Affiliation: School of Education, Educational Leadership Graduate Program
Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for developing and implementing innovations that will improve public education (Moolenaar, Daly, & Sleegers, 2010). Improving school leadership ranks high on the list of priorities for school reform (The Wallace Foundation, 2013). The purpose of this study was to examine (a) self-described leadership behaviors of principals across all three school levels (i.e., elementary, middle, and high) and (b) the influence of transactional and transformational leadership behaviors of principals and the connections among these leadership behaviors and three school variables: schools’ academic press, sense of community, and student achievement. The intent of the current research was to propose a new, concise model of effective leadership in enhancing student-learning outcomes through cultivating a climate of academic press and sense of community. Press and community are key factors in establishing a school’s climate and the conditions under which learning is likely to be enhanced. This study used a SEM methodology to propose a fixed theoretical model, fit it to observed data, and comment on whether or not it was the best theoretical model to explain a principal’s influence on student learning outcomes through two intervening variables. The sample of the study involved responses from 93,178 teachers representing 2,597 North Carolina schools on the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey. These data were coupled with 107 participating school principals spanning elementary and secondary schools on the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire. Measures of model fit indicated the measurement models for the latent variables academic press and sense of community poorly fit these empirical data. Additionally, measures of overall model fit indicated the hypothesized model poorly fits these empirical data. Additional results of this study found that transformational leadership predicted academic press; elementary schools have a significant impact on academic press, as compared to high schools; and free-and-reduced lunch rates predicted student learning outcomes. These data did not support the conclusions that principals’ leadership behaviors had a direct or an indirect effect on student learning outcomes as mediated by school climate variables. Implications were discussed for policy, practice, and future research.