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Critical analysis of quantitative-qualitative research models into the effect of instructional and transformational… Tello, Esther 2008-09

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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF QUANTITATIVE-QUALITATIVE RESEARCH MODELS INTO THE EFFECT OF INSTRUCTIONAL AND TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT by ESTHER TELLO MA, The University of British Columbia, 2004 MED, The University of British Columbia, 2008 A GRADUATING PAPER SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF EDUCATION in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP) Approved by: DR. ANDRE MAZAWI (Supervisor) DR. WENDY POOLE (Second Reader) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, 2008 ©Esther Tello, 2008 III ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to examine a body of mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) research on how instructional and transformational leaders' behaviours affect student achievement. Current political demands on the role of the school principal and increased emphasis on accountability place students' academic achievement at the top of school reform agend~s and add weight to the role of the school principal (Gentilucci & Muto, 2007; VSB Leadership District Review Team, 2008; Ministry of Education BC Mandate for the School System, 2008, British Columbia Educational Council, 2008). I critically analyze the latest research findings with the purpose of offering practical insights and contributions to policy makers, researchers and educational leaders to model future courses of action in educational administration and accountability. The two research studies considered in this review were conducted by Alig-Mielcarek (2003) and Leithwood, Jantzi, and McElheron-Hopkins (2006). Alig-Mielcarek (2003) in the state of Ohio, United States, carried out a study on instructional leadership and student achievement in 146 schools. Similarly, Leithwood, Jantzi, and McElheron-Hopkins (2006) conducted a study in Ontario, Canada, over five years, on transformational leadership and student achievement in 100 schools. Two layers of analysis are used in this review. The first layer of analysis conceptualizes the leadership role according to De Maeyer et al.' s (2007) theoretical framework: instructional and transformational leadership models. The objective ofthis layer of analysis is to see to what extent the conceptual role of the principal matches the variables considered in the methodology of each study. The second layer of analysis examines the conceptual methodologies used by the researchers according to Hallinger IV and Heck's (1988) theoretical perspective on administrative leadership. I interpret the multilevel nature of the path analyses utilized by the researchers and the variables they linked directly or indirectly to student achievement. The objective of the second layer of analysis is to examine the extent of the multilevel approach employed in their path analysis and the validity of the findings. This study concludes that both Alig-Mielcarek's (2003) study and Leithwodd et al.' s (2006) study contribute to a better understanding of the path models that can be used to study educational leadership and student achievement. However, there are some threats to the validity of both studies; careful attention must be paid to the numbers of variables at each level and to gathering the most accurate data available. Neither study's leadership frameworks appears sufficient for effective school leadership. A combination of diverse frameworks is recommended to meet current educational demands. v TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ....................................................................................... iii Table of contents ............................................................................. v List of figures ..................................................................... .. ......... vi List of tables ................................................................................. vii Acknowledgements ...................... ... ................................................ viii CHAPTER ONE: Introduction ............................................................. l 1.1 Identification of the problematic .................................................. 1 1.2 The significance of the study ........... ...... ..... . ...................... . ........ 3 CHAPTER TWO: Literature Review ............................... ... ................... 6 2.1 Conceptualization of the role of school principal ............................... 6 2.2 Instructional leadership ................................... . ....................... 1 0 A. Conceptualization of Instructional Leadership ..... .. ............. 10 B Transformational Leadership .......... ... .. . ....... .... ............. 15 2.3 Articulation of leadership models ............................................... 20 2.4 Methodological Validity .......................................................... 24 2.5 Research questions .................................... . ......... .. ................ 25 CHAPTER THREE: Methodology ...................................................... 26 3.1 Data Collection and Analysis .................................................... 26 CHAPTER FOUR: Findings ........................................... ............ ... ... .29 4.1 Alig-Mielcarek' S study (2003) .................................................. .29 A. Introduction of the Study and General Claim ..................... 29 B. Conceptualization of the Principal Role .......................... 30 C. Path ModeL ........................................................... 35 4.2 Leithwood, et al.'s study (2006) ......... . ...................................... .40 A. Introduction of the Study and General Claim ... ......... ........ .40 B. Conceptualization of the Principal Role .......................... .41 C. Path ModeL ............ . ............ .... ............................... 45 CHAPTER FIVE: Conclusion ..... . .... .. ... ...... ... ... . ................................. 50 Relevant Implications of Accountability and Policy ............. 54 REFERENCES ........... .. ...... .. ................ . .......................... . ............. 60 VI LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1.1: general path model framework of contingency theories ... ..... .. ...... ... .. ... .... ... .. .. .. ... ... . .... . ... . . 8 Figure 1.2: Hallinger & Heck's path model frameworks ............................. 23 Figure 4.1: Alig-Mielcareck's path model framework in Mathematics .... ...... . .......................................... . ......... 38 Figure 4.2: Alig-Mielcarek's path model framework in Reading ..................................................................... 39 Figure 4.5: Leithwood et al.'s path model framework of SIP outcomes .. ...... .. ................................................... 42 Vll LIST OF TABLES Table 1.1: Leithwood et al's approaches to accountability .......................... 18 V111 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Many people made this study possible. Without their contributions, this paper would have not taken place. First of all, I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Andre Mazawi, for taking the time to guide me through a process of critical thinking and for suggesting sources of invaluable information to consider for the study. His expertise and advice contributed to shape this study. I truly appreciate his support. Thanks to Dr. Wendy Poole for contributing with critical feedback. Her expertise and help prove invaluable. Her academic insights contributed to improve the quality of this research. I would like to thank Alaric Posey for taking the time to proofread the final manuscript. It was a pleasure working with him. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their patience and emotional support. They allowed me to have the flexible schedule I needed to focus on this study. CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Identification of the Problem Current political demands on the role of the school principal and increased emphasis on accountability place students' academic achievement at the top of school reform agendas and adds weight to the role of the school principal (Gentilucci & Muto, 2007; VSB Leadership District Review Team, 2008; Ministry of Education BC Mandate for the School System, 2008, British Columbia Educational Council, 2008). 1 Furthermore, the mandate of the "No Child Left Behind Act" in 2002 in the United States and contemporary assessment-based educational systems made school leadership and student achievement the centre of the attention at provincial and intemationallevels (O'Donnell & White, 2005, USA; Leithwood et aI., Ontario, 2006; Levacic, UK, 2005; Van de Grift & Houtveen, the Netherlands, 1999). School principals need to integrate all the current educational demands and expectations. As O'Donnell and White (2005) imply when they mention Fullan's ideas, "If educators are expected to thrive in this assessment-driven environment and continue to meet the developmental needs of their students, principals' leadership will be the key for school systems to be successful" (p.56). Most policy makers, superintendents, researchers and educational leaders are looking for effective educational leadership models to promote in order to meet the current political educational expectations. State-wide research findings and educational experience then constitute important sources of information for guidelines in educational leadership. However, the constantly evolving nature of the leaders' mandate challenges researchers to concentrate on the most crucial factors affecting student achievement. 2 The bulk of research, policy and practice in education have assumed that the principal stance makes an important difference to school effectiveness (Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Heck et. aI, 1990). Nevertheless, over the past 10 years several respected scholars have raised questions concerning the validity of the research conclusions on which current policies are based (van de Grift, 1999; Levacic, 2005; Kruger, Witzieers & Sleegerss, 2006). Researchers are attempting to find direct and indirect links between principals' behaviours and student achievement, however they do not currently have many guidelines in methodology upon which to draw their research findings (Van den Noortgate et. aI. , 2004). Methodologically speaking, the multi-layered nature of the independent and dependent variables of educational settings creates room for misinterpreting the data by analyzing the data at one level, but formulating conclusions at another (Van den Noortgate et aI., 2004, Heck et aI. , 1990). In other words, educational leaders managing the school structure, will not affect student achievement in the same way that teachers do, that is, through direct classroom instruction (Heck et aI. , 1990). The purpose of this review is to examine a body of mixed methods (MM), qualitative and qualitative, research on how instructional and transformational leaders ' behaviours affect student achievement, conducted between 2000 and 2008. The Canadian Standard College Dictionary (1989) defines an achievement test as a test for measuring an individual's progress in the mastery of a subject to be learned. In the studies examined here, student achievement was measured through state-wide examinations results and its meaning was limited to the student's level of attained skill in a standardized exam. It must not be confused with student learning which has a different meaning. I analyze the specific claims that some authors are making on MM research published from 2000 because the role of the principal has changed considerably in this 3 period of time in which a number of tasks have been added to this undertaking. Therefore, this review focuses mainly on the latest research findings and methodologies in instructional and transformational leadership and student achievement with the purpose of offering practical insights and contributions to the current era of educational leadership and accountability. The Significance of the Study There seems to be a controversy in the literature over whether school principals' behaviours can have a significant positive influence on student achievement (Nettles and Herrington, 2007). Moreover, previous research has resulted in contentious conclusions about the direct or indirect influence of educational leadership on student achievement (Hallimger, Bickman, & Davis, 1996; Witziers, Bosker, & Kruger, 2003 cited in Nettles and Herrington, 2007; McKenney, 2007). Most of the apparent contradictions in the literature seem to lie in conceptual and methodological differences. This study will try to clarify some of these discrepancies and serve as a framework for policy makers, researchers and educational leaders to model future courses of action in educational administration and accountability. It is hoped that this review will increase awareness of the methodological differences and limitations that may lead to biased research outcomes. I will explore the strengths and weaknesses of the research findings and offer possible explanations for their ambiguity and inconsistency by examining and unpacking the conceptualization and the methodology used. This study will focus mainly on MM research claims because, prior to making new policies, most policy makers base their analyses on previous well-documented state-wide research findings found in journal articles, MA and PhD theses and dissertations. Furthermore, large-scale school reform had been underway in many places for the 4 previous 10 to 15 years (Fullan, 1999; mentioned in Leithwood et al., 2002). Moreover, most of these current large-scale studies are conducted with quantitative or mixed method (quantitative and qualitative), so it is important to caution readers about their limitations. The two current studies selected for this review represent state-wide educational investigations into the effects of instructional and transformational leadership styles on student achievement. The two research studies considered in this review were conducted by Alig-Mielcarek (2003) and Leithwood, Jantzi, and McElheron-Hopkins (2006). In the state of Ohio, Unites States, Alig-Mielcarek (2003) carried out a research on instructional leadership and student achievement in 146 schools. Similarly, Leithwood, Jantzi, and McElheron-Hopkins (2006) conducted a study, in Ontario, Canada, over five years, on transformational leadership and student achievement in 100 schools. Jana Alig-Mielcareck holds a PhD degree in educational policy and administration and works as a consultant in the Ohio Centre for Essential School Reform in Ohio. Kenneth Leithwood holds a PhD degree and is a professor and senior investigator in educational leadership at the University of Toronto in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He is the main investigator in numerous local and large-scale, longitudinal research studies in Canada in the field of educational administration and policy and has published numerous journal articles and books. Doris Jantzi is a senior research associate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationiUniversity of Toronto (OISE). She specializes in leadership policy analysis and quantitative data analysis. Last but not least, Charryn McElheron-Hopkins is a well-known researcher who has published several articles in the journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement journal and the Canadian Education Association-Research Report. In the next section, I will explore a current body of research in the literature that will bring light to the unclear conclusions about instructional and transformational leadership and student achievement research, and determine the framework for analysis of this study. 5 6 CHAPTER TWO LITERATURE REVIEW Although considerable research has been done on the effects of educational leadership on student achievement, it is not yet clear whether there is a certain leadership behaviour that significantly affects student achievement (McKinney, 2007). The lack of consensus among the scholarly community is mainly based on the differences in alternative theoretical models of the principal's role and in methodological approaches in how studies are conducted (De Maeyer et aI., 2007; Hallinger & Heck, 1998; Heck et aI., 1990). Conceptualization of the Role of School Principals Leadership can be studied from different theoretical perspectives (Ogawa & Bossert,1995; quoted in Hallinger and Heck, 1998). Theoretical models of the principal's role depend on what kinds of behaviour principals emphasize or pursue more often. Many research findings found little variation in the allocation of time to instructional versus non-instructional tasks between principals (Deal, 1987, cited in Heck et aI., 1990). Such non-instructional tasks may also have important implications for school principals in terms of school operation (Crowson & Poeter-Gehrie, 1980; Rowan et aI., 1983, cited in Heck et aI., 1990). According to De Maeyer et aI. (2007) there are two conceptual models that have dominated the discussion of educational leadership and student achievement. The most prominent models are instructional leadership and transformational leadership. In this paper, I will critically examine the conceptualizations and methodologies of instructional and transformational leadership in the studies considered, their path-model analyses, and their findings. 7 First of all, I will start examining the history of educational leadership. Educational leadership has evolved rapidly since 1949, mainly because the needs of society are changing. Technological advances, changes in demographics, and a more neo-liberal approach to education have increased the demands on principals (Hall, 2004). The first model of educational leadership was the Leadership Trait Theory, which was promoted from 1949 - 1970. This model focuses on a combination of personal traits such as personality, physical characteristics and temperament, a strong drive for responsibility, task completion, and persistence in pursuit of goals (Watkins, 1994). In 1947, another model of leadership emerged. Max Weber developed the idea of Charismatic Leadership ... defining charisma as "a leader's influence based on the follower ' s perception that the leader possesses endowed exceptional qualities." For Weber, charisma appears during a crisis when a leader, who is perceived to have exceptional characteristics, emerges and provides a vision for the future (cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). Approximately in 1970 a different model of educational leadership emerged, the Leadership Behaviour Theory. In this framework, leadership involves making incremental improvements in quality and productivity in schools by improving relationships and helping people. Managing conflict and increasing cooperation and teamwork were the pillars of this new paradigm (YukI, 1998, cited in Alig-Miecareck, 2003 , p. 19). Over time, these three models started to lose popularity and the Contingency Theories of Effective Leadership surfaced after 1970. They explain the role of educational leadership in terms of its indirect effect on student learning through intervening variables such as the quality of teaching and school climate. Most 8 importantly, the contingency model hypothesizes that the leader interacts with groups to determine productivity and that effectiveness is evaluated in terms of group productivity (Watkins,1994). A path-goal model is one of the prominent features of the contingency theories. The path-goal model evolved around a causal relation among the leader's behaviour, situation, and subordinates' satisfaction, motivation, and performance (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p. 20). Satisfaction then, depends upon the intervening and situational variables. Please refer to Figure 1.1 below. Causal Variables Intervening Variables End-Result Variables Leader behaviour Subordinate Subordinate effort and Moderator Variables satisfaction Situational Moderator Variables Characteristics of task and environment Characteristics of subordinates Figure 1.1 Source: YukI, 1998, cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p.267 By the 1980s, much of the research conceptualized the role of the principal in terms of Instructional Leadership in which educational leaders focus mainly on staff, parents, and students (Hallinger & Heck, 1998). Principals seek to retain outstanding teachers, establish the school mission (instructional vision), create a school culture based on high expectations, facilitate professional development, and produce high academic performance (Mckenney, 2007). Instructional leadership consists of principal's behaviours that set high expectations and clear goals for students and teacher performance, monitor and provide feedback regarding the technical core of schools (teaching and learning), provide and promote professional growth for all staff members, and help create and maintain a school climate of high academic press (Edmonds, 1979; Bossert et aI., 1982; Hallinger & Murphy, 1985; Murphy, 1990; Weber, 1997; Blase & Blase, 19999, cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003 , p. 13). According to Hoy & Hannum (1997), academic press is "the extent to which the school is driven by a quest for academic excellence. High but achievable academic goals are set for students, the learning environment is orderly and serious, teachers believe in their students' ability to achieve, and students work hard and respect those who do well academically (cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). 9 In the 1990s however, much of the research in educational leadership shifted towards a broader role of the principal in terms of shared leadership and organizational changes. Transformational leadership then became popular as the main focus to change the normative structure of schools and build a sense of vision, mission and hard work (Hallinger & Heck, 1998). This type of leadership emphasizes distributive leadership over top-down power models and maximizes collective capacities in solving problems. Bass (1985) expanded on Burn's theory of transformational leadership and summarizes it as follows: a transformational leader is one who motivates the follower to do more than they would ordinarily do by getting people to transcend their self-interest for the sake of the team, organization, or larger political body ... the purpose of leaders and followers then ... become fused" (Bass, 1983, cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p.25). Leithwood (1992) mentions that "the non-educational organizations that have undertaken this type of leadership have done so not out of concern for individual rights or social justice but because this style of leadership increases individual productivity" (p. 9). 10 In contrast, Transactional Leadership deals with supervisory-subordinate relations. The main focus is to maintain an agreement on a course of action that satisfies the immediate, separate purposes of both leaders and followers (Keeley, 1998, cited in Alig-Miealcarek,2003). Unlike transformational leadership, transactional leadership does not emphasize change and it represents the typical leadership style in most schools (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p. 28). Accountability demands require attention to issues of leadership conceptualization and practice (Adams & Kirst, 1999' cited in O'Donnell and White, 2005) and they are the major focus of this study. By identifying the strength of the relationship between specific principal behaviours and students' achievement, educational leaders, policy makers and politicians will gain a more accurate understanding of the leadership behaviours necessary to improve student performance. Blase and Blase (1998) found that "researchers have only recently identified specific instructional leadership behaviours related to improving the teaching and learning process" (quoted in O'Donnell and White, 2005, p. 57). Instructional Leadership Conceptualization of Instructional Leadership Several theories of instructional leadership have been developed over time; nevertheless, there are four main frameworks that conceptualize the role of an instructional leader (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p. 113). The first framework was proposed by Hallinger and Murphy in 1985, the second one was promoted by Murphy in 1990, and the third one was developed by Weber in 1996. In addition to these three frameworks, Locke and Latham's Goal-Setting Theory (1984, 1990) provided a grounding theoretical underpinning for the previously mentioned frameworks. 11 Hallinger' s and Murphy' s (1985) framework was created by combining school effectiveness literature and qualitative data from 10 elementary schools. The framework served as the template for an appraisal instrument, the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (PIMRS). This framework offers a detailed view of instructional leadership behaviours. It consists of three dimensions: defining the mission of the school, managing instructional programs, and promoting school climate (cited in Alig-Mie1carek, 2003, p. 113). Encompassed within these three dimensions of instructional leadership, there are 11 specific job descriptors, such as works with students on academic tasks or develops data-driven academic goals in collaboration with teachers, that can be measured and contribute to each dimension. They involve framing school goals, communicating school goals, supervising and evaluating instruction, coordinating curriculum, monitoring student progress, protecting instructional time, promoting professional development, maintaining high visibility, providing incentives for teachers, enforcing academic standards, and providing incentives for students. Empirical studies have found this framework to be a meaningful predictor of academic success (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003; O'Donnell and White, 2005; Kruger et al. , 2006). The second framework of instructional leadership was developed by Murphy (1990). He constructed his model from a synthesis of effective schools, school improvement, staff development, and organizational change literature. His model has four dimensions: developing mission and goals, managing the educational production function, promoting an academic learning climate, and developing a supportive work environment. Each of these dimensions has specific roles or behaviours; there are 16 behaviours in all but this model does not offer an empirical way of measuring instructional leadership (cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). 12 Weber (1996) proposed the third model of instructional leadership that addresses the diversity of school organization, i.e., site-based management and shared leadership. He suggests that the principal or the lead teacher needs to advocate for teaching and learning. Weber's model identified five essential domains. The domains include defining the school's mission, managing curriculum and instruction, promoting a positive learning climate, observing and improving instruction, and assessing the instructional program. Although this model incorporates research about shared leadership and empowerment of informal leaders, it, too, lacks empirical support (cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). Finally, Locke and Lathem's Goal-Setting Theory (1984, 1990) adds to the similarities of the three models mentioned above, emphasizing the significance of defining and communicating challenging goals in any leadership style. Conceptually goal setting emphasizes the principal capacity to focus staff on the school academic improvement. The goal is an instrument used by the principal to narrow the attention of staff, parents and students on a limited range of activities (Hallinger and Heck, 1998, p. 169). The three models, combined with the goal-setting theory, represent motivational forces to increase achievement of school goals. Professional development is important in the goal-setting theory to assist teachers in accomplishing these goals. Accountability and Instructional Leadership In the 20th century, many countries placed increasing emphasis on accountability in schools, and principals seem to carry the burden in this new enterprise. In Kentucky for instance, in addition to other educational leadership models such as transformational 13 leadership, a strong emphasis is placed on the principal's instructional leadership capacity in order to maximize student achievement for all students (McKenney, 2007, p. 33). Current instructional leadership models focus on student-centred learning approaches with a technological component included in some content areas. Teachers then, focus more on instruction to respond to students' learning needs, and require administrators to maintain high quality standards in their classrooms. Lashway (1999) notes that the era of accountability brings higher standards and more emphasis on results. The Southern Regional Education Board in the United States has rigorous standards, student progress is tested, professional development is aligned with standards and test results, and results are publicly reported and lead to rewards, sanctions, and targeted assistance (cited in McKenney, 2007). However, the long-term impact on student achievement is still unclear. Lashway (1999) mentioned that some potential challenges to this era of accountability is the tendency of assessment to drive non-tested content out of the curriculum, managing public perceptions when test scores are published with little explanatory context, maintaining teacher morale in schools identified as low-achieving, and ensuring equity for students with special needs. Most importantly, based on all the previous factors, school staff will embrace, reject or selectively adopt current standards depending on external political expectations and internal school vision. According to the accountability model, educational leaders then, ought to improve school performance in addition to meeting accountability demands. They must have the ability to develop and empower others. In other words, they need to be aware of rich and innovative curriculum strategies and provide professional development opportunities especially to employees struggling to meet current standards. According to McKenney (2007), accountability has pressured school leaders to become engaged in instruction, curriculum, and data-analysis to improve learning for all students. 14 This accountability paradigm represents a shift for educational leaders from simply managing schools to managing student learning and achievement, as well as the institution itself. According to McKenney (2007), Kentucky' s reform expects schools to make continuous improvement and its mandate holds principals accountable as the main educational leaders. He further notes that as schools move up their baseline towards established goals, their strategies must be adjusted to the new level of performance and goals. Schools that have higher needs must be supported the most. It is common, however, for high quality staff, programs, and money to be allocated to schools that are performing above proficiency levels instead. As McKenney observes, "This practice in effect results over time in lower quality staff working in lower performing schools. Having low-quality staff (and/or leadership) in high-needs schools is an equity issue that needs further attention" (p. 47). If a school has to serve disadvantaged students, a variety of factors must be in place such as high quality staff, high quality individualized instruction, lower class size, etc. As Leithwood (2001) mentions, "if educational leaders choose to respond to the accountability policy of marketing schools when they strongly value equity in society, they must market their schools and programs in a way that make access possible even for those children from diverse disadvantage backgrounds" (p.222). In Kentucky, the Ministry of Education utilizes the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) for student performance assessment. The main two goals of Kentucky' s accountability mandate is to get significant increases in achievement and a reduction in achievement gaps between at-risk and advantaged students (Miller & Moore, 2006, quoted in McKenney, 2007, p. 50). 15 In the case of Kentucky school leaders, they are expected to focus on student academic performance, and school improvement must be data-driven and collaborative. They are expected to disaggregate school results and incorporate the data into the school growth plan, and to allocate time to curricular and instructional activities. As McKenney says, "One goal is to ensure that educational leaders do not spend all their time and energy directed to matters that are political or managerial. If the main goal is to support student academic performance, all other activities must be seen as a process of supporting learning rather than being ends in themselves" (McKenney, 2007, p. 58). Transformational Leadership Principals cannot teach all students in the school, so leadership contributions to student achievement rely heavily upon mediation by other people such as teachers (Leithwood, 2004, cited in McKinney, 2007). Leithwood (1992) claims that transformational leadership has been the dominant image of school administration during the 90 's. According to Sarason (1990), the main failure of previous educational systems was the top-down structure in their power relationships among administrators, teachers, students, parents and school staff (cited in Leithwood, 1992). Current organizational structures look for more collaborative models in which the power-with model seems to allow for more collective capacity to improve school performance. Leithwood mentions that some non-educational organizations follow this facilitated form of power mainly because it increases productivity. People feel that they have a voice and as a consequence, show greater commitment to the goals of the organization. Instructional leadership by contrast, focuses on first-order changes such as instructional activities and curriculum. Transformational leadership on the other hand, focuses on second-order changes such as building a shared vision and encouraging collaborative decision-making. According to Leithwood, "restructuring initiatives are accomplished using facilitated power with second-order changes." (Leithwood, 1992) 16 While transactional leadership provides a framework for the day-to-day transactions done through negotiating tasks with benefits, transformational leadership provides incentives for people to improve their practice. They are complementary. In brief, solving problems together, planning together, encouraging teachers to teach one another, reducing teachers' isolation, communicating school vision, delegating power, promoting internalization of professional growth and encouraging feedback from colleagues about teachers' goals for growth are the main pillars of transformational leadership, according to Leithwood. However, he reports that "there seems to be little evidence about the outcomes. of transformational leadership in educational settings" (Leithwood, 1992, p.11). Most of the positive outcomes in research come from non-educational organizations. Later on, in 2001, Leithwood found that "some leadership practices that were useful in almost all organizations were also successful in schools with different sizes and locations, if leadership practices were complemented with other behaviours" (p. 217). Leithwood (2001) reviewed theoretical and empirical literature on what leadership behaviours responded to more market, decentralized, professional, management, and accountability approaches in educational contexts. A market approach to accountability increases competition among schools for students through allowing school choice, school privatization plan, the creation of charter and magnet schools, academies, altering the basis of school funding so the money follows students in terms of vouchers or tuition tax credits and by publicly ranking schools based on aggregated 17 student achievement scores (Leithwood, 2001, p, 218). Leithwood's main findings are summarized in Table 1.1: Characteristics Market Dece ntra lized Professional Management Key tools Open "Parent control" Professional Planning school boundaries, and standard setting, improvement, academies, "administrator etc . inspection, ranking control", etc. student testing, schools, etc etc. Assumed Schools are Curriculum Inadequate use of Schools with not problems unresponsi must reflect teachers' clear goals , ve; values of knowledge in inefficient to insufficient parents and areas as budget, achieve goals; attention to community, curriculum, inadequate client etc. personnel, etc. attention to needs performance Proposed Empower Increase Increase teachers' Developing and solutions clients to parents' decision making, monitoring goals choose the decision- set professional for student school making, standards, achievement, etc. administrators' monitor teachers, authority to etc. distribute resources, etc. Examples of Create Distributive Monitor progress, Collect, interpret Leadership marketable leadership, identify data Practice- product, school standards, Plan accordingly. Anticipated develop members promote best good empowerment, practice, etc. customer- etc. relations, respond to changing market conditions, etc. Examples of Ability to Radical time Buffer staff from Establish culture Leadership-Not deal with increase in distractions. of inquire, create Anticipated people with managerial high levels of different duties and less stakeholder ideologies, time spent on involvement. etc. curriculum and instruction, intensification of the role, etc . Table 1.1 Adapted from Leithwood's (2001) summary of approaches to accountability and implications for leaders, p. 219). 18 19 Leithwood (200 1) mentions that there are some unintended consequences in the decentralization of schools. For instance, in the context of school governance structure, student councils should represent a place for those more quiet students to voice their concerns. In reality, students who are more popular and have more leadership interest are the same ones who are heard over and over again in class, in the office, and now in political bodies such as the student council. Furthermore, student councils tend to pursue more entertainment activities rather than advocating for improvement for students and the school. In the end, disadvantaged, non popular, and minority students continue to be under represented in the school community. Since they are unlikely to be elected to council, perhaps a committee of student advisors chosen on the basis of personal maturity and willingness to produce meaningful chance would be a useful counter weight. Educational leaders and school members need to find ways to directly encourage these students to participate in school governance. Likewise, Leithwood (200 1) argues that decentralization of schools has led to an increase of site councils and committees in the school to advise principals about future courses of action. However, some principals tend directly or indirectly to choose the membership of those committees, consequently increasing the time demands on school leaders and decreasing the attention to curriculum and instruction (Daresh, 1988; Williams et al. 1997;Cranston, 2000, cited in Leithwood, 2001, p. 223). As Leithwood and Menzies (1999) claim, "considerable empirical evidence suggests, however, that by itself accountability approach, has made a disappointing contribution to the improvement of teaching and leaming" (p. 224). 20 Methodological Articulation of Leadership Models In this section, I will examine how the instructional and transformational leadership models can be interpreted methodologically. Most methodological approaches or conceptual models of educational leadership assume a causal relationship between school contextual factors , such as school socio-economic status (SES), leadership variables of principal' s behaviours, such as how much time the principal spends addressing student lateness, and aspects of the school' s organization, such as school climate and student achievement (O'Donnell & White, 2005). Kruger et al. (2007) claim that there is a lack of empirical validation of the research findings, specifically those that refer to "if' and "how" student achievement is enhanced through principals' behaviours. McKinney (2007) also claims that current research ought to consider principals' mediated effects on accountability trough school leadership, curriculum, and instruction. From a methodological perspective, a review of the literature indicates that there are three main variants or models for viewing the effects of educational leadership on student outcomes. Methodologically speaking, to conceptualize the principal's role, Ballinger & Beck (1998) utilizes Pitner' s (1988) model of research, which can be used to study the effects of principals' behaviours on student achievement through non-experimental research methods. These models are, along with their variants, the direct effect model, the mediated effects model and the reciprocal effects model. Please see Figure 1.2 on page 23 for the path analyses. The first model is the direct effect model of leadership (model A and its variant A-I). In model A, the principal's actions directly influence school outcomes. Variables such as school climate as intervening variable and socio-economic status of the school as antecedent variable were not considered in the study. Most of the research findings were 21 studies were common in past research. Hallinger & Heck (1998) mention that later on, researchers recognized that other variables may have a prior effect on student achievement, and included antecedent variables such as SES and previous test marks. Model A-I then combines the direct-effect model framework with antecedent variables. For instance, Leithwood et al. ' s (2006) study might fall into this model in which SES is the antecedent variable, contents of school improvement processes and implementation are the independent variables which affect directly the independent variable, student outcomes. Unlike the direct effect model, the second model is the mediated effects (model B and its variant B-1) in which principals' behaviours affect student achievement indirectly through intervening variables such as teacher commitment and instructional practice. This conceptualization assumes that leaders achieve their results through other people. Antecedent variables such as SES might be included (model B-1) or not (model B). When antecedent variables such as SES are considered, these kinds of models produced either mixed or consistently positive effects of the principal's leadership on students' outcomes. For instance, Alig-Mielcarek' s (2003) model ofleadership, fit into the mediated effects model B-1 framework in which SES is an antecedent variable, school academic press is an intervening variable, and student achievement is the independent variable. The third model of educational leadership, the reciprocal effects (model C), offers a particular approach to educational leadership. Leadership is viewed as an adaptive process rather than as a unitary independent force. It does not consider antecedent variables such as SES but focuses on the reciprocal influence among principals' behaviours, intervening school variables and student achievement. Educational leaders 22 behaviours, intervening school variables and student achievement. Educational leaders change student outcomes through their relationships with all members of the school, influencing their attitudes and behaviours. At the same time, principals themselves may adopt a different way of thinking and course of action as they adapt to the organization (Hallinger & Heck, 1998). For instance, a principal may want to improve students' discipline and establish very prescriptive measures; once a level of stability is achieved, the principal then adjusts her/his behaviours to focus on students' achievement. According to Hallinger and Heck (1998), few studies are conducted with this model due to its limitations to adequately collect the necessary data and the longitudinal aspect of its nature. Model C involves a methodology that captures the dynamic relationships that may exist among variables as they change over time. It might provide a more accurate conceptual framework for educational leadership models but it also entails a much more expensive longitudinal study design because, among other considerations, the variables would have to be measured often to reveal any interactions among them (Hallinger &Heck, 1998). Figure 1.2. Modelling principals' effects on school effectiveness (Hallinger & Heck, 1998, p.162) 23 Methodological Validity This study compares the conceptualization of the principal role used by Alig-Mielcarek (2003) and Leithwood et al. (2006) and examines the validity ofthe methodology articulated in each framework. 24 Validity refers to whether research measures what the researcher thinks is being measured, in other words, whether one is indeed accomplishing what one hopes to accomplish (Palys, 1997). In the field of educational leadership and student achievement, De Maeyer et ai. (2007) argues that for validity reasons, research findings must inquire through which intermediate variables educational leadership influences student achievement (p.129). To test these causal relationships between variables, a causal model needs to be conducted. According to Kruger et aI., (2007), "path analysis is a technique to assess the direct causal contribution of variables to other variables in a non-experimental condition throughout multilevel analysis" (p.1 0). In addition, Levacic (2005) states that causal pathways relating school principals' behaviours to student achievement are often derived from prior qualitative research, and the main challenge to validity of causal research is the choice of variables coming out of pathway analysis. To overcome the challenge of validity, Goldstein (2003), Hox (2002) and Raudenbush & Bryk,(2002) claim that a flexible approach to causal research represents the use of multilevel models in which main and interaction effects of variables at different levels are modelled simultaneously, while various kinds of dependencies are accounted for, in the path analysis (quoted in Van den Noortgate et aI., 2004). For validity reasons, special considerations ought to be granted to statistical calculations such as the sample size, the effect size and the power ofthe study. A sample of a population refers to a subset of the population that may or may not be representative 25 (Spatz, 2005). For the purpose of this review, I will consider studies that have worked only with representative samples to reach their conclusions in educational settings. Sample size is important because the standard error of a sampling distribution decreases as the sample size increases. Sample size provides information about whether two or more variables are related and effect size or d, provides information about whether two or more variables are related as well as the strength of the relationship. The greater the sample size, the greater the power of the study and significance of the results. Next, I state the four main conceptual and methodological research questions that will guide the rest of the paper. Research Questions The current study will investigate whether school principal's behaviours have a significant direct or indirect influence on student achievement in the research findings considered for analysis. I focus on what school principals' behaviours are more likely to be considered by researchers as the main factors affecting student achievement. The following research questions represent the backbone of this paper: a) What factors do the researchers identify as likely to have an effect on student achievement? b) What is the conceptualization of the role of educational leadership employed by the researchers in relation to student achievement? c) What type of data do the researchers rely on to explore the effect of educational leadership on student achievement? d) What research methods or pathway analyses do researchers use to explore the relationship between educational leadership and student achievement? These questions will be elaborated and addressed in the following sections. CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY Data Collection and Analysis 26 I will analyze two current causal research findings in the field of instructional and transformational leadership and student achievement. The articles to be analyzed are: a) Alig-Mielcaarek' s (2003) study: A Model of School Success: Instructional Leadership, Academic Press, and Student Achievement, and b) Leithwood, Jantzi & McElheron-Hopkins's (2006) study: The Developing and Testing of a School Improvement Model. I selected these 2 studies because their findings seem to be representative of the main cutting edge research in the field of educational leadership and student achievement. They are state-wide investigations in different countries and I believe they can offer a good source of comparison to determine the extent to which their results can be generalized. Palys (1997) mentioned that it is important to consider external validity and defined it as the extent to which the results of a study can be generalized (quoted in Tello, 2004, p. 257). External validity can be increased if the findings are compared and contrasted to the results of prior research. To address the research questions, the data will be analyzed in two layers. The first layer of analysis will conceptualize the leadership role according to De Maeyer et al. ' s. (2007) theoretical framework mentioned earlier in the literature review: instructional and transformational leadership models. I will analyze the type of leadership the researcher is considering implicitly or explicitly in her/his study and I will relate this model to the researcher' s chosen methodology. The objective of this layer of analysis is to see to what extent the conceptual role of the principal matches the variables considered in each study. 27 The second layer of analysis will examine the conceptual methodologies used by the researchers according to Hallinger and Heck's (1988) theoretical perspective on administrative leadership referred previously in the literature review: a) direct-effects model, b) direct-effect with antecedent effect, c) mediated-effect, d) mediated-effect with antecedent, and e) reciprocal-effect. I will interpret the multilevel nature of the path analysis utilized by the researcher and the variables that the authors link directly or indirectly to student achievement. The objective of the second layer of analysis is to examine the extent of the multilevel approach employed in their path analysis. The data collected to enlighten this paper were gathered from ERIC (Educational Resources Information Centre) and CJIE (Current Journals in Education) databases in addition to leadership literature books, MA and PhD dissertations and my personal experience as a teacher under numerous principals' leadership styles, current provincial r examination developer and educational researcher. "The Mandate for the School System, 2008", from the BC Ministry of Education, the BC Education Leadership Council website, the Canadian Policy Research Networks website, and more than 24 journal articles were also used to inform this paper. In order to provide the best support for policy makers' decisions, this review is limited to MM (mixed methods) research findings on mainly direct and indirect effects of instructional and transformational leadership's behaviours on student achievement. In a multi level path model, all variables have the potential to affect the dependent variables of interest; consequently these variables may become potential causal factors (Levacic, 2005). Another limitation that needs to be addressed in this study is the limited diversity of educational contexts of the studies considered in this review: schools in the province of 28 Ontario, Canada and the state of Ohio, United States. When one seeks to apply the research findings examined in this study to local educational needs elsewhere, one must to account for the unique characteristics and challenges that different jurisdictions face, since the educational expectations and student needs, challenges and culture may vary from place to place. While some accountability measures in education may be necessary and well accepted in some jurisdictions, they may be perceived in others as unnecessary and punitive. CHAPTER FOUR FINDINGS Alig-Mielcarek' S Study (2003) Introduction of the Study and General Claim 29 Alig-Mielcarek (2003) conducted a mixed-methods (MM) research study in the state of Ohio, United States, in 146 public elementary schools. She examined what factors under the school's control would contribute to higher student achievement. She explored the relationships between instructional leadership (a framework mentioned in the literature review) and student achievement, between academic press (or the extent to which the school focus on high expectations), and student achievement, and between instructional leadership and academic press (p.70). Please, refer to Figure 4.1 on page 38 for more details. Student achievement was based on state-wide examinations in both mathematics and reading. She found that instructional leadership indirectly improved student achievement in mathematics and reading by 62% and 64% respectively, through academic press as a mediating or intervening variable (Alig-Mielcarek, p.37). From a methodological view-point, Alig-Mielcarek's pathway model seems to fit into the Mediated Effects with Antecedent Effects framework of Hallinger and Heck' s (1998) model B-1 mentioned in the literature review on page 31. Her path analysis considers the influence of antecedent variables such as SES, and the independent variable, instructional leadership, is an aggregated variable made of three elements: shared goals, monitoring of teachers, and professional development. The model also includes intervening variables such as academic press and its three dimensions: resource 30 support, principal influence and academic emphasis. The dependent variable is student achievement in standardized tests. Conceptualization of the Principal Role Alig-Mielcarek (2003) defines instructional leadership in terms of principal's behaviours that lead a school to educate all students to high student achievement. For her and as mentioned in the literature review, instructional leadership amalgamates leaders' personal traits, certain behaviours, contingency path-models, charismatic aptitudes and transformational or school reform theories (p.29). Her framework was conceptualized by synthesizing the similarities among the three models of instructional leadership mentioned earlier in the literature, together with Locke and Latham' s Goal-Setting Theory (1984, 1990) as an underlying theoretical foundation. She measures instructional leadership using three dimensions: defining and communicating shared goals, monitoring and providing feedback on the teaching and learning process, and promoting school-wide professional development. Communication of shared goals requires that educational leaders define the school's goals with the staff, and work toward data-driven shared goals (AligMielcarek, 2003, p.9). Goals are used to align instructional practice and to purchase curricular materials. Instructional leaders constantly make decisions with these goals in mind and nurture a climate of learning for all students. Communication of shared goals encourages members of the school community to implement their decisions, which will be meeting common goals. This enhances the effort invested by school members, increases persistence, and encourages the development of strategies. Frequent communication of school goals by instructional leaders also promotes accountability, a sense of personal 31 ownership and instructional improvement (Bookbinder, 1992, cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). According to Alig-Mielcarek (2003), monitoring of teaching and learning involves providing constant constructive feedback to educators and students, and ensuring uninterrupted instructional time. For her, teachers and principals must solve problems related to effective teaching and learning. Promotion of school-wide professional development involves building a climate of collaboration and learning, promoting attendance at conferences and workshops, and providing resources to educators. Alig-Mielcarek's framework includes school morale and academic press as the most important factors for student achievement. She further explains, "Morale refers to the collective sense of the staff around openness, trust, accomplishments, and job satisfaction. Academic press describes the extent to which the school focuses around academic achievement and high expectations" (p. 54). She also measures academic press with three dimensions: resource support, principal influence and academic emphasis. Path Model: Sample size: the size ofthe sample seems to be representative of the population of the state of Ohio. From a population of 2689 elementary schools in Ohio, 1095 schools qualified for her study. From these 1095 schools, a sample of 146 schools with low SES (socio economic status) was selected. Although she used SES as a control variable, it is not clear whether this sample eliminated most of the range of SES from the study. Alig-Mielcareck included urban, rural, and suburban schools in her study. Measuring Instruments: to measure student achievement, she used sources such as the Ohio's fourth grade reading and mathematics assessment. To measure the SES of the 32 schools, she collected information from the Ohio Department of Education. She measured instructional leadership and academic press with separate concise questionnaires with several previously tested questions. They were to be answered voluntarily by teachers, students, and administrators (p.70). To determine whether principals operated from an instructional leadership framework, she asked the extent to which principals demonstrated specific behaviours. The unit of analysis was the school. Limitations of Questionnaire Data: the source or nature of the data mentioned above brings the first question to this study. Alig-Mielcarek might have assumed that principals' , teachers ' and students ' perceptions constituted an accurate representation of the principal's actions and the school academic press. Nevertheless, one could argue that students might have very different views and perceptions of the principal' s actions than their teachers and principals. Cherryholmes (1992) further warns, "There is an external world independent of our minds" (cited in Teddlie, 2005, p. 215). In other words, principals' behaviours that were related to instructional leadership in this study may not have been instructional leadership behaviours at all in reality. For instance, if a staff member has to respond questions such as how often the principal provides private feedback of student effort or how often the principal works with students on academic tasks as mentioned in the Alig-Mielcarek' s questionnaire, herlhis answer may depend on how often shelhe saw the principal helping students. If the school is large, shelhe may have never seen the principal helping students just because shelhe works in a classroom that is far away from the classroomls in which students received help. Likewise, if a teacher saw the principal helping students once, shelhe may assume that the principal does that on a regular basis, when in fact the principal does so only once in a while. Consequently, some responses of the questionnaires could have been seriously miscalculated. Is Alig-Mielcarek measuring what she intended to measure? 33 To increase internal validity of the data collected and to have a more accurate idea of the true extent to which principals engaged in instructional leadership, it is important to supplement questionnaire results with information collected from direct observations, written school documents, faculty committee meeting decisions, agendas, discourse from student assemblies, informal principal-teacher-student conversations, instructions in school memos, announcement topics, etc. Data that can be easily quantified, such as number of blocks allocated to principals or vice-principals to help students on academic tasks, and principal records on the number of visits to certain classrooms, etc. could have been considered to increase the reliability of the findings between the instructional leadership variable and the academic press variable. Otherwise, the results may be suggesting that principal's instructional behaviours affected students' achievement, when in reality these behaviours may not even have existed outside of school members' minds. It may be the case that other variables not considered in this path model affected student achievement. A minor but still significant consideration is that a relevant number of people responded to the questionnaires, 4069, but it is not clear in the report how many students or principals responded to it. What proportion of answers came from students, teachers, or administrators and why were the responses from these three groups not tabulated separately? Did all schools respond? What Constitutes Instructional Leadership?: it is evident in the study that a considerable amount of effort was invested in the preparation of the questionnaires. From a methodological viewpoint, Alig-Mielcarek field-tested the questionnaires prior to using them for her study, and the instruments were reviewed by a panel of researchers. She further explains, "This panel included three experts: an experienced educational leadership researcher and professor in educational administration; a transformational leadership researcher and former middle school administrator; and an instructional leadership researcher and former elementary teacher" (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p. 78). 34 However, the study does not mention the criteria used to determine whether a principal qualified as an instructional leader. How many behaviours did principals need to embrace in each of the three categories, and how often did they need to show them to fit into the instructional leadership framework? Was the instructional leadership variable an independent, continuous one with values ranging from transformational leadership to instructional leadership? Although it is not explicitly stated in the report, one could assume that it was treated thus. Levacic (2005) mentions, "it is normally conceived of as a continue variable with gradations of characteristics" (Levacic, 2005, p. 205). In other words, it is not clear whether the entire range of the independent variable, instructional leadership, is related to the entire range of the intervening variable, academic press, and the dependent variable, student achievement. If this is not the case, one cannot infer that instructional leadership is related to academic press and/or student achievement, or claim any causal relationship between instructional leadership behaviours and student achievement (Arlin, 2007, ch.3, 3). Longitudinal Impact of Instructional Leadership: another consideration that could have improved the validity of the data collected in this study is the length of time a principal had been working in each school. How long does it take for a school to be influenced by instructional leadership, and how long does it take to show an impact on student 35 achievement? A principal needs to spend some time at a school before shelhe can have an impact on the school community. Otherwise, regardless of the behaviours a new principal shows more often, the school community will still be under the influence of the previous principal. Consequently, the researcher is not measuring what she/he wants to measure, which threatens the validity and reliability of the entire study. Path-Model Analysis: Alig-Mielcarek's theoretical path model involves instructional leadership and its three components (communication of goals, monitoring teachers and professional development) as the independent variable; academic press as the intervening variable; SES as the antecedent and controlling variable and student achievement, as the dependent variable. Alig-Mielcarek (2003) claims that her research has proven that instructional leadership increases student achievement indirectly. The three dimensions of instructional leadership together were highly correlated with academic press. Number o/variables: Alig-Mielcarek' s model analyzes the relationships established by four variables in a sample of 146 schools. It would have been valuable to add another variable to the model, such as school size and location to see whether the effects of instructional leadership change in any away. School size and location for instance, are important variables to include in a model, since Kruger et al. (2007) found that "instructional leadership is more pronounced in small schools than in big schools" (p.14). Another consideration that could have improved the validity and reliability of the results is the measurement ofSES. The SES variable of the sample was determined solely by the number of students participating in the federal free and reduced cost lunch program. Ignoring the multilevel nature of this variable, in other words, oversimplifying 36 SES to just the number of students using free and reduced-cost lunch programs without contemplating other facets of SES such as the parents' level of education, average household income, or background of the families, would be expected to increase the apparent impact of the next level variable (instructional leadership ) and on the independent variables (student achievement). Van den Noortgate et al. (2005) studied the effects of ignoring a level in a multi-level path model analysis and warn, "the results from an analysis with aggregated data therefore must be interpreted with care" (p. 282). The household income of students may offer a very incomplete idea of the socio-economic status of students, especially in diverse demographic areas. Newcomers with academic degrees may need social assistance, yet their children may have a strong motivation to succeed. Parents with university or college degrees may have low SES for various reasons, yet their children are capable, strong students who do not want to experience the same circumstances as their parents and who consequently respond to the academic expectations of the school. In other words, if the SES with its multilevel nature were taken into account, the relative influence of SES, instructional leadership and academic press might have been very different. Likewise, the academic press variable at the school level seemed to be oversimplified as well when in fact, the organizational structure, the number of resources allocated to support disadvantaged students and teachers' training could have been three very important levels of academic press at school level. If academic press refers to focus on academic learning and closing the gap between non-disadvantaged students and students at risk as Alig-Mielcarek mentions, then the number of resources devoted to helping students succeed should be an important element of academic press. The number and efficiency of academic support classes to disadvantaged students can affect student 37 achievement on its own, regardless of the principal's leadership style; and the amount of support may vary from school to school. In fact, Heck et al. (1991) and Leithwood (1994) confirm that there is empirical evidence that organizational structure has a positive effect on transformational leadership within different cultural contexts (cited in De Maeyer, 2007). Another important layer of the academic press variable at school level could have been the academic preparation of teachers. Teachers may interpret principals' messages in different ways according to what is meaningful to them. Leithwood (1994) mentions that the intervening variable of human capital forms the core of the transformational leadership model, and that the same effects of teachers' training have also been found in the context of instructional leadership (cited in De Maeyer, 2007, p. 129). Strength o/the Relationships Among Variables: The findings of this model show that while academic press has a statistically significant influence on school achievement; the real extent of the relationship is weak (r=.02) and in reading, even smaller (r=.16), suggesting that academic press actually has little influence on student achievement. For instance, the effect of SES on school achievement in mathematics is 3.45 times stronger than the effect of academic press on school achievement in mathematics; and the effect of SES on school achievement in reading is 4.56 times stronger than the effect of academic press on school achievement in reading. Alig-Mielcarek did not find any statistically significant impact either between SES and instructional leadership (bivariate correlation, r=.11 , p.>.05), or between instructional leadership and student achievement in mathematics (beta=.06, p=.36). A Chi-squared result test determined that Alig-Mielcarek's model fit the data. Please refer to Figure 4.1 and 4.2 below for more details. SES~CiI~ IIllihe .~ If?il' I1I'1d r!!d!£i; ~~ t~~v~.~n.~ ,~,~ .. . 4,. .~#ilV\ll"'-i"~ ~IP.J$ Figure 4.1. Adapted from Alig-Mielcareck' s (2003) full model of Mathematics Achievement (p. 103) Significance level ofp<0.10. Note: red circles stand for relationship significance near or below p<O.l 0 38 Figure 4.2 Adapted from Alig-Mie1carek's (2003) model of Reading Achievement (p.l03). Note: red circles stand for relationship significance near or below p<O.l 0 Conclusion: Alig-Mielcarek (2003) claims that the more instructional leadership behaviours principals showed, the stronger the academic press of the school. She further claims, 39 "Knowing that instructional leadership and academic press share a strong relationship, it is essential that principals demonstrate behaviours associated with instructional leadership" (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p.l22). However, it should not be assumed that instructional leadership behaviours and academic press cause improvement in student achievement. Based on the strength of the correlation coefficients between variables, her 40 results show no direct relationship between instructional leadership and student achievement, and only a slight relationship between academic press and student achievement (r=0.20). The strongest relationship found lies between SES and student achievement (r=0.69 in math and and r=0.73 in reading). The ratio 1:3:3:1 ofthe number of disaggregate variables at each level (SES: defining and communicating shared goals, monitoring and providing feedback on the teaching and learning process, promoting school-wide professional development: resource support, principal influence and academic emphasis) seems to be acceptable except for the antecedent SES variable which was clearly oversimplified (Van den Noortgate et aI. , 2005). Furthermore, the lack of corroboration of the data collected in the questionnaires in the qualitative phase of the study decreases the validity of the results. Therefore, it is hard to justify Alig-Mielcarek's firm advice, using her results. Leithwood et ai. 's Study (2006) Introduction of the Study and General Claim Leithwood et ai. (2006) conducted a mixed methods (MM) research study in the province of Ontario, Canada, in which a school improvement process (SIP) model was tested in two distinct phases. The first, a qualitative, longitudinal phase consisted in determining what elements of SIP played a main role in student achievement and school improvement. The second, qualitative and quantitative phase tested the effects of the theoretical model found in phase one on student achievement and school improvement. Their study concluded that there is a modest but significant effect of school leadership under SIP on school improvement and student achievement (variance 7%). Please see Figure 4.5 on page 42 for more details. 41 From a methodological point of view and according to the number of levels (three) of Leithwood et aI.'s model, their path analysis could fit into the direct effect with antecedent effect framework of Hallinger and Heck (1998) (Model A-I) mentioned in the literature review on page 31. Although SES is not shown in the sketched model on page 48, the authors mention that it was a control and antecedent variable. The independent variable school leadership in the Hallinger and Heck's model would be equivalent to the two aggregated variables in Leithwood et aI's model: contents of the SIP and implementation. The SIP program has been implemented in Ontario to address issues of low performing schools. Leithwood et ai. mentioned, "In Ontario, SIP is the dominant strategy for increasing student achievement and the government's strategy of choice for improving the performance of low performing schools" (Leithwood et aI., 2006, p. 460). Transformational leadership can be the underlying framework of the SIP program. As mentioned in the literature review: educational leaders are directed to focus on school reform and improvement. Conceptualization of the Principal's Role According to Leithwood et ai. and as mentioned in the literature review, transformational leaders plan school goals based on data analysis, communicate goals with stakeholders, collaborate in teams and participate in the planning process. Monitoring the effects of the plan, evaluating performance, obtaining resources from the district, and setting responsibilities, measure the goals within a period of one to five years for school improvement. According to Hargreaves and Hopkins (1991) the school improvement process (SIP) has "five main stages: getting started, conducting an audit of the school's strengths 42 and weaknesses, setting priorities and targets, implementing or putting the plans in place, and evaluating the success of the plans and their implementation" (cited in Leithwood, 2006, p. 445). The plan reflects a continuous and cyclical process in which the final stage of the process signals the beginning of a new one with new school priorities. 5. Monitoring 6. Communication 2. Contents of the SIP 7. School Leadership 8. Parent Participation 9. Teacher Collaboration 10. District Support 11. Provincial Support 4. Outcomes Figure 4.5. A framework for understanding differences across schools in the outcomes of SIP (Leithwood et aI., 2006, p. 448) Path Model: Sample size: the study was conducted in two stages. The purpose ofthe first, qualitative stage was to produce a model of SIP and determine the main variables affecting school outcomes and student achievement. Data were collected through surveys measuring the extent to which parents, teachers, and administrators thought the SIP affected student achievement and school improvement. It used a longitudinal study based on case studies, over 3-year period, of 10 urban, suburban, and rural schools. The schools' sizes ranged from 240 students to 850 students. Most schools were performing below district average in grades 3 and 6 on state-wide examinations. They served both francophone and anglophone student populations, and included both public and Catholic schools; one was a Portuguese school. 43 Prior to the case studies, data were collected from The International Handbook of School Effectiveness Research to provide international perspective on the topic. Leithwood et al. collected data about SIP from the ERIC system. Thirty-three out of 67 studies from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada were examined. From these studies, the investigators found that there is a modest correlation between SIP and improved student outcomes (MacGilchrist and Mortimore, 1997, cited in Leithwood et aI. , 2006). The few studies that showed some evidence of positive student outcomes were in elementary schools, which showed evidence of strong shared ownership and involvement on the part of the teachers. However, there was no evidence of the same success in any secondary schools. In the second, quantitative phase of the study, 100 elementary schools out of362 schools were surveyed. The criteria of inclusion were not provided in the report. Information about student achievement was collected from provincially administered math and literacy tests at grade 3 and 6. Schools varied in size and backgrounds (Catholic, public, English and French), and the unit of analysis was the school. Measuring Instruments: in the first stage of the study, the researchers interviewed between 5 and 12 people in each school; however, the structure of the interviews was not disclosed in the report. Data about the main SIP indicators affecting school improvement and student achievement were collected and the independent variables were determined. In the second, quantitative phase of the study, the variables were tested using survey evidence from parents, teachers, and school administrators in 100 elementary schools in Ontario. The surveys measured the extent to which parents, teachers, and administrators thought the two SIP independent variables affected student achievement and school improvement. Individual survey instruments were created for teachers, administrators, and parents according to who was judged most likely to have direct information about the variable being measured (Leithwood, 2006, p. 449). Limitations of Questionnaire Data: 44 The path model of this study was tested quantitatively according to the data gathered from people' s perceptions in the schools. As mentioned earlier in Alig-Mielcarek's study, failure to supplement and corroborate these subjective data with direct observations in the schools and concrete information from school records undermines the validity of the findings. It has been empirically proven that the reality people construct in their minds can sometimes be based partially on their interpretations of their daily experiences, the limitations of their understanding and exposure to diverse environments. Leithwood et al. (2006) tested their theoretical model quantitatively using three measures of SIP impact: perceptions of student achievement by teachers, parents, and administrators; perceptions of school outcomes by teachers, parents, and administrators, and a combined Grade 3 and 6 reading, writing, and math achievement score. Then they compared the results of the questionnaires with the provincial examination results and concluded that, "First, estimates of SIP effects on students depended very much on the ' instruments' used to measure those effects; judgments of teachers, parents, and administrators were largely unrelated to the results of provincial exam scores, a result very similar to the evidence reported by Flinspach and Ryan, 1992" (p.460). They 45 further mention, "First, such errors in human judgement are common and have been well documented (Khaneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982); (Leithwood et al. 2006, p. 460). The overall effects of SIP on student achievement in the provincial exams explained a very small but still statistically significant improvement of only 7%. Timing 0/ Data Collection: the time at which student outcomes, the dependent variable, are assessed is crucial to the validity of the data. For instance, how long SIP had been in use at the time data were collected would have been an important element to consider. The study failed to measure it. Path-Model Analysis: According to the number oflevels ofthe model (three), Leithwood et al.'s model could fit into the direct effect with antecedent effect framework of Hallinger and Heck (1998) (Model A-I) mentioned in the literature review. Although not shown in the framework on page 48, SES was a control and antecedent variable, and the independent variables school leadership, parent participation, teacher collaboration, district support, and provincial support were aggregated into one variable, "implementation." The "monitoring the process and communicating goals" variable was aggregated into another independent variable, contents of the SIP. These independent variables were believed to have a direct effect on student achievement. Please refer to Figure 4.5 on page 42 for more details. Number o/Variables: although Leithwood et al. mention that the main focus of their study was to develop a model of SIP for schools with low student performance and serving diverse student populations, there is no indication in their model of any control variables in the quantitative phase of the study, such as SES, low performing schools according to student achievement in provincial examinations, or the diversity of backgrounds in the student population. 46 Another control variable that could have helped improve the validity of this study, is how long SIP had been used at the time data were collected. Otherwise, the student's achievement might not reflect the current practices in the school. School leadership could have been treated as the only independent variable, since different styles of leadership might influence the other school variables and affect student outcomes differently. Some potential intervening variables, such as school organizational structures to support learning such as the number of blocks and human resources allocated to support the learning of disadvantage students and the degree of background diversity among the students seem to be missing. Once again, these affect the validity of the findings. The authors do not mention any instrument used to measure whether principals operated from different leadership frameworks. It seems that it was assumed that all educational leaders in the 100 schools considered had the same leadership style, transformational style, and all behaved the same way towards communicating the goals, parent participation, and teacher collaboration, etc. Leadership behaviours were not previously explored and therefore were not considered as the main independent variable that could influence the implementation of the entire SIP process. Please, refer to Figure 4.5 on page 42. Strength a/the Relationships Among Variables: according to the report, the "implementation process" variable is the only one that has an effect on student achievement (p.35). However, this aggregated variable has five different components: school leadership, parent participation, teacher collaboration, district support and context, 47 and provincial support and context. The variable "parent participation" had a negative effect on student achievement. Although the component variables correlated well with each other, they were not correlated individually with student achievement, which decreases the internal validity of the findings. Most importantly, Leithwood et al. concluded, " . .. the model as a whole explained modest but significant amounts of variance in student achievement across schools. School leadership and SIP implementation process accounted for the largest proportion of explained variation ... " (p.441). In conclusion, Leithwood et al. (2006) attempted to measure the extent to which the school improvement model affected student achievement, and found a modest but statistically significant effect on student achievement; student achievement improved by 7%. Leithwood et al. found that the main variables affecting student achievement were mainly school leadership and secondly, teacher collaboration. Monitoring the process, communicating goals and parent participation were not related to student achievement. In addition, there are no explicit comments on the effects of the last two variables, district and provincial support, on student achievement. Their leadership model resembles the transformational framework mentioned in the literature review, but methodologically speaking, there seem to be some flaws, which raises questions about the validity of the results. For instance, the disproportionate number of disaggregate variables at each level: 1 :7:2 (SES: monitoring, communicating, school leadership, parent participation, teacher collaboration, district support, provincial support: student achievement, school outcomes) decreases the validity of the results and undermines the authors' claim. 48 To improve this model, the data collected in the quantitative stage should be compared and contrasted with data collected from direct observation and school records. From a pathway-model design view, school leadership could have been considered as the only independent variable in this model, and the other variables (only three, such as teacher collaboration, school structure that supports disadvantage students, size of the school, etc.) as intervening variables. In their report, they say, " ... the evidence must be treated with caution because the model as a whole did not meet the fit criteria" (p. 459). According to Kruger et ai. (2007) the testing of any· kind of causal model is only possible if there is some kind of balance between the size of the sample and the number of variables included in the analysis (p.8). Otherwise, the multilevel nature of the data will produce biased results. For instance, when a study with a large sample considers few independent variables, the strong effect of the independent variables on the dependent variable may disappear when other variables are taken into account (Kruger et aI. , 2007, p. 12). In multilevel path models, "it is especially the number of units at the highest level that must be kept in mind, since the number of units at lower levels is by definition equal to or larger than the number of units at the top level" (Van den Noortgate et aI, 2005, p. 283). In brief, "the findings of research strongly depend on the chosen conceptual model" (De Maeyer et aI. , 2007, p. 126). According to Leithwood et aI., the contents of the SIP and consequently the planning of SIP did not make a significant contribution to student achievement and school outcomes. Once again, these results should not be taken to mean that abandoning school planning is a good idea, as Leithwood et ai. mention. It is hard to imagine that planning makes no difference whatsoever in running schools. 49 Leithwood et al. also found that parent leadership in the school improvement process had a negative effect on student achievement. Based on these results, they concluded that involving a small group of parents in the school decision-making process helps keep the focus of SIP but the majority of parents should be encouraged to devote most oftheir available time to helping educate their own children (p.461). Not further clarification of this statement is given in the study. CHAPTER FIVE CONCLUSION Alig-Mielcarek's (2003) and Leithwodd et al. ' s (2006) studies contribute to a much better understanding of the path models that can be used to study educational leadership and student achievement. However, there are some threats to the validity of these studies; careful attention must be paid to the collection of data about principals' behaviours, the numbers of variables at each level, and to well-correlated relationships among the variables, to increase empirical validity of direct and indirect models. 50 Neither of the interpretations of the effects of educational leadership on student achievement can claim causal warrant, but they are the best available at present. It is important to consider the results of these studies critically, and not to be hasty in relating certain leadership behaviours to student achievement. Principals are often assumed to have a great impact on student achievement. In addition, proponents of instructional and transformational leadership believe that their respective leadership frameworks will yield the best result. Yet both studies showed that the principal's leadership style has only a limited effect. In addressing the first and second research questions of this study, it is important to highlight that while Alig-Mielcarek (2003) identified academic press as the main intervening variable of instructional leadership influencing student achievement (r=0.20), Leithwood et al.'s study found that school leadership rated higher than teachers collaboration according to the qualitative data collected. Please refer to Figures 4.1, 4.2, and 4.5 on pages 38, 39, and 42 respectively. Alig-Mielcarek reports that student achievement improved in mathematics and reading by 62% and 64% respectively while Leithwood et al. found a much lower correlation between school leadership and teacher 51 both studies, there is a clear discrepancy on what aspects of the school improve student achievement, as well as the correlation factors among the variables. As mentioned in the literature review, such discrepancy in the research results makes orie wonder about the empirical validation of the findings and the methodology used (O'Donnell & White, 2005). Likewise, in the quantitative phase of both studies there seems to be a disproportionate number of variables at each level, more pronounced in Leithwood et aI ' s study, which threaten the internal validity of the findings. For instance, in the Alig-Mielcarek's model the ratio between variables were 1 :3:3:1 while in Leithwood et al.'s study the ration was 1 :7:2. Such disproportionate numbers of variables may have hidden the role of relevant variables that have an impact on student achievement. According to Van den Noortgate et al. (2005), the Alig-Mielcarek's model seems to be more balanced in terms of the number of variables at each level than the Leithwood et al.'s. Furthermore, and as stated in the literature review, Leithwood et al. ' s model represents models that in the past have had inconsistent or weak results (Hallinger & Heck, 1998). In addition, some levels of potential intervening variables in the models were ignored or oversimplified, such as school structure and student support resources. Van den Noortgate et al. (2005) conducted a study in which four different path models were designed using the same data and ignoring different variables. They compared the four different results, and concluded, "If a level is ignored, observed differences between units at the level below will increase" (p. 286). The discrepancy of the results between the two studies seem to lay in the transition between the variables that emerged in the qualitative phase, and the pathway models considered in the quantitative phase. Could the 52 discrepancy found in the quantitative phase of the studies be understood in terms of the variables that emerged in the qualitative phase, the lack of fact-based data, or the path models used in the quantitative phase? In addressing the third and fourth research questions of this study, it is important to note that Alig-Mielcarek's (2003) and Leithwood et al.'s studies used MM (qualitative and quantitative) methods. They both collected data from questionnaires and from state-wide examinations in the quantitative phase to determine student achievement. Mixed methods seem to provide a good framework to first identify the intervening variables, and then to test the theory proposed (Kruger et al. (2007). As Levacic (2005) explains, "Mixed methods are vital, since quantitative methods test these assumptions" (p. 202). However, both studies failed to corroborate appropriately the data collected from questionnaires in the qualitative phase with school records and direct observations, greatly decreasing the validity of the results, as shown in the final conclusions of this study. While Alig-Mielcarek's pathway model seems to fit into the mediated effects framework of Hallinger and Heck's (1998) model B-1, Leithwood et al.'s model could fit into the direct effect with antecedent effect framework of Hallinger and Heck (1998) (Model A-I) according to the three levels of their model. Although mixed methods (MM) is a valuable way of conducting research, the conceptualization of the methodological framework needs to be carefully designed; the two phases cannot be treated as purely separate domains. The results of the current study are aligned with Bryman's (2007). He studied the factors that impede the capacity of researchers to engage in the integration of qualitative and quantitative research. He identified eight factors that act as barriers to the validity of some MM studies; among them, when the structure of the project or overall design is not conceptualized in a sufficiently integrated way from the beginning the validity of the findings may be weak as a result. 53 It seems to be very valuable to corroborate data from questionnaires with direct observation, school records, memos, files, etc. to improve the accuracy of the results. Furthermore, Halpin (1966) found in his study that there is only a modest relationship between leaders' own perceptions of their behaviours and their subordinates' perceptions (cited in Alig-Mie1carek, 2003, p.18). The two studies discussed in this paper provide valuable information to the field and they are among the few studies found in educational leadership and student achievement. However, in both studies, the methods used for examining the links between the targeted leadership models and student achievement seem to be flawed and need improvements. Based on these limitations, readers are cautioned to be critical about Alig-Mie1carek' s and Leithwood et aI. ' s claims. In addition, they both represent modernist perspectives of organizations and educational leadership. Other conceptions of leadership such as postmodernist, post-structuralist, feminist, etc. are not considered. Moreover, they focus exclusively on student achievement based solely on state-wide standardized examinations. Neither student learning nor other types of assessment tools seemed to be considered in these studies. Therefore, there seems to be a significant gap in the literature regarding the effects of different models of leadership on student achievement, and most importantly, on student learning, which was not discussed. This current research sheds light on the effects of educational leadership on student achievement. It is hoped that this study will also aid educational leaders and graduate students in assessing the quality of research on educational leadership and student achievement, and interpreting the conclusions drawn from research. Relevant Implications of Accountability and Policies Instructional Leadership versus Transformational Leadership: 54 In this era of accountability, educational leaders need the greatest possible support and knowledge to run schools in a way that supports student learning. While instructional leadership focuses more on student learning, transformational leadership provides a framework to run schools efficiently (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003; Hallinger & Heck,1998). Viewed in terms of power structure, instructional leadership seems to operate from a more top-down framework than transformational leadership. For instance, in Ali-Mielcarek's (2003) instructional leadership model, teachers are supervised externally by principals to improve teaching strategies, and students are strongly encouraged to succeed academically. I would argue that while improving student learning should be a priority in schools, I would rather implement long-term strategies that motivate school members internally as opposed to executing external control on members to improve student learning. Transformational leadership on the other hand, calls for a more distributive power structure in which school members are involved in various committees. As Hallinger and Heck (1998) emphasize, "Transformational leadership consists in a more empowerment, shared leadership, and organizational learning .. .it is aimed primarily at changing the organization's normative structure. It focuses in increasing the organization's capacity to innovate rather than focusing on curriculum and instruction, and on building the organization's capacity to select its purposes and to support the survival of changes to the school' s core technology" (p.169). Perhaps to find the right balance of power is the key to successful educational organizations. Most importantly, a constant shift from a more power-down to a power-with structure depending on the complexity of the everyday decisions that need to be made seems to be an effective way to handle the overloaded role of educational leadership. Selecting Principals: 55 According to Alig-Mie1carek (2003), it is important that a balance and fit be made between the person's personal traits and the school's environmental situation when selecting an educational leader for a particular district or building. For Ali-Mielcarek, using trait theory should lead to an effective selection and goodness of fit for both organization and leader. I would argue that when selecting an educational leader for a particular organization, it is more important to balance the cultural and academic needs of the organization with the person's philosophy of leadership and knowledge of the cultural and academic needs of the school. A candidate can be highly knowledgeable and capable and have a strong personality; but, if shelhe does not blend herlhis personal philosophy of education with the school's culture, climate and vision, the educational leader will probably not be welcomed by the school community, which will decrease herlhis chances of improving school success and student learning. This is not to say that educational leaders cannot make changes in a school. In educational organizations such as schools, leaders can influence collectively cultural change over a long period of time. Leaders can influence meanings and interpretations of events, but it has to be a slow, gradual process, otherwise contradictory, imposed values 56 might create instability, discomfort and conflict among members of the community. A principal that shows a careful consideration of the impact of her/his actions and implements a constant assessment of the school climate to allow for a course correction, would be a good candidate for an educational leader. Accountability and Educational Leadership Programs: Alig-Mielcarek (2003) mentions that schools which are performing below standards look for educational leaders who are able to maximize the school's ability to improve student achievement collaboratively. In a study commissioned by the BC Deans of Education and granted by the BC Educational Leadership Council, Stack et al. (2006) studied 12 educational leadership programs and concluded that there seems to be no consensus on what leadership means or how best to promote it. Nevertheless, most scholars seem to agree that all leadership programs should promote prospective leader's competency through leadership development and assessment, integration of theory and practice, and knowledge of globalization and market forces. Stack et al. reports that most leadership programs in British Columbia, Canada, are trying to recruit new faculty staff, who can contribute with new perspectives to the development of educational leaders to meet current educational demands (p. 58). Leithwood et al. (2006) explain, "Many schools labelled 'failing' or 'low performing' in today's accountability context, are serving highly diverse student populations - diverse cultures, languages, religions, and economic circumstances. Such diversity is challenging ... the sheer range of educational needs ... and the presence of significant number of children whose needs typically exceed the capacities of many schools to adequately address. Because schools in most jurisdictions are now being held accountable for teaching all students finding ways of addressing both types of challenges has become an urgent matter" (p.441). 57 Data Analysis: Alig-Mielcarek (2003) mentions that the use of data and data analysis is important across all dimensions of instructional leadership. While data analysis is a source of valuable information for assessment, adjustment and planning, misunderstanding of data can lead to unintended detrimental, consequences. Students' frustration about not getting the marks they expect, competition among students and teachers, and educational leaders disappointments are just some of the negative school outcomes. Leithwood (2001) mentions that widespread testing of student achievement, and judgments of schools and teachers based on the results reflect a management approach to accountability. He further explains, "There is considerable evidence that this strategy can have serious unintended consequences ... for students ... and for teachers" (Bay et al. 1999; Ohanian, 1999; O'Neil and Tell, 1999; McNeil, 2000and Nolan et al. 1989; Lee, 1993, cited in Leithwood, 2001 , p.226). From a policy viewpoint, if educational leaders need to conduct data-analysis, they must also be knowledgeable about assessment and evaluation, and interpret school and school results accordingly. Class marks reflect a combination of diverse factors such as class size, composition, socio-economic status, number of students with learning disabilities, number of students with English as a Second Language, number of international students, teacher experience, knowledge and load, etc. As Leithwood et al. (2006) claims, "improving achievement has proven to be an extraordinarily difficult and badly underestimated challenge, even when vastly greater resources are devoted to it" (p.460). Furthermore, examinations results data results and analysis should be kept confidential and anonymous for internal departmental goals. 58 Alig- Mielcarek (2003) warns researchers of the overwhelming influence of the socio-economic status (SES) variable on the other mediated variables of educational leadership models (p.94). The effect of SES on student achievement has been well-documented by other scholars such as Coleman (1966), Jencks (1972), Rowan and Denk (1984), Hallinger & Murphy (1986), and Hallinger, Bickman, Davis (1996), Guskey (1997), Moore (2003), and Roeer (1999,2000,2001, cited in Alig-Mielcarek, 2003, p. 123). It is likely that schools in low SES areas have less of a press for academic achievement (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). Most importantly, schools in communities with prevalent low SES tend to have fewer resources and materials and have less confidence and expectation that students will succeed at high levels ... Furthermore, schools with low SES tend to be saddled with less effective principals and teachers (Owings et ai., 2005, p. 40). Alig-Mielcarek mentions a valuable strategy for improving student achievement. Analysing test data to improve student learning is important. The question is, how much knowledge about assessment and evaluation do teachers have? Do teacher leaders or educational leaders have the knowledge they need? Most importantly, how much does external pressure on teachers help improve their work? Examination results should come back to schools with much more statistical information to help educational leaders determine a plan of action. From a policy point of view, educational leaders and teacher leaders need to have a background in assessment and evaluation either through professional development or through their training. From a policy viewpoint, school districts need to have enough test development specialists who can provide regular support to principals and teacher leaders to interpret provincial examination results collectively, support schools to develop their own tests and 59 cross-grade exams, and also to set up a plan of choices collectively to improve student achievement. Alig-Mielcarek (2003) recommends that tests be directly aligned to relevant standards; be reliable, valid, and fair; have a clear purpose; be operationally feasible; and be useful for school improvement by showing each school how its students are performing and where its instructional strengths and weaknesses are. She further mentions, "Such lofty goals for testing are no small order for test developers and/or school leaders" (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003). Finally, when searching for state-wide research findings to create or improve educational policy, special consideration should be given to local research findings. In this review, and due to the lack of local research in British Columbia, Canada, the only two studies considered explored whether current local leadership practices (in Ohio, United States: instructional leadership and in Ontario, Canada: transformational leadership) affected student achievement. The current leadership practices implemented in these jurisdictions emphasize two educational ideas: accountability and school improvement process (SIP). Most importantly, they were implemented to solve problems or to better meet their own educational needs. Therefore, in places where local research is not available, it is recommended that local research be conducted, prior to any change in policy, to identify local student educational challenges, educational leadership styles and school structures. 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