Principals' leadership practices in the context of state assessments

Date of Completion

January 2002


Education, Administration




The purpose of the study is to examine the leadership practices of school principals within the context of student academic assessment. A questionnaire was developed for the study, which was completed by 105 principals. First, the principals rated leadership practices in assessment in terms of implementation level at their school. Second, they rated the importance of implementing selected leadership practices when considering responses to scenarios containing assessment issues. Third, they responded to a series of open-ended questions dealing with influences of state mandated assessment on teaching and instruction, their role and responsibility associated with this assessment, and best practices in improving test scores. The principals' responses were analyzed for themes and patterns using the Bolman and Deal (1997) organizational frameworks as organizing constructs and according to such demographic characteristics as school level, district setting, years' of principal experience, and gender. ^ Results of the study indicated that the most frequently implemented practice in assessment was working at developing and maintaining a positive school culture, a dimension of the symbolic framework. Four of the seven leadership practices frequently implemented fell within Bolman and Deal's structural framework, and the practices implemented the least fell within the political framework. ^ Principals generally felt many positive influences on teaching and instruction in their school from state mandated assessments, but only 28.6% perceived CT assessments as “high stakes” in terms of rewards and punishments. Forty-seven percent of the principals perceived “high stakes” associations on a personal and professional level as impacting their role as principal. Generally the principals chose strategies addressing key issues in assessment that were supported by best practices. Practical suggestions offered by the principals for improving test scores included data-based decision making, teacher empowerment, and professional development. Significant differences were found in the responses according to demographic characteristics. ^ The findings provide a profile of the issues surrounding state assessment in Connecticut and its influence on the practices of school principals. The outcomes of this study are relevant for principals currently dealing with complicated leadership issues in assessment, such as student underachievement. ^