America’s high schools have an important role to play in preparing students for college and work in the 21st century. In the last decade, schools have been impacted by such things as technological advances, changes in society, a shortage of qualified educators, and increased accountability pressures. Calls for dramatic reform in our educational organizations will no doubt change the way our schools will be doing business in the future.
School success is more important now than ever before for the health of our economy. Due to our current economic conditions, high school reform is of particular importance as Federal, State, and Local leaders devote attention and resources to improving high school graduation rates and increasing the attainment of college and work readiness.
The definition of leadership adopted by Yukl and Van Fleet in their seminal literature review states that leadership is, “a process that includes influencing the task objectives and strategies of a group or organization, and influencing people in the organization” (Yukl, 1992). According to the American Educational Research Association findings from research on school leadership, the following claims were submitted:
1. Leadership has significant effects on student learning, second only to the effects of the quality of curriculum and teachers’ instruction.
2. Other potential sources of leadership exist besides administrators and teacher leaders.
3. A core set of “basic” leadership practices are valuable: articulating a vision, setting high expectations for performance, facilitating the acceptance of group goals, monitoring performance, communicating, offering intellectual stimulation, providing individualized support, strengthening positive school culture, building collaboration processes, and maintaining a positive environment.
4. Successful school leaders accept policies that emphasize accountability as opportunities. These principals create a competitive school by empowering others to make decisions, providing instructional leadership, and performing strategic planning efforts.
5. Successful school leaders understand the challenges of educating diverse groups of students. These principals see this challenge as an opportunity to build powerful forms of teaching and learning, develop strong communities in schools, and nurture the development of families’ educational culture.
Most effective schools studies have identified school leadership as a key characteristic to being a successful and effective school. Most of these studies also indicate that good schools have good principals. These principals are considered good because they are able to articulate a common vision (U.S. Department of Education, 1996 embraced (Hodges 2000).
For public school systems in the United States, high school graduation rates represent a key indicator of school performance. Schools and districts in which more students earn high school diplomas are generally regarded as better performers than those school districts with more students dropping out of school. Engaging students in school and helping them work toward graduation is a critical task for many educators at this time. We all can play an important role in providing quality school leadership in our schools. Key points to keep in mind related to school leadership are:
· Everyone should take on a leadership role in educating our children.
· Be active in local school decision making.
· Volunteer your time and expertise to local schools.
Barbara Baggerly-Hinojosa is a mother, educator, and wife living in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She is a PhD student with Our Lady of the Lake University in Leadership Studies. Mrs. Baggerly-Hinojosa is the President of the Leadership Empowerment Group, LLC and is currently researching the relationship between the leadership of the high school principal and the high school drop out rate. Mrs. Baggerly-Hinojosa is the author of Are You A Ten? The Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader. For ordering information, please contact Mrs. Baggerly-Hinojosa at Barb313679@aol.com.