Elementary Principals' Perceptions of a Leadership Development Training Program

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Jones, Lisa Michelle
Parham, Carol S
Research indicates that school leaders are crucial to improving instruction and raising student achievement (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2008). As such, educational reforms such as the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) and Race to the Top (2009) have sparked an accountability movement where principals are being held accountable for students' academic achievement and educational outcomes. The shift towards greater accountability has placed new attention on the ways principals are trained. Researchers have noted that organized professional development programs have not adequately prepared school principals to meet the priority demands of the 21st century (Hale & Moorman, 2003; Murphy, 1994). Murphy (1994) stated, "Traditional preparation programs - usually pre-service programs based in colleges or universities, that awarded certification and advanced degrees - rarely concentrated on the leadership challenges that principals actually face in real schools" (p. 4). As a result, many school districts are seeking ways to develop leadership development training programs that will prepare principals for their job responsibilities as a school leader. In spite of the additional training principals receive, researchers suggests that there is an obvious gap between the readiness of administrators to be instructional leaders and the demands for accountability that school administrators face (Hale & Moorman, 2003). This quantitative study examined elementary school principals' perceptions of their leadership development training program. Guided by four research questions, the study examined principals' perceptions of their overall training and how well their training prepared them to deal with school and classroom practices that contribute to student achievement; to work with teachers and others to design and implement a system for continuous student achievement; and to provide necessary support to carry out sound school, curriculum, and instructional practices. Data for this study was collected by way of survey responses from a total of 46 elementary school principals. The results from the study revealed that more than half (58.7%) of participants perceived their training as excellent. While principals' perceived that their training adequately prepared them to work collaboratively in teams, set clear visions and goals, and to use data to improve students achievement, many respondents reported a lack of training in being informed and focused on student achievement. Principals also suggested that they were not effectively trained in finding effective ways to obtain support from central office or community members.