From Heroes to Organizers: Principals and Education Organizing in Urban School Reform

  • Ishimaru A
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Abstract

Abstract Purpose: Educational leadership is key to addressing the persistent inequities in low-income urban schools, but most principals struggle to work with parents and communities around those schools to create socially just learning environments. This article describes the conditions and experiences that enabled principals to share leadership with teachers and low-income Latino parents to improve student learning. Methods: This study used interviews, observations, and documents to examine the perceptions and experiences of the principals of three small autonomous schools initiated by a community organizing group in California. Data analysis was conducted in iterative phases using shared leadership, social capital, and role theories as lenses to identify themes, triangulate across data sources, and examine alternative hypotheses. Findings: Findings illuminate how a design team process initiated principals into a model of shared leadership with teachers and empowered parents that focused on deep relationships and capacity building. Principals enacted this model of the “principal as organizer” in the newly-opened schools, but they struggled to navigate conflicting leadership role expectations from district administration. Implications: Organizing approaches to education reform can cultivate shared leadership in principals and the capacity to partner with empowered, low-income Latino parents. District expectations and principals’ broader social networks may be critical in navigating and sustaining such leadership. Further research on districts that collaborate with community organizing groups may provide promising insights into the development of a new generation of educational leaders.

Author-supplied keywords

  • parent organizing
  • role conflict
  • school community
  • shared leadership
  • social capital

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Authors

  • Ann Ishimaru

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