51-60 age category. Tina was in the 41-50 range, while Sarah fell into the 31-40 category. By having additional individuals in the 31-40 and 41-50 age category, more information, perhaps from different perspectives could be gathered and synthesized. Once again, in a larger study, the ages would be varied, thus allowing the other age vo ices to be stronger. Significance Since the majority of learning re volves around readi ng and it happens during the elementary years, the perceptions of principal s are an important issue to examine. What needs to be added is t he perceptions of t he African American principal because they have oft en been neglected, overlooked and/or encompassed in a study that discu sses overall school effectiveness. From my review for this study, there is limited curr ent research on African American elementary principals in the context of reading curriculum and instruction. I have attempted to bring fo rward the perceptions and experiences of this group of principals and how they in itiate academics and standardize reading achievement success in their schools. The data portrayed that African American elementary principalsÂ’ experiences, whether personal or professi onal, influence their perceptions of how they design and implement their reading program for their school. And this design is heavily influenced by education policy.
134 Recommendations for Further Research Understanding African American elementary prin cipals perceptions of reading curriculum and instruction in this age of accountability requires additional attention. A study of how novice principals develop successful reading programs in comparison to experienced principals is important for future educational research. A longitudinal study of Principa ls Tina, Vivian, and Sarah may be warranted to discover if their percepti on alters with additional administrative experience. This study would allow a researcher to examine the changes that occur over time, and how and if these chang es affect overall student academic success and achievement on standardized reading tests. A final area in need of exploration is the literacy problems of African American children and the lack of Af rican American elementary principal perceptions presented in research. This research would give insight on the struggling African American reader through the view of the African American principal. The lack of current research on Af rican American principals and other minority principals is disturbing. T he constant changes in AmericaÂ’s schools show that now is the time to gain multip le perceptions of reading instruction from various ethnicities. As an African Americ an researcher and educator, it is even more pertinent for me to research African Americ an children and educators to create an understanding of thei r world and give them a voice in the world of academia. If we as a society want st udents to achieve overall academic success
135 and achievement on standardized tests, we must explore the perceptions and experiences of individuals from di fferent cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. As researchers, we should step out side our comfort zones and explore other worlds foreign to our own ev en though it may cause us to be uncomfortable. As many of the principa ls in this study stated, Â“reading allows you to explore other peoplesÂ’ worlds,Â” it is our responsibility to inform the world of information not readily seen or examined.
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160 Appendix A Research Matrix Research Questions Interview Guide Questions Collection Source What are the perceived relationships between African American elementary principals, their perceived linguistic experiences, and their perceptions of school literacy? 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 Interview What are the perceived experiences of African American principals regarding reading instruction in the elementary schools? 5, 6, 8 Interview Based on experience as a teacher and an administrator, how do African American principals perceive reading to be addressed in their schools? 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 17 Interview Field notes How does prior experience with reading influence African American principalsÂ’ perception of their leadership of reading instruction in their schools? 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Interviews Field notes What principal initiated methods are used to assist students with reading achievement on standardized tests? 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17 Interviews Field notes
161 Appendix B Research Procedures Researcher will immediately begin transcribing Interview principals using semi-structured interview Write findings Review data from data sources separately Code emerging data from field notes Code emerging data from interviews Analyze data from each source separately Member check/peer debriefing Develop matrix/script from codes Compare and contrast cases Review for additional themes and categories Write in reflection journal (on-going) Write field notes
162 Appendix C Elementary Principals Â’ Interview Guide 1. Years in education: 1-5 _____ 6-10 _____ 11-15 _____ 16-20 _____ 21-25 _____ 26 + _____ How many years as a teacher? __________ How many years as an administrator? __________ 2. Male _____ Female _____ 3. Age: 20 Â– 30 _____ 31 Â– 40 _____ 41 Â– 50 _____ 51 Â– 60 _____ 61 Â– 70 _____ 70+ _____ 4. College (s) attended, degree (s) attained and year received: 5. Please describe your educational experience as it relates to reading instruction. 6. What is your personal definition of reading? 7. What is your role in your schoolÂ’s reading program? 8. What motivates you to prom ote reading in your school? 9. What specific reading pr ograms are used in your school? (For example: AR, Reading Recovery, STAR, etcÂ…) 10. In your opinion, what are the component s of a successful reading program? 11. Do you feel principals who are knowledgeable about st ate reading standards and current reading research have more successful reading programs? Why or Why not? 12. How do administrators and teachers in your school receive professional development on current reading trends and issues? 13. How do you make reading a priority in your schools? (Special activities, tutoring, treats, etcÂ…) 14. How does your school identify and assist struggling readers? 15. Please list the percentage of student s for each group. __________ African American, __________ Hispanic, __________ Caucasian, __________ Asian, __________ Other 16. Please list the number of faculty in your school. 17. What is the student to teacher rati o in your reading classes for each grade level?
163 Appendix D Research Reflection Journal Entry Time: _________________________ Date: _________________________ Interview: _____ yes _____ no Site Visit: _____ yes _____ no ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ __________________ ______________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________ ________________________ _____________________ ___________________
164 Appendix E Abbreviations USF University of South Florida Nova Nova Southeastern University BCC Bethune Cookman College PCC Polk Community College FAMU Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University UNC University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill UCLA University of California at Los Angeles BS Bachelor of Science BA Bachelor of Arts MS Master of Science M.Ed Master of Education EdD Doctorate of Education PhD Doctorate of Philosophy
About the Author Keva L. Mitchell received her dual BachelorÂ’s of Science degrees in Criminology and Political Science from Florida State University. She also received her MasterÂ’s of Science degree from Florida State University in Social Science Education. She has taught 7th grade Geography, 8th grade American History, and Language Arts and Social Studies in a multi-grade setting located in a juvenile justice detention center. Her interests include, but are not limited to cont ent area reading, vocabulary, literature, co mprehension, diversity, and leadership. Currently, Ms. Mitchell is employed with the School Dist rict of Hillsborough County, Florida.