With increasing demands for schools to meet standardized test expectations, decrease drop-out rates, prepare a globally competitive workforce, and develop students who are college-ready, many schools are faced with the challenge of effective principal leadership to meet these expectations. A Texas study revealed that less than 30 percent of principals remain in high schools beyond five years, and moreover that principals in low-performing schools have the shortest tenure (Fuller & Young, 2009). These principals need support from their districts to develop the characteristics of effective school leadership (Brookover & Lezotte, 1982); however, there is little correlation between the district-level meetings principals are required to attend and their development as instructional leaders (Anderson, Leithwood, Louis, & Wahlstrom, 2010).
This study examined the time principals spend away from their buildings to determine (1) the amount of time principals spend in off-campus meetings, (2) the perceptions principals have about the necessity of these meetings, and (3) principals' perceptions of what constitutes an effective meeting. Archival data from The Principal Survey was reviewed as the basis for this study. The Principal Survey captured principals' responses to questions administered via the cognitive interview protocol.
In addition, a review of current research on the subject of principal leadership, instructional leadership, and adult education was used to determine the practices districts need to develop effective school leaders. This examination included an analysis of responses from a diverse group of principals from a wide range of school settings. The Principal Survey consists of responses from leaders of rural, urban, and suburban elementary and secondary schools. The entire survey contains responses to 22 demographic questions, 31 open-ended questions, and 62 Likert-type questions. This study focused on six questions from the survey. Five of the questions are open-ended and one question required a response to a Likert-type item.
The survey data were analyzed using a mixed-method approach in which (1) qualitative data from the interview questions were coded into themes, (2) descriptive statistics were used to describe the quantitative data, and (3) a t-test for independent means was conducted to determine the significance of the relationship between a school's accountability rating and the amount of time the school's principal spends off-campus.
The findings of this study have implications for district leaders who oversee the time principals spend attending off-campus meetings. The conclusions of this study underscore practices needed to increase the principal's capacity to effectively lead schools. These practices include district meetings that allow principals to network and share best-practices with one another, the use of technology in lieu of face-to-face meetings to disseminate updates on district and state policy issues, and professional development activities that promote the principal's sense of self-efficacy in instructional leadership.