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A Reciprocal Investigation of Charter School Leadership Qualities and Style
The leaders or administrators of any school are supposedly responsible for the academic successes of their forts. Modern academic trends demand that they also be up to date with curriculum application processes, discipline handling means and the public relation tools necessary to deal with ever demanding parents (Marlow, 2007). Marlow (2007) observes that charter schools’ heads have a responsibility to all stakeholders to make clear and concise communication. Involvement with the community is also crucial as is having character traits like decency, perseverance, honesty, respect and empathy (Marlow, 2007). The distinguishing factor in charter schools is their innovativeness in teaching techniques and learning methods, as opposed to the regulation bound public schools. Charter schools introduce a new dimension in as far as control and freedom in creativity and curriculum development is concerned (Zimmer & Buddin, 2007). The skills possessed by the leaders in these schools have significance in that they are not leaders in only instruction methods but will also fill in as financial and operational managers of their respective institutions. By the mere fact that these schools are mostly start-ups, there exists no set system that they must follow, thus, the onus of developing and maintaining the financial, operational and instruction modules to be adhered to mainly falls with the leadership. Zimmer and Buddin (2007) observe that the leaders, thus, have to shoulder the responsibilities of management, principal and leader of instructions. The profiling of the techniques and qualities of leadership style among charter schools in Florida is the main goal of this study. This profiling is necessary owing to the high turnover rates for students, low test scores in National and state tests as well as high levels of parent dissatisfaction. The profiling will enable the development of a best-practices guide to act as a benchmark for future charter school leaders.
Background of the Study
According to the Texas Education Agency (2005), a third of the students in public schools in Texas who had previously been considered to be at risk and were in Charter schools passed the Texas skills and knowledge Assessment Test. By 2006, December, out of 249 charter schools, 56 had had their charters revoked or considered in an otherwise unfavorable manner. This is an indication of the mixed results emerging from charter schools. Marlow (2007) attributes this to the different leadership styles applied by the schools’ leaders. Though both charter schools and public schools are funded through public means, the major difference between the two is that more flexibility in curriculum development is enjoyed by the charter schools and that an individual or group of individuals can start a charter school. The charter schools may develop around various focus areas; particular teaching methodology e.g. the Montessori method, specific subjects e.g. the arts, math etc., aimed at a particular demography such as students ‘at risk’, theme based curricula’s e.g. the environment or personnel policies e.g. merit based pay for teachers. The leaders of these schools are only tasked with an extra obligation of ensuring better results in exchange for more freedom and are also required to seek charter renewal every five years (Griffin & Wohlstetter, 2001). The main reason behind the establishment of these schools was the provision of more educational options to the students. Due to the fact that they are not limited geographically, they provide potentially better performing options for low income families. The TCER report of 2007 informs that even with these advantages, charter schools only enroll 2% of the student population, and this is attributed to their low capacity and tendency to be small in size. Leaders in charter schools are likely to have time limitations, and as such spend less time in instructional leadership and guidance to teachers. Peebles (2007) notes that such time constrictions eventually cause weak organizational culture development and hence Objectives, goals and timelines in teaching become hazy with time constraints and the teachers do not find time to prepare for learning activities. Though this is mostly a universal problem in school leadership, the ideal situation would be where leaders and teachers would have ample time not only to deal with student’s issues but also address leadership and cultural organization issues (Peebles, 2007).With all these challenges, charter school leaders enjoy a unique position where they could act both as coaches and life mentors. They are capable of being more active as participants in teacher’s professional advancement than their peers in other schools (Zimmer & Buddin, 2007). They also enjoy the discretion of deciding the time load for each subject as well as the durations for school days and terms. They also exercise discretion on how long a subject is to be studied (Zimmer & Buddin, 2007).
What constitutes a successful and well-rounded leader for efficient running of a charter school is not well known, the issue is further worsened by the many variant hurdles the leadership has to overcome in creating and implementing such a school. The roles of the school heads are ever expanding, and their duties and tasks continue expanding making it a hard task to meet all the daily demands to their time (Rutherford, 2006). Specifically, the closure of charter schools by the state is of utmost concern. Thus, the leaders and other stakeholders need developed guides from the experiences of peers who have implemented successful curricula for their students. This study will investigate the leadership skills and styles employed by some of the more successful leaders of charter schools in Florida.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the qualitative research study will be to gather, sort, analyze and present interpretations on data collected about skills in effective leadership among leaders of various chartered schools in Florida. The research will employ a qualitative approach since the hypothesis involves a human scenario which is open ended and as thus will open broader perspectives (Creswell, 2005). Interviews will be the most ideal data collection means.
Research Questions and Phenomena
The study will more specifically seek to answer the following Questions. This is from the observation that charter schools are faced by the problem of scarcity in materials, personnel, support, space and poor anticipation of various needs from all stakeholders (Downing, Spencer and Cavallo, 2004, P.18). Zimmer and Buddin (2007) observe that the major benchmark for charter schools is the continued renewal of their charters for long consecutive periods. This is mainly because the charter committees have well established scales through which they measure all aspects of the schools performance. For this research, the successful school will thus be considered as those who.............
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