The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among teacher quality characteristics and school culture components and their influence upon student attendance and suspension rates. In addition, the research also examined the educational leadership practices of exemplary school principals in relation to the components of a collaborative school culture.
The sample included 50 elementary schools in the state of Florida. Schools were selected based upon their partnership with the University of Florida and the Lastinger Center for Learning. The basis for the research was grounded in the educational performance framework of inputs and processes influencing outcomes.
School culture surveys were administered to examine six components of collaborative culture identified as collaborative leadership, teacher collaboration, unity of purpose, professional development, collegial support, and learning partnership. Using the school as the unit of analysis, data were also collected examining student absences and suspensions as well as teacher input characteristics such as years teaching, percentage out of field, advanced degrees, and certification as reported by the Florida Department of Education’s School Indicators Report. Finally, interviews were conducted to examine the strategies and practices utilized by exemplar school principals to augment the data and better inform practice.
Using multiple regression and Pearson correlations, the data were examined to determine the nature of the relationship between school outputs, processes and inputs. Three research questions, six null hypotheses, and one open-ended question was introduced to examine the correlational and predictive associations amongst the variables. The findings revealed that as teacher collaboration increased, the model predicted that student suspensions would decrease by 6.709%. In addition, the model predicted that when the percentage of out-of-field teachers within a school increased, student suspensions would decrease by 0.16%. Finally, as the percentage of non-certified teachers within a school increased, the student suspension percentage increased by .22%. The exemplar interviews revealed comprehensive discussions regarding components of a collaborative school culture and educational leadership practices related to data-driven decision-making, developing stakeholder partnerships, teacher guided professional development, and fostering relationships and open communication.
The findings offer valuable insight into the characteristics of quality teaching and school culture that demonstrate greatest impact on student attendance and suspensions and may influence educational policy, teacher training, educational leadership, and school reform initiatives.