A qualitative study of the perceived stress levels of principals in the No Child Left Behind era
by Carlin, William F., Ed.D., TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, 2010, 195 pages; 3408700


This case study examined the extent to which the No Child Left Behind mandate has contributed to principal stress, specifically in middle schools that have achieved annual yearly progress through the use of confidence intervals when measuring particular sub-groups. A secondary question relating to how principals are coping with the law from an academic/personal viewpoint in the face of NCLB stressors was also addressed. The primary data source was interviews with ten current principals from urban, suburban and rural school districts in the surrounding Philadelphia area. Review of data sources provided by the principals, use of public educational databases as well as observations were used to study this phenomenon. The NCLB statute and its myriad consequences for schools that do not make AYP have created a more stressful, testing-driven environment for all stakeholders. Principals, teachers, parents and most importantly, students have all been affected by this statute. Schools that are classified as Corrective Action 1 & 2 because of sub-group scores continue to rise in Southeastern Pennsylvania; nowhere is this more dramatic than at the secondary schools level. Principals in these buildings face stiff pressure from internal and external forces. Nationally, recent research has borne out an increase in principal turnover across the country over the past 5 years. According to the statute, every student that attends public school in the United States will be proficient in math and reading, regardless of sub-group, by 2014. The purpose of this qualitative study was to illuminate an area of research pertaining to principals of schools whose subgroups achieved AYP through the use of a confidence interval, and to collect effective instructional data (interventions) that could theoretically help student sub-groups achieve AYP.

There is also an understanding among principals that if they do not meet their AYP goal each year, eventually they can be removed from their leadership positions. This sanction does not take into effect a school’s overall score, but is reflective of all its subgroups. Results from this study show that principals, although aware of the law and its sanctions, chose to focus on designing positive interventions that help all students achieve, while at the same time offering instructional supports to their respective staffs. The principals agreed that the NCLB law was good for public education, but stated that sub-group inclusion was unfair to the students it is designed to protect. All principals reported a moderate level of stress connected with the implementation of the statute, but not enough for them to consider leaving their jobs for another occupation. The premise that principals worried about losing their jobs as a result of AYP failure was refuted in this study. All principals reported major changes at their schools in curriculum delivery, interventions for sub-groups, and the use of data assessment systems to drive instruction. An emerging theme from this study is the concept that the NCLB statute over the past 5 years has become the “Great Equalizer” between urban and suburban districts. As more suburban schools fall under NCLB sanctions, they no longer can dismiss AYP failures as an urban phenomenon, but actually look to partner with urban schools I order to create effective instructional programs for their students.

The research about the impact of the NCLB law on principal stress remains inconclusive. As the law continues to move toward 2014, barring any dramatic change in the law, all public schools in the United States will be under some type of corrective action. There is a large research gap re: how principals will survive in that particular environment. This study has started to address that gap by focusing on what schools do when they are an under-performing sub-group away from NCLB sanctions. This study also begins to document the changes that are have been occurring in schools as a result of NCLB along with principal perceptions of stress since its advent in 2002.

AdviserCorrinne Caldwell
SourceDAI/A 71-07, Jul 2010
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsEducational leadership; Educational administration; Occupational psychology
Publication Number3408700
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