Threat or Challenge Principals' Reactions to Their Involuntary Transfers from Failing Schools
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School reform efforts continue to evolve with more accountability being placed on school districts along with principals and teachers. However, there is a dearth of literature focusing on how school reform consequences affect a principal’s self-identity and whether there are any human costs associated with a principal’s involuntary transfer due to the school’s failing status. The purpose of this study was to examine how principals coped with their involuntary transfers from failing schools and to determine the human costs, if any, on the principals. An involuntary transfer is one in which the principal is transferred from one failing school and assigned to another school or a central office position within the same school district. A theoretical framework was utilized to identify a principal’s antecedent conditions, cognitive appraisals, and coping mechanisms. The model aided in categorizing the principals’ reactions to their involuntary transfers or removals from their schools. This phenomenological study was located in a large urban school district in WNY where 17 semi-structured interviews were conducted. The study revealed that the former or current principals overall appraised their involuntary transfers as a Threat (negative), Challenge (positive) or Unaffected (indifferent). The data gleaned from the study include critical information to shape and implement policy surrounding how school reform ultimately affects a principal, which may lead to unintended human consequences.