NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL VOLUME 26, NUMBER 3, 2009-2010

A SUPERINTENDENT’S RESPONSIVENESS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT CULTURE
Henry Williams Central Washington University
ABSTRACT This article examines a Superintendent’s responsiveness to the school culture component of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). An analysis of the development of school culture by the late John Stanford, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools was the focus is the focus of the article. When he took over as superintendent of Seattle schools, many complained that he had no knowledge of education, he is a military person, and they cannot see how he will be able to work with the largest school district in Washington State. To the amazement of everyone in Seattle, during his short tenure in the school district, he was able to turn the down trodden Seattle school district into something the students, staff, state legislatures and the community embraced. The late John Stanford, was the cheerleader at rallies, the chef for elementary school students and great communicator with all people. He had a vision for self, staff and community, and to sustain it, he was always available.

Introduction

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nterstate School leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standard 2 states us that a school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program that is conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. By addressing culture in a standard, it is obvious that culture is important to those charged with defining “good school leaders”. This standard speaks to the need of a school leader to understand the importance of a positive school culture and its impact on student learning. Culture is based on common norms, values and beliefs. Culture is the glue that holds schools together or keeps it in tatters. It defines the group and gives it a sense of identity that sets it apart from other
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groups. Culture enhances the stability of the school district and it establishes appropriate behavior standards for members of the group. Culture can gives the members a sense of organizational mission. The culture of a school district affects the outcomes for children, the satisfaction of the staff and the perceptions of the community. There is increasing evidence that a Culture of Trust promotes student achievement and improvement, even after controlling for the socioeconomic status of the school (Bryk and Schneider, 2002; Goddard, Tschannen-Moran, 1999; Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 2003; Tschannen-Moran and Hoy, 2000; Tschannen-Moran, 2003). While creating a culture of trust may take work, it is certainly easier than trying to change the socioeconomic of families or other such outside factors. Likewise, a culture of academic optimism in a school district has strong positive impact on school achievement, even controlling for socioeconomic factors, previous success and other demographic variables (Hoy,Tarter, and Woolfolk-Hoy, 2006a, 2006b; McGuigan and Hoy, in press; Smith and Hoy, 2006). Academic optimism creates a culture with collective beliefs and norms that view teachers as capable, students as willing, parents as supportive, and academic success as achievable. By creating a culture of academics optimism, schools can positively affect student achievement despite outside factors. Also, the culture of control in a school impacts the outcomes for students. When schools with a custodial culture of control were compared to schools with a humanistic culture of control research showed that custodial school had more alienated students than humanistic ones (Hoy, 1972). Humanistic schools provide healthy social climates that lead to the development of more mature self images for students (Diebert and Hoy, 1977). Additionally, there is a positive relationship between students’ perception of their schools as humanistic and their motivation, problem solving and seriousness to learn (Lunenburg, 1983) as well as their positive perceptions of school life (Lunenburg and Schmidt, 1989).

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The culture of efficacy of a school usually has a positive impact student learning. Collective Efficacy is the shared perception that school personnel in the school district are all striving to provide a positive effect on students. In his study of collective teacher efficacy and student achievement, Bandura (1993) discovered two key findings: (1) student achievement was significantly and positively related to collective efficacy and (2) collective efficacy had a greater effect on student achievement than did student socioeconomic status. Subsequent research has supported these findings (Goddard, Hoy and Woolfolk-Hoy, 2000, 2004; Goddard, Sweetland and Hoy, 2000; Goddard 2001; Goddard, 2002b; Hoy, Sweetland and Smith, 2002; Hoy, Smith and Sweetland, 2002b; Goddard, Hoy and LoGerfo, 2003; Goddard, LoGerfo and Hoy, 2004). By taking the time and making the effort to create a culture of collective efficacy, the schools in the district will have a positive impact on student achievement. So, how can a superintendent be culturally responsive? The superintendent and personnel must be positive role model. Superintendents should be the one to develop the shared-vision, be hardworking, and committed to achieving the utmost endeavor for himself/herself and the people he/she is working with at the schools. The superintendent should mirror pride in the school and everyone, including the students to make suggestion and recommendations for improvement. School district leaders must be effective communicators. The superintendent should have the charisma and power to move people toward set community goals. A good example of a charismatic leader was the late John Stanford, Superintendent of Seattle public Schools. When he took over as superintendent of Seattle schools, many complained that he had no knowledge of education, he is a military person, and they cannot see how he will be able to work with the largest school district in Washington State. To the amazement of everyone in Seattle, during his short tenure in the school district, he was able to turn the down trodden Seattle school district into something the students, staff, state legislatures and the community embraced.

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The superintendent was the cheerleader at rallies, the chef for elementary school students and great communicator with all people. He had a vision for self, staff and community, and to sustain it, he was always available. The late superintendent had special communication techniques delegating school functions. The superintendent proposes that central-office staff spend one day a week helping in schools which was generally adopted by the staff. As a leader, he was always in contact with staff, faculty, principals and students, and demonstrates understanding, loving, firmness, enthusiasm, plus a great sense of humor. Another important strategy to sustain change has to do with planning. All staff members need to be aware of where the school wants to be in five years and how their contribution is paramount. The superintendent charge himself with the responsibility for making sure that program goals are consistent with the vision of the school, the district, and the community. In Seattle, the late superintendent’s dream was to make sure that every child is able to read at his/her age level. The superintendent proposed a community wide “reading offensive” that prompted the donation of thousands of books to school libraries in the district. He called himself a “child crusader.” Teachers were empowered with a sense of ownership of the programs to be implemented in the classrooms. Teachers were expected to institute continues needs assessment of goal for student achievement. The school district adopted a three-year contract that promotes shared decision-making, treats teachers as valued professionals, and links teacher evaluation to student achievement. Community involvement was part of his plan and parents embraced it. Based on the school district’s data analysis report, the superintendent solicited parents input in planning, recognized their contribution, and encouraged staff to enlist the support of parents for special needs. Another factor to be cognizant of in cultural responsiveness has to do with school wide values that support learning. In a cultural

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responsive organization, the parents, community, administrators, and students can shape the learning environment and culture of the school. If cultural responsiveness is to be sustained, there should be a clear definition of appropriate behavior for teachers, students, school leaders, and the community. Positive expectations from the parents and community can bring extra boost to school culture. When the administration attempts to build connections among the parents, community, school personnel and students, the whole group feel that these connections have enrich their decision-making, enhanced, and sustained improvement possibilities in the school district. The late superintendent established a clear vision, mission, and a comprehensive strategic plan which outlines goals, expected outcomes, and timeline for all of the major functions in the system. The school district set quantifiable targets for student achievement and defined exits standards for students in grades 5, 8, and 11. In other to sustain the academic changes that are taking place in the school system, the former superintendent lunched a citywide reading campaign to make every child a reader in the city. Ask for and expect cooperation from faculty and staff. The best-intentioned leader can be undermined in efforts to improve school district culture, if he/she does not have the cooperation and collaboration of the classroom teachers and community. A district leader may be determined and hopeful that his plans for improvement succeed, but if he/she has personnel members behind him or her “making faces” and feeling left out of the plan, or otherwise disenchanted, the culture of improvement may be stifled. Efforts must be made to invite cooperation and to solicit understanding and fairness from the staff. In Seattle schools, a principal’s academy was established to help principals become chief executive officers of their schools. This plan got a boost with major business donation to help train principals see themselves in new leadership role. To sustain the reforms that were taking place, principals were moved to different schools. The move became a key strategy to influence students, staff and the community at large for school district academic improvement. In one of the worst performing middle schools in Seattle, the late

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superintendent offered the principal the freedom to select her own staff, and allocated $310,000 from state magnet grant money to be used for school improvement. The principal at the school had the liberty in hiring staff. Opportunity to work in the school in which changes were occurring attracted top teachers from other schools. In this particular school, the principal, staff, and parents worked to put forward a revised schedule for 80 minute classes a day instead of 50 minutes period. Because of the change, teachers have 90 students each semester to work with. The block scheduling enabled the students to participate in the major subject areas as a group. The block schedule arranged the students into “houses,” providing small-school feeling within the larger school according to the principal. Advisement periods of 15-20 minutes with class size of 25 students. The advisement teachers were the students advocate in school, and a first line of contact according to the principal. To sustain the changes that were taking place in this school, a family center room was created to provide refuge for students and social service contacts for parents. The late superintendent created school district/corporate compacts in environmental education, work-to-school, the arts, technology and international language and culture. So, what did Seattle school district do to invigorate the education system? Based on school district’s student performance data results, it was made clear that changes are going to be made based on the performance of principals and staff. Principals are strategically placed in schools to work sustain the changes that are implemented in the schools. The superintendent considered principals as the CEO’s of their building. They created a school-based management and families had the opportunity to choose what elementary schools to send their children and end mandatory busing. According to the former acting superintendent, the superintendent makes it clear that teachers, principals and other district officials are fully responsible for student achievement.

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Finally, a system of funding to provide more money for students who are learning English or from low-income families was implemented. The school district negotiated a new contract with the teachers’ union that allows principals, in consultation with the teachers, to hire teachers they want for their school. The late superintendent developed a more positive classroom and school culture by setting firm and effective standards. Student responsibility increased through the cultivation of trust and respect for authorities and school system. The school district established expectations for teachers, students and parents. The whole community strived to work successfully with troubled and undisciplined students, and by striving to conceive a discipline program that increases positive student pride and responsibility, while reducing teacher stress. Energy was concentrated on development of a workable in-school suspension programs that will support teachers and students while reducing the necessity for out-of-school suspensions.

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REFERENCES Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychology, 28, 117-48. Bryk, A.S., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Diebert, J.P., & Hoy, W.K. (1977). Custodial high schools and selfactualization of students. Educational Research Quarterly, 2, 24-31. Goddard, R.D., (2001). Collective efficacy: A neglected construct in the study of schools and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(3), 467-76. Goddard, R.D., (2002b). Collective efficacy and school organization: A multilevel analysis of teacher influences in schools. In W.K. Hoy and C. Miskel (Eds.), Theory and Research in Educational Administration (Vol. 1, pp169-84). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K., & LoGerfo, L. (2003, April). Collective efficacy and student achievement in public high school: A path analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 479-508. Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2004). Collective efficacy: Theoretical development, empirical evidence and future directions. Educational Researcher, 33, 3-13. Goddard, R.D., LoGerfo, L, & Hoy, W.K. (2004). High school accountability: The role of collective efficacy. Educational Policy, 18(30), 403-25.

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Goddard, R.D., Sweetland, S.R., & Hoy, W.K. (2000a). Academic emphasis and student achievement in urban elementary schools. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Association, New Orleans. Goddard, R.D., Sweetland, S.R., & Hoy, W.K. (2000b). Academic emphasis of urban elementary schools and student achievement: A multi-level analysis. Educational Administration Quarterly, 5, 683-702. Goddard, R.D., Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, W.K. (2001). Teacher trust in students and parents: A multilevel examination of the distribution and effect of teacher trust in urban elementary schools. Elementary School Journal. 102, 3-17. Hoy, W.K. (1972). Dimensions of student alienation and characteristics of public high schools. Interchange, 3, 38-51. Hoy, W.K., Tarter, C.J., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2006a). Academic optimism of schools: A second-order confirmatory factor analysis. In Wayne K. Hoy and Cecil Miskel (Eds.), Contemporary Issues in Educational Policy and School Outcomes (pp.135-57). Greenwich, CT: Information Age. Hoy, W.K., Tarter, C.J., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2006b). Academic optimism of schools: An important force for student achievement. Ohio State University, Unpublished research paper. Hoy, W.K., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2003). The conceptualization and measurement of faculty trust in schools. In W.K. Hoy and C. Miskel (Eds.). Studies in Leading and Organizing Schools (pp181-207). Lilly, Dick (1998). School board determined to carry on Stanford’s plans. The Seattle Times Company. McGuigan, L., & Hoy, W.K. (in press). Creating a culture of optimism to improve school achievement. Leadership and Policies in Schools.

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Smith, P.A., & Hoy, W.K. (2006). Academic optimism and student achievement in urban elementary schools. Ohio State University, unpublished research paper. Tschannen-Moran, M. (2004). Trust matters: Leadership for successful schools. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, W.K. (2000). A multidisciplinary analysis of the nature, meaning and measurement of trust. Review of Educational Research, 70, 547-93.

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