Elementary principals' perceptions of how increased accountability in one NYS school district has affected their leadership practices
McGinley, Christopher T.
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The age we are in might be described as one of uncertainty, complexity, and accountability. Therefore, it is imperative that researchers study the effects that such a changing and challenging environment has had on principal leadership practices in an effort to determine how they are influenced by organizational directions dictated by state and federal accountability movements. Although the empirical evidence linking principals' internal states to their use of leadership practices is growing, it is not extensive. This descriptive, qualitative, non-experimental case study contributes a contextualized data point to the literature to help develop a more thorough understanding of how the evolving demands of Race To The Top (RTTT) are influencing the leadership thinking and practices of four elementary principals from one average need school district in Western New York, especially now that the principals' annual evaluations are tied to their students' achievement on the New York State's standardized English Language Arts and math tests. As a result of conducting three semi-structured interviews with the case study principals, administering a pre-interview questionnaire, and conducting observations of the principals and document reviews, the researcher was able to determine that tying students' standardized test results into principals' annual evaluations is influencing their perceived leadership practices. In fact, the reform policies promoted the standardization of instructional leadership practices into all four principals' daily work that are explicitly focused on school improvement, such as coordinating, controlling, and supervising instruction in the school through classroom visits, feedback to teachers, and the analysis of student academic data through multiple measures. However, this work is in addition to what they already do and requires the principals to work longer hours without knowing whether their extra efforts are actually improving student achievement.