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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Principals

July 2018

Question:

What research and resources are available about the relationship between school leadership practices and culturally relevant education?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies about the relationship between school leadership practices and culturally relevant education. The ERIC database defines culturally relevant education as “educational practices and resources that reflect the culture, values, customs, and beliefs of students (i.e., help to connect what is to be learned with the students’ own lives).” For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Barton, R., & Larson, R. (2012). Leadership for equity. Principal’s Research Review, 7(2), 1–7. Retrieved from https://educationnorthwest.org/resources/leadership-equity

From the abstract: “This March 2012 NASSP Principal’s Research Review, written by Education Northwest’s Rhonda Barton and Rob Larson, looks at strategies for improving educational equity. With racial and economic disparities still an everyday reality throughout our education system, this brief suggests steps educational leaders can take to authentically and successfully confront the situations in schools that cause inequities.”

Bustamante, R. M., Nelson, J. A., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2009). Assessing schoolwide cultural competence: Implications for school leadership preparation. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(5), 793–827. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ860703

From the ERIC abstract: “Purpose: The initial purpose of this mixed methods study was to assess the instrument fidelity and construct-related validity of a 33-item instrument called the Schoolwide Cultural Competence Observation Checklist (SCCOC) by eliciting school leaders’ views. The SCCOC was designed as one tool for use in conducting school culture audits, which determine how well a school responds to the needs of diverse groups. The results revealed unexpected qualitative findings from school leaders’ narrative responses to open-ended items. The implications of these findings for school leaders and school leader preparation are discussed. Research Design: On a Web-based questionnaire, practicing school leaders in two large western states responded to open- and closed-ended items on the relevance of SCCOC items to cultural competence in actual school settings. Participants’ narrative responses were analyzed using an iterative process of coding and constant comparison to identify emerging themes. Themes were validated using intercoder reliability. Findings: Research team members reached consensus on four primary themes that emerged from analysis of narrative data: policy as a paradox, programs as instrumental to culturally competent practice, school culture and climate as integral to schoolwide cultural competence, and numerous barriers to cultural competence. Under the theme of barriers, five subthemes were revealed. Conclusions: The findings inform future research and the need to focus school leader preparation on examining personal biases, privilege, and beliefs about others who are different, as well as guiding leaders to develop culturally responsive skills and knowledge and the ability to assess schoolwide cultural competence.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Clayton, J. K., & Goodwin, M. (2015). Culturally competent leadership through empowering relationships: A case study of two assistant principals. Education Leadership Review, 16(2), 131–144. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1105441

From the ERIC abstract: “The student population in the United States is growing in diversity (Frankenburg & Lee, 2002; Orfield & Lee, 2004; Tefara, Frankenberg, Siegel-Hawley, & Chirichigno, 2011), challenging school leaders to develop or fine-tune their cultural competence in order to meet the needs of the changing student population (Bustamante, Nelson, & Onwuegbuzie, 2009). As a result, expanding knowledge of cultural competence is necessary for school leaders as a way to meet state and federal requirements for student subgroups and to meet new credentialing standards for school leaders (ISLLC 2015 Standards Draft Version; Oregon Department of Education Summit on Cultural Competence, 2004; VA Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, 2011). This is especially important for assistant principals who must navigate the new terrain of school leadership while working to understand students who may not come from the same cultural background (Madhlango & Gordon, 2012). Through a descriptive case study (Merriam, 1998), this project examines the experiences of two assistant principals, one from an elementary school and one from a high school, who worked as part of a leadership team that increased academic achievement in their diverse schools. The study addresses the following question: How do school assistant principals working at a school with a demonstrated record of success in student achievement, lead schools in culturally competent ways through intentional and enhanced relationships with students? The primary case unit of analysis is the assistant principals, but interviews with teachers and principals provide further confirmation to support the evidence from the assistant principals. Findings indicate that assistant principals can have a positive impact through discipline and community actions. Assistant principals acknowledge that mentors who are deliberate in their work in schools with students of poverty combined with their own personal experiences as teachers is crucial to the decisions they make when interacting with students and their families.”

Hansuvadha, N., & Slater, C. L. (2012). Culturally competent school leaders: The individual and the system. Educational Forum, 76(2), 174–189. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ960189

From the ERIC abstract: “Cultural competence is the knowledge, behaviors, and dispositions necessary to effectively interact with other cultural groups. Two case studies are presented which illustrate the cultural competence of administrators in urban settings. Theories are reviewed to investigate the themes of cultural competence that emerged from the professional challenges faced by the two school leaders. The article suggests individual and system supports for administrators to effectively lead and advocate for an array of diverse students and their families.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Kemp-Graham, K. Y. (2015). Missed opportunities: Preparing aspiring school leaders for bold social justice school leadership needed for 21st century schools. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 10(1), 99–129. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1060976

From the ERIC abstract: “How and when are current and aspiring school leaders provided with opportunities to engage in sense making and reflection as it relates to race, oppression, and equal access to a quality education for all students while simultaneously making sense of the implications of their roles as school leaders in negotiating the sociopolitical and sociocultural challenges present in their schools? Given the diversity of the student population in the state of Texas and the importance that has been assigned to social justice leadership for diverse student populations, this research sought to explore the readiness of recent graduates of Principal Preparation Program in Texas to engage in bold social justice leadership required of 21st Century school leaders.”

Khalifa, M. (2012). A “re”-“new”-“ed” paradigm in successful urban school leadership: Principal as community leader. Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(3), 424–467. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ972250

From the ERIC abstract: “This article examines the impact that a principal’s community-leadership has on school-community relations and student outcomes. Comparisons are drawn between leadership behaviors that emphasize school-centered approaches and community-centered approaches. Research Methodology: Ethnographic research methodology was conducted over a 2-year period, during which the researcher conducted participant observations, interviews, and descriptive and interpretive memoing. Findings: The principal’s role as community leader—including high principal visibility in the community and advocacy for community causes—led to trust and rapport between school and community. Consequently, parents who were previously hostile changed their relationship with school, and supported his or her handling of their children. This led to improved academic outcomes for students. Implications: This study has implications for how principals view their role, presence in, and relationship with the community. It also offers reflection on how and where the center of school-community relationships should be (i.e., school vs. community).”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Khalifa, M. A., Gooden, M. A., & Davis, J. E. (2016). Culturally responsive school leadership: A synthesis of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1272–1311. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1121476

From the ERIC abstract: “Culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL) has become important to research on culturally responsive education, reform, and social justice education. This comprehensive review provides a framework for the expanding body of literature that seeks to make not only teaching, but rather the entire school environment, responsive to the schooling needs of minoritized students. Based on the literature, we frame the discussion around clarifying strands—critical self-awareness, CRSL and teacher preparation, CRSL and school environments, and CRSL and community advocacy. We then outline specific CRSL behaviors that center inclusion, equity, advocacy, and social justice in school. Pulling from literature on leadership, social justice, culturally relevant schooling, and students/communities of color, we describe five specific expressions of CRSL found in unique communities. Finally, we reflect on the continued promise and implications of CRSL.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Lindsey, R. B., Roberts, L. M., & CampbellJones, F. (2013). The culturally proficient school: An implementation guide for school leaders (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Retrieved from https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/the-culturally-proficient-school/book239515

From the description: “The first edition of The Culturally Proficient School opened new dialogue about diversity and cultural dignity that had an immediate impact on educators, becoming the go-to resource for ideas about how to serve all students equitably. This second edition incorporates reader feedback and up-to-date research on closing access and achievement gaps, delivering a guide to cultural proficiency that is more relevant, accessible and effective than ever.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

McCray, C. R., & Beachum, F. D. (2014). Countering plutocracies: Increasing autonomy and accountability through culturally relevant leadership. School Leadership & Management, 34(4), 392–413. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1044291

From the ERIC abstract: “In urban school districts across the USA there are mandates to implement zero tolerance policies. As this occurs, there is an increasing number of students, specifically students of colour, who are being jettisoned out of the educative process. When school principals have little autonomy regarding how they handle disciplinary infractions within their schools, it becomes relatively easy for them to opt out of making tough decision. The authors assert that Culturally Relevant Leadership is a framework that, if applied correctly, can help school leaders reduce the multiple school suspensions and expulsions that are occurring among students of colour.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

McIver, M. C., Kearns, J., Lyons, C., & Sussman, M. (2009). Leadership: A McREL report prepared for Stupski Foundation’s Learning System. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED544625

From the ERIC abstract: “Created for the Stupski Foundation, this document synthesizes recent research and theoretical literature on leadership practices needed to support the success of underserved urban students of color. The report identifies four options for creating and supporting successful school leaders of underserved students: (1) Redefine the role of the school principal; (2) Develop a culturally responsive leadership preparation program; (3) Expand effective leadership preparation and retention programs; and (4) Refine effective leadership evaluation and support programs. An appendix provides a description of the review method, including a general explanation of McREL’s approach and descriptions of the particular procedures used for each phase of the review: identification of key hypotheses and research questions, literature search, identification and cataloging of finds, and generating and communicating recommendations.”

Mette, I. M., Nieuwenhuizen, L., & Hvidston, D. J. (2016). Teachers’ perceptions of culturally responsive pedagogy and the impact on leadership preparation: Lessons for future reform efforts. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(1). Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1103652

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of one school’s teacher-driven professional development effort to address culturally responsive teaching practices in a large district in a Midwestern state. During the 2011-2012 school year, a team of teachers and principals began a three-year long effort to provide job-embedded professional development intended to focus on delivering high-impact strategies to transform the educational practices of teachers through improving cultural competence. A survey was given to 120 fulltime certified teachers, and findings suggest that while teachers agreed most that the professional development helped examine views on poverty, they agreed least that the professional development helped close the achievement gap. Additionally, elective and special education teachers were significantly more positive than core subject classroom teachers in terms of how the research they read improved instruction and how the professional development provided impacted building-wide faculty instruction. Analysis of open-ended items highlight several themes, namely the professional development helped teachers by acknowledging cultural differences of the students they taught, but that ultimately the challenges of lack of time and implementation apathy impeded the success of the professional development effort. These findings provide important insight for leadership preparation, particularly about supporting teacher-driven efforts, facilitating culturally responsive practices, and the reflecting on the pressures teachers face due to high stakes accountability and reform efforts.”

Raskin, C. F., Krull, M., & Thatcher, R. (2015). Developing principals as racial equity leaders: A mixed method study. AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, 12(2), 4–19. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1068031

From the ERIC abstract: “This article will present information and research on how a college of education is intentionally developing principals to lead with confidence and racial competence. The nation’s student achievement research is sobering: our current school systems widen already existing gaps between white students and students of color, (Darling-Hammond, L. 2004, 2009; Wooleyhand, 2003; Haycock & Gerald, 2002; Kafele, 2014). This study reviews data from a mixed method study around the intentional development of principals as critical leverage points to ensuring that meaningful changes occur; so much so that achievement for children of color improves.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Riehl, C. J. (2017). The principal’s role in creating inclusive schools for diverse students: A review of normative, empirical, and critical literature on the practice of educational administration. Journal of Education, 189(1–2), 183–197. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022057409189001-213

From the abstract: “Public schools in the United States are serving a more heterogeneous student population now than ever before. Drawing on normative, empirical, and critical literatures, this review explores the role of school administrators in responding to the needs of diverse students. Three administrative tasks highlighted: fostering new meanings about diversity, promoting inclusive school cultures and instructional programs, and building relationships between schools and communities. Administrative work that accomplishes these tasks can be thought of as a form of practice, with moral, epistemological, constitutive, and discursive dimensions. Inclusive administrative practice is rooted in values of equity and social justice; it requires administrators to bring their full subjectivities to bear on their practice, and it implicates language as a key mechanism for both oppression and transformation.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Theoharis, G. (2007). Social justice educational leaders and resistance: Toward a theory of social justice leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 43(2), 221–258. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ757579

From the ERIC abstract: “Purpose: A subgroup of principals—leaders for social justice—guide their schools to transform the culture, curriculum, pedagogical practices, atmosphere, and schoolwide priorities to benefit marginalized students. The purpose of the article is to develop a theory of this social justice educational leadership. Research Design: This empirical study examined the following questions: (a) In what ways are principals enacting social justice in public schools? (b) What resistance do social justice-driven principals face in their justice work? (c) What strategies do principals develop to sustain their ability to enact social justice in light of the resistance they face in public schools? Data Collection and Analysis: A critical, qualitative, positioned-subject approach combined with principles of autoethnography guided the research methods. Seven public school leaders who came to the principalship with a social justice orientation, who make issues of race, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and other historically marginalizing factors central to their advocacy, leadership practice, and vision, and who have demonstrated success in making their schools more just, were studied through interviews. Findings: A description of (a) how the principals enacted social justice, (b) the resistance they faced as well as the toll the resistance had on them, and (c) the strategies they developed to sustain their social justice work is provided in detail. Implications for administrator preparation are made at the close of this article.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Wright, H., Jr., & Harris, S. (2010). The role of the superintendent in closing the achievement gap in diverse small school districts. Planning and Changing, 41(3–4), 220–233. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ952385

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this qualitative, narrative study was to investigate the role of the superintendent in leading the district to be more culturally proficient, resulting in the narrowing of the achievement gap in culturally diverse small districts. Eight superintendents of small school districts were purposefully selected based on their district size and their success in narrowing the achievement gap. Findings suggested that superintendents who recognize the importance of cultural proficiency and declare their willingness to lead the district through necessary focused change to address cultural proficiency lead their districts to reduce the achievement gap.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

National Association of Secondary School Principals – https://www.nassp.org/who-we-are/

From the website: “The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student.”

Building an Inclusive School Culture Learning Module – https://www.nassp.org/professional-learning/online-professional-development/leading-success/module-4/

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • descriptor: “academic achievement” descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

  • “school board” descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

  • “school leadership” descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

  • “principals” descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

  • “superintendents” descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.