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Why Does Effective Leadership Make a Difference in High Poverty Schools?
The concept of leadership has been with mankind since his existence and it has been improved over time. Leadership is what shape how successful or not a society is in this case high poverty schools. Leadership refer to a process whereby an individual has the ability to influence thoughts, ideas and actions of others in achieving a set of preset goals, tasks, duties and responsibilities (Hogan & Craig, 2008). To have successful and highly motivated human product, how their thoughts are influenced is of significance importance.
This not being enough, effective leadership which generally refers to the way of showing others the way forward by influencing their actions, beliefs and feelings by employing the most appropriate style at their disposal in light of the situation at hand is the major contributory factor especially in high-poverty schools. 90/90/9 schools which are generally high-poverty school and defined by Reeves 2003 as schools constituted of slightly above 90% of student being eligible to be provided with free and reduced lunch 90% and above of the students come from members of ethnic minority and lastly over 90% of the students in these schools do meet the district and or state academic standards as concerns learning and other areas that pertains education. Such schools are characterized by poverty which has been thought to refer to a situation whereby there is the lack of basic human needs, for instance food, clean water, health care, education, clothing and shelter due to incapacity to afford them (Jacobson, 2005). These attributes jeopardized learning of students.
It is leadership that articulates vision of the organization and later provides strategic direction for attainment of the objectives and goals in line with the mission and vision of the organization. Leadership is responsible in imbuing commitment to those values shared within any organization as well as creation of an environment for teamwork, provision of meaning, sustaining high productivity and morale in place of schools, transforming, sustaining and transmitting culture of an organization as well as motivating staff and students and raising commitment to high quality production. In addition, it is leadership that is responsible for shaping organizational strategic readiness, creating a safer and conducive working environment for all employees.
A growing body of research has successfully illustrated the need for strong leadership in enhancing student achievement (Fullan, 2001; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005, Hallinger and Heck, 1996) reported that school leaders account for almost 5% of the variation in test scores, or roughly 25% of all in-school variables, although others find that these effects may to be stronger in the U.K. and U.S. than in countries such as the Netherlands (Creemers & Kyriakides, 2007; Witziers Bosker & Kruger, 2003).
There are a number of student challenges that need to be addressed such as: poor nutrition, inadequate health services, high rates of illiteracy, and criminal activities that include drug and substance abuse. Teachers also deal with high rates of student transience, absence and indiscipline. This greatly hinders productivity. Nevertheless, legislative mandates in the U.S. now hold schools directly accountable for student performance, even in the face of such daunting challenges. The 2002 No Child Left behind (NCLB) federal legislation in the U.S. is one of these laws. While, NCLB has been the target of withering criticism that has attacked, among other things, the high stakes standardized testing regimes used to evaluate annual student progress as well as the lack of sufficient funding necessary to provide teachers with on-going professional development, the fundamental underpinnings of the legislation, that is, to make sure that every American child, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or wealth, be given the chance to succeed, was supported by both sides of the political aisle. But, as Rebell and Wolffe, 2008 point out:
“The cruel irony of the American education system is that low-income and minority children who come to school with the greatest educational deficits generally have the fewest resources and least expertise devoted to their needs - and therefore the least opportunity to improve their futures.”
The major attributes associated with poverty which includes hunger, homelessness, lack of job employment, drug abuse, illiteracy, fatalistic minds among others must be managed in high poverty schools so that such schools can be in a position to send happy and highly motivated learners to the world. As suggested by Edmonds 1979, what makes a difference in whatever kind of school and especially those characterized by high-level of poverty in achieving excellent academic results and sending motivated individuals to the world is the style of leadership.
A study by Elwood back in 1989 reveal shocking results concerning economic position of children and he found out that from 1969, the situation has been worsening. Slightly above 25% of White students lived in poverty up from 10.5 and for Black students the rate stood at 42%.
On the same note there is clearly evidence that according to United States Department of Education, 2006 that poverty does influence scores of students and those who are at high poverty schools are at more risk of performing poorly as compared to their counterparts in low poverty schools. These students score less marks as compared to their counterparts in low poverty schools. There was a sharp fall in terms of academic performance with an increased level of poverty (Chenoweth, 2007).
Despite all these negative attributes and a number of challenges facing school principals, while trying to run the day to day activities of their schools, there are several notable high poverty schools that have performed exceptionally well. This kind of performance is attributed to the styles of leadership exhibited by their leaders, the principals.
Coming up with a conducive environment for learning in high poverty-schools do encompass a number of activities such as supporting families as well as caring and addressing challenges facing students. Most of such schools do not meet the learning needs of students as well as their families (Kouzes & Posner, 1987). For this reason, a number of researches carried out clearly support the need for high poverty schools to have well informed, compassionate as well as committed individuals in the forefront (leaders) having adequate knowledge, will, skills, ability and positive attitude towards creation of a learning environment that is effective and successful.
Irrefutable laws of effective leadership
The irrefutable 21 laws of leadership include; the law of the lid, its acknowledged that every individual have their own outdoing or limiting factor to make great ideas real, the law suggests that such person should identify these factors and try to remove them from their path to success. Most high-poverty schools that are a success despite their state have mastered this law. This law covers the principle of leadership that require leaders to know clearly know who they are and how to be a better leader. The law of influence, leadership is nothing less than influencing thought, ideas and actions of other aimed at achieving set goals, without influence one cannot be a leader. The law of process considers the fact that for a leader to achieve their goals, a process is clearly laid developed and followed, a step by step process is vital for success as one leads successfully to the next this help in attaining the principle of ensuring that duties and tasks are comprehended, supervised and accomplished.
The law of navigation indicates that the achievement of tasks is not as vital as why and how these tasks are arrived at, it’s important to follow steps that are safe and efficient in trying to accomplish goals in an organization. With this, the steps followed can be replicated later and suitable adjustments made whenever necessary based on situation on hand. In this way the principles of rational and timely decision making as well as seeking and taking responsibility for leader’s action is addressed. This principle of making timely decision is captured in the law of timing. Good leaders make decision at the right time to seize any given opportunities despite the hurdles. Developing a sense of responsibility in workers is another principle fully addressed in the law of legacy and reproduction. These ensure that current leaders adequately prepare individuals to take charge and do what the current leader is doing in future.
The law of sacrifice calls for leaders to forsake such thing as current salary, time for leisure and family as well as carrying out task beyond and above what is expected of them-principle of setting an example in the organization. Principals in hig-poverty schools that are a success in terms of academic achievement among others research shows have sacrificed a lot in making the school what it is. The laws of priority help leaders to put down a list of activities to be carried out in an order of importance, this helps in ensuring that timely and rational decisions are made. A Law of E.F. Hutton coin to the idea of being listened to this is attributed to ones character, success in the past and experience. This hence facilitates rely of information from the leader to his the teaching staff as well as students. Law of Buy In as noted by Maxwell ensures that leaders provide the best example as subordinate tend to do right thing when leaders promote it. It’s important that subordinates have strong belief in their leaders. Law of the big Mo depicts that in the initial steps, if success is attained, then this set very good pace for success of subsequent steps hence accomplishing the tasks in hand (Kouzes & Posner, 1987). Law of empowerment makes leaders provide opportunities for their followers to carry their duties and responsibilities with a sense of ownership, creating trust vital for success of the leader and the school.
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The law of connection help leaders appreciate the fact that to be emotionally associated with the goals and other workers is an important tool for successful leadership, secondly leaders have to ‘touch’ ones heart before being assisted in attaining his targets (Kouzes &Posner, 1999). Law of inner circle depicts that for great leadership, one has to be in association of very supportive family, friends as well as subordinate staffs. Leaders do require other individuals to carry out their duties as they do not have all knowledge necessary for running of an organization they work for. In the law of magnetism, leader does attract the kind of people similar to them in all aspects to make sure the task a head is accomplished and possibly leading to creation of other leaders.
Laws of solid ground and respect generally bring about mutual relationship between the leader and his followers; this is of significance in creating a conducive and successful environment for learning. The law of explosive growth requires that for development of any organization, leaders should show every member the right path to follow-how to accomplish the task successfully. Other laws are law of victory and intuition. All these laws fully describe the principles of leaderships which are; using full capabilities of an institution, training as a team, knowing who you are and try to improve, having a technical know how, responsibility-based management, making rational and timely decisions, setting examples, knowing ones workers and check for their well being, making information available for followers, developing a sense of responsibility to followers, and ensuring that tasks are comprehended and finally training.
Types of leaders in high-poverty schools
Transformational leader is whereby the one at the helm engenders change in individual employees as well as the social system. Such leaders usually identifies the kind of change necessary within an organization, he/she then come up with a vision that will help give direction via inspiring the entire team, the change is then implemented with the commitment of all the members of the team (Bass, 1998).
This style of leadership (transformational) stems from neocharismatic leadership theories, leaders are capable of leading organizations to attain outstanding accomplishments despite serious challenges being faced by schools, founding and growing very successful firms, the leaders are capable of amassing extraordinary respect, loyalty, dedication, excellent performance, motivation, admiration, commitment and huge followers, leaders in this group also stress symbolic and emotionally appeal leadership behavior for instance visionary, empowering, role modeling, risk taking, offer support, adaptive, image building, intellectual stimulation, leaders also identify themselves with organization’s vision values (House & Aditya, 1997).
According to Kouzes and Posner, 1999 transformational leaders usually challenge the process and are ready to take risks, they inspire a shared vision by envisioning a formulated vision and encourage and enlist the group members in pursuing that future, enable other team members to act via encouraging collaboration, empowering and strengthening them, they model the way by consistently practicing their own values and setting examples to the followers and they also encourage the hearth by giving positive feedback, recognize individual contribution and celebrate group accomplishment.
The spin doctor
This type of leader have all attributes that a leader opt to have but it is worth noting that their behaviors are not in line with a number of attributes that describe an effective leaders and in most cases are self-serving. These kinds of leaders are characterized with undeveloped confidence, for this reason, they are not known to venture in risky activities to enhance success and attainment of performances using unpopular ways/ mechanisms (Kouzes & Posner, 1987). However, leaders categorized under this group are distinguished from others by their abilities to convincingly argue a case out and successfully justifying the same to their subordinates as well as students.
It is worth to note that this category of leaders do act in a manner that is characterized by cautious optimism as well as a desire to make it a parent that specific predetermined goals and objective set by the school especially in terms of academic excellence are attained. They are ready to employ all tact as well as resources at their disposal to make it happen while adequately making each and every one within the institution play a part and at the same time feel incorporated towards attainment of the objectives at hand (Burns, 1978). Additionally, these leaders clearly depict strong belief in their commitment as well as the things they intend to do in order for the whole system to remain on course. Another characteristic that paints the leaders the other picture is that enforcers in most cases have a tendency to bound alternatives, this in most cases work against them if indeed there are a variety of options to better make a decision. Lastly, enforcer lacks the courage to take action in instances where there are high risk potentials.
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The deal maker
Deal maker encompass individuals who are capable of winning the hearts of a larger number of their followers. This is attributed to their energy as well as excitement for anything that has not been tried before. These kinds of leaders are the best to have when it comes to adopting change within the school. Deal makers usually do extremely well in the face of change and are usually credited for breaking the mold. In most high-poverty schools that have achieved academic excellence despite all odd they face, principles who exhibit this kind of leadership rise to fame for what they have done to bringing their schools in the limelight in terms of academic performance. Similarly, deal makers are very strong when it comes to making as well as venturing in risky activities provided they are geared to wards achieving success. However, their downfall is that these kinds of leaders are not capable of or rather have little desire or regards to sustain the performance attained after initial success is attained.
The serial entrepreneur
The serial entrepreneur are the set of leaders that are full of imagination, nonetheless, they are full of calculation as well as gambling. Additionally, these leaders are capable of sweeping their followers making them to follow what they intend to achieve. This is so because they are full of energy and commitment, have the potential to successfully making what are being seen to be impossible challenges as well as other stumbling blocks achievable. Leaders under this category are characterized by their strong desire to take risk, having conviction and capable of challenging change the positive way. Additionally, they care so much regarding their legacy while on the other hand move violently to articulate the broader context of their decisions in a way that is meaningful to their subordinates. However, they are generally weak when it comes to imposing context as well as generating critical mass.
Those school principles under this category of leaders have been thought of as strategic executors who are very clear on what is supposed to be done and attained; they heartlessly or ruthlessly follow through so that the predetermined goals and objectives are attained no matter what. Strictly speaking these leaders are autocratic in nature, the manner with which they approach issues and they won’t let anything stand their way in their quest to attain the overall objectives of the schools as regards academic excellence. They are also very strong in imposing context to their subjects and generate critical mass (Kouzes &Posner, 1999). Administrators do prefer detailed and rigorous project plans; constantly monitor events, like being up to date with events within the schools. Similarly, they exhibit very strict and tight control over various resources within the school as well as the followers (Kouzes & Posner, 1987).
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Effective leadership and high-poverty schools
It has been acknowledged and established that several; schools currently are not in a position to help support as well as foster student learning (Persall). It is true that several students at present do go through learning at different degree as others fail to impress the job market due to failing terribly. A greater proportion of failing exams in some of high-poverty schools has been attributed to how the school principle exercises their daily duties. Research has shown that a good number of school principles do engage themselves in tasks concerning administration. By doing so these principles more often than note do lose contact with student, teachers, other school employees as well as what goes on in classrooms
Other studies carried out by Druian and Butler (2001) also found out that a stronger kind of leadership dictates and is indeed one of the major factors that in most cases contribute to a school and its entire system to be successful or not. Similarly the two held that a good leadership quality is instrumental in contributing to high-poverty school success as compared to the various well drafted programs as well as resources for education.
School leaders especially the principles who are at the helm of schools opt to serve as motivators to all individuals within the system day in day out to achieving the desired goals and objective which is none other than academic excellence as well as producing student that are well competent to meet the desires of the changing world. According to Klug, 1989school principles opt to influence the degree of how they motivate their followers probably by “shaping the school ‘s instructional climate” which will definitely impact on the attitudes and perception of all primary stakeholders which encompass parents, teachers, students and more importantly the community at large with regards to learning and knowledge acquisition. By being in a position to successfully such a culture in high-poverty schools, school principals are thus capable of increasing both students as well as teachers motivation and indirectly impacting on enhance academic performance.
Other scholars namely Leithwood & Montgomery, 1984 hold that when principals are personally motivated, such motivation can be easily felt in part of the students as well as the teaching staff via the functioning of goals. In instances that school principal’s offer encouragement now frequently to both students and teachers there is increased motivation which in turn results to increased academic excellence in part of the students. It has been also argued that indeed there are a number of strategies that can be put in place to ensure that student and teachers are motivated. Similarly, students can be catalyzed or encouraged to set goals and determine the best way to learn. When students are given room to be actively involved in deriving such ways, they will come to school in regular basis because they hold the opinion that they are indeed valued since their opinion count. As a result they will definitely work more hard which results to increased academic performance despite the various odds they face compared to their counterpart.
According to Gleason, 2002 she held that school head are the key to either success or failure of especially high-poverty schools. Through her research, we are made to establish that schools located in urban centers that performed extremely well academically and in o0ther sphere had at their disposal principals that had exhibited a myriad of good leadership qualities, ready to adopt change as well as being effective. To make high-poverty school shine, principals mostly centers on the whole school on instruction and offer emerging information to their followers more so to teachers, students and other support staff, create a structure that fosters active involvement of all stakeholders, lead in talking about how student work, perform, achievement in terms of academics as well as the mission of the schools. Additionally, those principals deemed to be effective seem to spend more of their time in heightening the morale of both teachers and students, they also help teachers to center on instruction, encourage and support high levels of academic achievement in students and more importantly creating a conducive environment for learning. They also closely look and analyze how student in their schools perform in order to successfully identify where students are weak and why making appropriate adjustment to counter the problem (Burns, 1978). Similarly, effective principals do aid in proper allocation of resources that are deemed necessary to both students and staff.
An example of effective leader can be seen Ms. Wilcher a principal in James Ward Elementary School in Chicago a high-poverty school (Kouzes &Posner, 1999). According to her, she said during an interview that she actively help teaching staff to collaborate as well as supporting one another. Similarly, it was apparent from her word that constantly improving how her students perform academically is her central focus. It is no doubt that these are just among the attributes she posses that saw to it that the school did receive several accords ranging from district to state for greatly improving in terms of academic performance over the years despite its status and the challenges it faces.
Another example of an effective leader is Smith a principal at J.L Francis Elementary School in Richmond. Record proves that 70% of students come from low income background. Despite such a background, students in this school in grade five were among those ranked to have scored highly on SOL tests in Virginia. The principal has been applauded for consistently concentrating in academic performance. The leader offer after school tutoring, games that are educative as well as providing both student and teachers academic trips on weekends. What this ahs achieved is motivated staff and students. More importantly, the principal stages a number of workshops where parents are actively engaged in a number of issues regarding student achievement for instance skills that their student must have to be adequately capable of passing SOL exams.
It has also been established that effective leadership has mastered the concept of providing students in high-poverty schools emotional support (Sinclair, 2007). This is not only to students but also to their families and teaching staff. Having in place a caring, giving, highly motivated staff, dedicated and hard working staff comes with having an effective leader in place. For instance, principal of Harrison says, “Every one here is for the kids, it is a course” (Kouzes &Posner, 1999). Principals in high-poverty school when are effective in leading their followers make the whole school community to go an extra mile in trying to reach to parents as well as their children in order to make them feel and see beyond reasonable doubt that they are cared for and can attain success. The principle is to make all individuals in the school to be strong-willed, compassionate to attain such a desired success. Collaborating is the key here and is summarized in the statement ‘minds working together make a great impact’
Principals, who push so to speak staffs to work together through effective sharing of information, support, building teamwork and pressure. When this are achieved each and every staff member usually have the dire need to see that students succeed (Schein, 2004). When parents are brought into the equation and thought of first implying that their desires are what counts make them feel part and parcel of the school hence will support most if not all of the school plans and projects especially those deemed contributory in attaining academic excellence for their children.
Additionally, effective leaders do have values that are mostly in line in trying to attain improved performance in high-poverty schools. For instance, a principal in Harrison when asked what her values were, she clearly stated that she supported, value, respect human live. On the same note she said that treating [people the way she wants to be treated is what drives her decisions. Giving persons around her freedom, since every body is human and have different capability has seen to it that her school develops innovation although risky but has seen an improved performance (Burns, 1978). What she hates is seeing people being a clone of another which she said hinders innovation and creativity. Having in mind that they are where they are for a period of time, it’s only appropriate to value what others do. In summery, an excellent school is as a result of an excellent support staff, working together, high level of commitment of teaching both students and their parents, having clear vision that guide the school, celebrating success together as a family. Generally, doing things different is what counts and this cannot be achieved by not having in place an effective leader who exhibit most of the best qualities a leader opt to have (Kouzes &Posner, 1999).
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Less successful schools leadership
To fully gain insight on the difference brought about by effective leadership in high poverty schools, it would be rational if we briefly look at less-successful high-poverty schools leadership. Having in mind that all school would at no time be the same, there are chances that less-successful school can adopt some of the attributes of leadership of their successful counter parts. One reason that contributes to poor performance in high-poverty school revolves around the issue of having a lot of planning and doing very little or nothing at all (Schein, 2004). If principal lack good qualities of leaders, they will definitely not do what is required in order to foster learning. Additionally leaders do not value what other are doing, are very autocratic, are resistant to change, engage mostly in administrative work, do not share information, are not in a position to critically analyze student performers, are poor motivators (Sinclair, 2007). Generally speaking, poor performing high-poverty school principal act contrary to what high performing high-poverty school principals do, the results thus is having unmotivated staffs, lack of team work and collaboration translating to poor student performance. However, there is always room for such poor performing schools to incorporate what successful school does with some slight adjustments (Burns, 1978).