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'Effective' Principals Found To Work More Hours, Favor Cooperation

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The "effective" middle-school principal plans staff-development activities with the assistance of teachers, involves parents and the community in school decisions, and seeks the guidance of experts outside the schools, according to a new study by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The study, "The Middle Level Principalship," is based on data collected from a survey of 50 principals who were nominated by "a representative cross-section" of state and regional educational leaders. The principals were then interviewed, as were selected groups of parents, students, and teachers from each school.

Of the 50 principals involved in the study, 44 were male, 5 were members of a minority group, and 45 worked in public schools.

Funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the study is the second phase of a comprehensive examination of middle schools and their principals that is attempting to identify their programmatic and administrative characteristics.

According to the researchers, the findings on effective principals and the school programs reinforce other findings about the importance of the good leadership qualities to "educational excellence at the building level."

The association began its research in 1979, in response to a growing recognition of the princi6pal's influence on school improvement. That recognition, which comes from both within and outside the educational community, has led to further attempts to define the qualities of effective principals. (See Education Week, Feb. 29, 1984.)

A Comparison of Principals

The association's first study, entitled "A Survey of Middle Level Principals and Programs," included a random-sample survey of 1,413 principals nationwide. The survey was designed to develop a data base on the principals' personal characteristics, professional objectives, job-related duties, and expectations. In addition, that earlier study described the similarities and differences of principals' positions, schoolprograms based on the grade levels administered, and the types of communities served by the schools.

The results of the most recent study enabled the researchers to compare the characteristics of principals in general with those of the leaders who were identified as effective.

"We do not suggest that these are the most effective 50 middle-level principals in the United States, but that they do administer schools which produce positive results," said George Melton, the association's deputy executive director.

Survey Findings

In the latest study, the researchers found that the effective principals had a greater degree of parent support than did the principals from the larger sample. They also spent longer hours on the job than their counterparts from the national sample.

The effective principals worked about 62 hours a week, compared with an average of 54 hours a weekspent by all principals included in the earlier survey, according to the report on the latest study's results. The effective principals also spent more time on activities that promote professional development than the principals from the larger study.

Although the effective principals spend a considerable amount of time on school-management tasks, they would prefer to devote more of their time to developing programs for the classroom, according to the survey.

The researchers reported that 24 percent of the effective principals consider their inability to provide teachers with adequate time for planning and professional development as the biggest obstacle to administrative success. In the larger sample of principals, concern over time for planning ranked 17th in a list of 23 problems the respondents were asked to rank in order of seriousness.

Copies of the report, "The Effective Middle Level Principal," can be obtained from the Office of Publication Sales, nassp, 1904 Association Drive, Reston, Va. 22091. Cost: $7 plus $2 for handling and mailing.

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