The Principal's Role in Creating ...
Riehl of immigrant children, from families lured to factory and agricultural jobs, whose primary language is not English. As these examples illustrate, for well over a century educators in the United States have confronted the question of how to organize and administer schools for diverse students. Indeed, since its inception, American public education has served an increasingly varied student population drawn from an increasingly pluralistic society. Every generation has struggled with what it has perceived to be a dramatic influx of "new students" (Grubb, 1995). Ethnic/cultural groups and persons from lower socioeconomic classes have sometimes fought bitterly with mainstream educators for the curriculum and instruction that they feel is most appropriate for themselves (e.g., Ravitch, 1974, Spring, 1986 Katznelson, 1981) but, in general, assimilation has been the dominant approach to diversity in the public schools, and equality of opportunity through homogenization has been the goal (Adams, 1997 Baptiste, 1999). Educational administrators have tended to be supportive of this approach. Ellwood Cubberley, a key figure in the early history of educational administration, promoted the notion that com- mon forms of schooling would help create a unified society and best serve American public ideals (Kowalski, 1995). Succeeding generations of adminis- trators have espoused treating teachers and students equally, regardless of their social class, race, or ethnicity. However, complex tensions between the ideal of equality and the realities of control and stratification permeate American life, and these fundamental contradictions affect educational institutions and their administrators as well (Burroughs, 1974 Kaestle, 1973). Thus, school leaders in every era have had to ponder both the rhetoric and the reality of how they address questions of diversity in school. Despite the recurrent nature of the theme of diversity, American public schools arguably serve a more heterogeneous population now than ever before and are under increasing pressure to effectively educate a student body that is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, social class, gender, national origin and native language, sexual orientation, and physical disability. Hodgkinson (1988) esti- mated that, in the class due to graduate high school in 2000, 40 percent could be classified as "culturally different" from English-speaking, white European Americans, and 24 percent were born in poverty. African American and espe- cially Hispanic populations are growing more rapidly than the white popula- tion, and children from these groups are much more likely to be poor (Baptiste, 1999 Natriello, McDill, & Pallas, 1990). Projections suggest that by the year 2020, only 49% of the school-aged population will be white, 26% of all chil- dren will be living in poverty, and 8% will speak a primary language other than English (Natriello et al., 1990). Minority and lower-income populations tend to be concentrated in urban areas: forty percent of the nation's African Americans are located in eleven central cities, while over half of the population of Mexican Americans are found in just five metropolitan areas. Although large cities are more homogeneous than in the "balmier days of big city education" (Bidwell, 1992), they now serve a more disadvantaged population. While only about a third of the nation's poor live in cities, child poverty rates are highest in cities (31%, compared with 24% in rural areas and 13% in suburban areas) (Natriello et al., 1990). Mobility and homelessness are growing problems, especially in cities. While estimates 56 by Boris Villalobos on October 21, 2008 http://rer.aera.net Downloaded from
The Principal's Role vary widely, in 1990 the annual school-age homeless population was some- where between 270,000 and 750,000, with as many as 43% of those students failing to attend school regularly (Stronge, 1992). Recent estimates indicate that over ten percent of the school population, or just under six million students, are being served under Chapter 1 and IDEA funds for students with disabilities (U. S. Department of Education, 1998). Afri- can American males are disproportionately represented in special education programs gender and race are implicated not only in special education place- ment but also in outcomes (Harry & Anderson, 1994 Lipsky & Gartner, 1997). These figures suggest that the challenges and opportunities posed by diver- sity are growing. Moreover, while it still has its proponents, consensus around the strategy of assimilation to a common school experience and core American culture has weakened considerably. Groups defined by difference in terms of ethnicity, social class, or mental or physical handicap are claiming their own particular forms of subjectivity and strongly resist being treated merely as a category or social variable by mainstream policy makers or educators. Even those groups, such as Asian Americans, which have been labeled with positive stereotypes are resisting those characterizations, claiming more diversity and decrying the "monolithic monotone" that sets one minority group against an- other (Lee, 1996). Groups that had appeared to be cohesive, at least to outsiders, are now clearly not, so that consensus about educational goals or strategies is often difficult to achieve (Marshall, 1993). Race and gender are increasingly viewed not as inherent or ascribed characteristics but as social constructions, the product of an intricate web of personal and situational factors (McCarthy & Crichlow, 1993). Indeed, personal identity appears to have much less to do with attributes that can easily be counted and categorized and much more with the tasks, social relationships, and contexts within which an individual learns and develops (Heath & McLaughlin, 1993). In this new environment, the idea that all students should be acculturated to a single way of knowing or behaving is contested' and the concept of cultural pluralism is receiving more serious attention as a social and educational ideal (Appleton, 1983 Baptiste, 1999). Activist scholars working to promote the values of cultural difference and social justice at the far or near margins of traditional models of schooling (e.g., Asante, 1991 Cummins, 1997, l986 Delpit, 1995 Foster, 1995 Ladson-Billings, 1994 1992 Sears, 1993) are joined by those working within more centrist streams of educational policy and practice (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 1997 O'Day & Smith, 1993 Rossi, 1994) to acknowl- edge that provisions must be made so that all students, whatever their personal characteristics or social backgrounds, can succeed in school. Thus, there is a growing literature on how schools can more effectively serve diverse student populations. This literature focuses on matters regarding educa- tion policy, school finance, the social organization of schools and classrooms, relationships between schools and students' families and communities, teacher education and professional development, curriculum, instructional methods, and assessment processes. In each of these domains, while the local school adminis- trator has a role to play, that role may be more or less indirect and is typically addressed only obliquely in the research. There is a smaller body of research, however, which more thoroughly explores what school administrators can do to 57 by Boris Villalobos on October 21, 2008 http://rer.aera.net Downloaded from
R��ehl promote schooling that is fully inclusive and serves diverse students well. In addition, the more general scholarship on school organization and administra- tion can provide theoretical and empirical insights to help describe the roles of administrators in fostering effective education for diverse students. In this integrative review, I draw on these areas of research and scholarship to develop an understanding of educational leadership in the service of an increas- ingly pluralistic society and with diverse constituencies. My goal is to review and integrate a variety of normative, empirical, and critical perspectives in order to develop a comprehensive approach to school administration and diversity. Although leadership can be dispersed across many persons and roles in educa- tional contexts, and indeed is usually more effective as a distributed practice (e.g., Barth 1990, 1988 Dunlap & Goldman, 1991 Lieberman, 1988 Little, 1988 Pounder, Ogawa, & Adams, 1995), I focus here on the school principal. Principals occupy positions that carry unique responsibilities and opportuni- ties, and they work within a particular tradition of practice with its own strengths and weaknesses. Probing the role of the building-level administrator with regard to student diversity is not meant to isolate that role from others in the social and political fabric of the school, nor to overstate the importance of the formal school leader, but instead to help clarify the contributions of those who hold a well-established position and to suggest ways in which their work can be more effective. Following a brief discussion of the school principal's position within the school, I review three broad types of tasks that face school principals as they work to serve diverse students, and then explore how the concept of "practice," especially discursive practice, can contribute to a fuller understanding of their work. Can Principals be Agents of Inclusive Education for Diverse Students? Given the historically poor record of American public schools in meeting the educational needs of low-income students and students of color and improving their life chances (Tyack, 1974), one might inquire whether the formal leaders of schools can possibly have an affirmative role in creating schools that are more inclusive and that serve diverse students more effectively. This is not a gratuitous question. Most social movements are not predicated on the expecta- tion that the formal heads of established organizations will routinely be the agents of change, although exceptions do occur. One of the assumptions em- bedded in the scholarly literature on school administration and diversity written from a critical theory perspective is that a genuine commitment to diversity would require administrators to attend to the fundamental inequities in school- ing, to disavow the institutions which they purportedly lead, and to work to- ward larger projects of social and institutional transformation. Within the con- text of this perspective, it is not surprising that practicing administrators are portrayed as conservative, if not repressive (Capper, 1993a Evers & Lakomski, 1991 Foster, 1986). Rizvi (1993), for example, argues that schooling is inher- ently a conservative context in which racism, classism, and sexism are present but subsumed under a "fiction of tolerance" between social groups and a "myth of neutrality" about administrative work. Administrators are subject to the same kind of hidden curriculum about discipline and control that teachers and stu- dents experience. Like teachers, they not only experience but also reproduce, 58 by Boris Villalobos on October 21, 2008 http://rer.aera.net Downloaded from
The Principal's Role sometimes unwittingly, conditions of hierarchy and oppression, in particular by fostering compliant thinking instead of critical reflection. These ideas are ech- oed in McNeil's (1986) study of the hierarchies of behavioral control estab- lished by principals and enacted by teachers through their curricula and teach- ing methods, in Marshall's research on the socialization of novices into the "assumptive worlds" of school administration (Marshall, 1992 Marshall & Mitchell, 1991), and in Britzman's (1991) study of student teachers who expe- rienced administrative pressures to adjust to the way things are and protect the status quo in schooling. Some scholars (e.g., Foster, 1986 Parker & Shapiro, 1993) suggest that administrators who do become committed to social change will experience conflict as they are expected to maintain institutions which they no longer see as legitimate. Pessimism about administrators as agents of change also predominates in less radical inquiries into administrative practice. For example, in an early and thor- ough ethnography of a school administrator, Wolcott (1973) concluded that although principals are often looked to as agents of change, they tend to moni- tor the continuity of both institutions and society. Salley, McPherson, and Baehr (1978) found that organizational conditions often mitigate against administra- tors' ability to innovate. Given their roles, preparation, and traditions, as well as the contexts in which they serve, administrators are not fundamentally oriented toward change (Fullan, 1991 Sarason, 1996). Administrators are steeped in a structural-functionalist perspective that tends to view the existing social order as legitimate, that espouses the values of democracy and meritocracy, and that adopts a managerial orientation instead of a socially transformative one. Ad- ministrators do not willingly admit publicly to problems along the dimensions of race, class, or gender in their schools, even when they privately acknowledge their existence (e.g., Herrington, 1993 Lee, 1996 Winfield, Johnson, & Man- ning, 1993). These studies do not present an optimistic vision of educational administra- tion as promoting diversity and equity in radically transformative ways. None- theless, in the sections that follow, I trace theoretical and empirical work that opens up multiple possibilities for inclusive practice for school principals. Leadership Tasks that Respond to Diversity One of the central tenets of organizational theory is that tasks are primary elements around which organizational structures and cultures can be effectively designed (Bolman & Deal, 1997 Perrow, 1986 Scott, 1998). Similarly, tasks are foundational for understanding the work of individuals (e.g., Doyle, 1983 Resnick, 1987 Rogoff, 1990). Three broad classes of tasks face educational administrators as they respond to diversity principals' approaches to these tasks determine the degree to which their practice can be characterized as inclusive and transformative. The task categories are fostering new meanings about diver- sity, promoting inclusive practices within schools, and building connections between schools and communities. Fostering New Meanings about Diversity Much of the literature on school reform both emanates from and is directed toward professional and technical processes internal to schools, particularly 59 by Boris Villalobos on October 21, 2008 http://rer.aera.net Downloaded from
Riehl around the central activities of teaching and learning. New (or renewed) instruc- tional methods, such as project-based learning or constructivist learning, new organizational configurations, such as smaller schools, small class sizes, or block scheduling, new forms of assessment and accountability, such as portfolios and high-stakes gateway testing, and new norms of teacher practice that emphasize collaboration and professional growth are examples of reform initiatives that address fundamental structures and processes within schools. With most of these reforms, efforts have been made to explore their potential utility in improving educational experiences and outcomes for diverse groups of students. However, numerous analyses of educational change have demonstrated that school reform will not take hold unless broad constituencies, including stu- dents, parents, and the general public, as well as educational professionals them- selves, both understand and invest in the changes (e.g., Metz, 1990b Tyack & Cuban, 1995). This conclusion derives in large part from sociological theories of schools as institutionalized organizations (Meyer & Rowan, 1978, 1977 Meyer, Scott, & Deal, 1983 Scott, 1995) and from theories about organiza- tional sensemaking (Weick, 1995). Both perspectives are based on a fundamen- tal understanding of organizations as cognitive accomplishments and social constructions, in which meaning-making is a primary dynamic. As institutional- ized organizations, schools embody a complex array of understandings, beliefs, and values that find legitimacy through their acceptance by the broader public and that are encoded in school structures, cultures, and routine practices. Schools are, in effect, constructed around the meanings that people hold about them. Real organizational change occurs not simply when technical changes in struc- ture and process are undertaken, but when persons inside and outside of the school construct new understandings about what the change means. In this regard, the role of the school principal is crucial. Although meanings are negotiated socially, that is, through a shared process (Miron, 1997), leaders typically have additional power in defining situations and their meanings (An- gus, 1996 Greenfield, 1984 Smircich & Morgan, 1982). In schools, administra- tors are often in a better position than others to influence what things mean (Rallis, 1990). Anderson (1990) describes three strategies by which principals influence meaning-making: through the day-to-day management of meanings among organizational stakeholders, through the mediation of conflict when open contention arises, and through the cognitive task of resolving contradic- tions within their own ideological perspectives. Administrators can employ a variety of rhetorical and dialogic strategies in communicating new understand- ings. Opportunities for promoting new meanings include official ceremonies, public relations events, meetings, and the like (Strike, 1993). Moreover, since meanings are encapsulated in organizational structures and routines, adminis- trators can help change meanings by changing the routine ways in which things are done and how the school organization is designed (Meyer, 1984). These ideas can be applied to the case of reforming schools to respond to the needs of diverse students. The development of inclusive structures and practices must be accompanied by new understandings and values or they will not result in lasting change. Principals are key agents in framing those new meanings. Cooper (1996) provides an illustrative example. He describes a school involved in detracking, in which the principal was committed to making the stable struc- 60 by Boris Villalobos on October 21, 2008 http://rer.aera.net Downloaded from