The High School Principal's Perceptions of the Demands, Constraints, and Choices in Their Work as Instructional Leaders

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A principal's major role is that of an instructional leader, which, according to research, if done in isolation inhibits his or her effectiveness. Current literature reveals a paucity of research that examines how high school principals balance the demands and constraints of their jobs, while cultivating instructional leadership among their staff. This study described the choices that four high school principals made to focus on instructional leadership, in spite of dealing with the demands and constraints of their jobs. The participating principals have varying years of experience and work in a diverse suburban school district in Maryland. A short survey captured the principals' backgrounds, and face-to-face interviews answered research questions about the demands and constraints of their jobs. The survey used was based on the research work of Rosemary Stewart (1982). The study revealed the principals' perceptions of the instructional and non-instructional demands of their jobs. The researcher used the Maryland Instructional Leadership Framework to categorize the principals' responses as instructional leaders and employed Bolman and Deal's (2006) theoretical paradigm to determine whether the principals used a symbolic, structural, human resources, or political frame to conceptualize their roles and responsibilities. The findings indicate that these four high school principals each took on a distributed leadership approach to instruction. The principals worked closely with assistant principals, department chairpersons, staff development teachers, and other key leaders in their focus on instruction. The principals described the importance of having clear roles and responsibilities for staff and of providing opportunities for staff to develop their abilities through leadership experiences and professional development opportunities. The findings support existing research regarding distributed leadership and the myriad responsibilities of school principals. The findings further support the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), which state that the primary role of the school principal is instructional leadership and asserts that all other non-instructional responsibilities are secondary. This study informs research on the choices that high school principals make to focus on instructional leadership.