Cognitive moral development of Connecticut public school principals as measured by Rest's Defining Issues Test

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Administration




The research involved with this study attempted to identify the levels of cognitive moral development of Connecticut's public school principals using the Defining Issues Test-2 (Rest & Narvaez, 1998) as its instrument of survey. An effort was made to distinguish between participants by gender, age, school management level, educational degree level, and political tendency. The study's purpose was to provide a baseline of information regarding the cognitive moral development of the state's building principals. The work of Goodland, Soder, and Siromik (1990) address a fundamental void in the ethical preparation of educators. The authors point to a critical lack of discourse regarding the moral dimensions of teaching in the current curricula associated with teaching. Additionally, a study of pre-service education students (Cummings, 2002) presented interesting data indicating the need for additional research that examines ethical behaviors and moral reasoning in prospective and practicing educators. A fundamental problem for educational leaders is the notion that there exists one set of ethics for one's private life and another set of ethics for one's professional, public life (Bull and McCarthy, 1995). A particular idiosyncrasy of their jobs is that, as public school officials, educational leaders have responsibilities that go beyond those of other citizens and are entrusted to enforce public values. Oftentimes, members of diverse groups regard terms like equal opportunity, intellectual honesty, and instructional effectiveness differently. Frequently, as a result, educational leaders misunderstand the role of their private values, and the supposed public values, in offering justification and interpretation for their initiatives. Instead, they find themselves embroiled in ethical controversy that threatens the moral dimensions of their professional responsibilities (Bull and McCarthy, 1995). Therefore, it was the hope of this study to gain some meaningful understanding of the status of ethical thinking among the current population of Connecticut's principals. A poor rate of return of responses to the survey, however, made it impossible to cast overarching conclusions regarding the general population of the state's public school principals. The study, therefore, restricted itself to a discussion and analysis of the survey's sample population and is without external validity or generalizability. ^