educational leadership. elementary, principals, instructional leadership


Public school principals' role requirements have undergone changes during standards-based reform and accountability (Copland, 2001; Daresh, 1998; Jones, 1999; Lashway, 2003a). This study was designed to identify the leadership role focus and behaviors of public school principals who were attempting to meet the challenges of this movement and to provide valuable information about the effects of accountability reforms on school leadership. Public school principals were subject to the mandated policy initiatives associated with the accountability movement. Private school principals, or lower school heads, were not subject to these federal and state policy reforms. The leadership role and behaviors of public and private elementary school principals working under these two distinctly different circumstances were compared. Accountability reforms called for public school principals to focus the principal's role on instructional leadership as the priority rather than managerial leadership. There was a need to understand if there were any significant differences in roles and behaviors of public and private school principals: (a) to inform public and private school policymakers and representatives who impact the educational system through local, state, and federal legislation; (b) to inform educational leadership training programs and licensing systems; and (c) to assist those who lead schools (Lashway; Portin, 2000). Public and private school principals in the state of Florida reported self-perceptions of their leadership role focus and behaviors using the Instructional Leadership Inventory (ILI), an instrument obtained from MetriTech, Inc. The data collection was conducted according to the elements of Dillman's (2000) Tailored Design Method for mailed surveys. The survey instrument was distributed to a sample of 501 public and private elementary school principals in the state of Florida. The data collection process resulted in a total of 263 returned surveys, a 52.5% total response rate. The public school response rate was 48.0%, or 168 returned surveys out of the 350 mailed surveys. The private school response rate was 62.9%, or 95 returned surveys out of the 151 mailed surveys. Comparison of the two groups, public and private, demonstrated that principals and lower school heads reported being similar in many ways in relation to the demographics and the work environment of the two groups. The differences in personal and professional characteristics were minimal. There were very few statistically significant differences between public elementary school principals and private lower school heads when looking at the ILI instructional leadership criteria. However, the findings revealed that there were considerable statistically significant differences between public elementary school principals and private lower school heads when reviewing the ILI managerial leadership criteria. Implications derived from these analyses support two areas of change in the leadership behaviors of public school principals. A significant number of public school principals reported that they spent considerable time on the managerial leadership behaviors of Monitoring Student Progress, Supervising Teaching, and Managing Curriculum, behaviors related to assessment and accountability. Public school principals reported using achievement test results in multiple ways to gauge the progress of the school toward school goals. These findings contributed to existing knowledge and provided new knowledge about principals' leadership role focus and behaviors based on data gathered during the age of the accountability movement. Recommendations include adjusting staffing to prioritize instructional leadership in the face of managerial demands, reducing public school populations through alternative strategies, enhancing the strength of community interest and support for the school, and furthering research aimed at a better understanding of the influence of external social and political goals, standards, and accountability on the middle management role of the school principal.


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Graduation Date





House, Jess


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program

Educational Leadership








Release Date

January 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)