Panel Paper: Using Mixed Methods to Understand the Impact of the Balanced Leadership Program On Student Achievement

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 1:20 PM
International C (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Robin Tepper Jacob1, Roger Goddard2, Minjung Kim2 and Robert Miller2, (1)University of Michigan, (2)Texas A&M University

The role of principals in leading school-based instructional improvement efforts has received increased attention as national accountability standards, tight budgets and changing demographics continue to challenge American schools (Hallinger, 2003, 2005). Although compelling evidence underscores the importance of leadership to school effectiveness, effective leadership training programs are not widely available and few training programs are directly supported by research evidence (Levine, 2005).   This study is rigorously testing the impact of one promising leadership program, McREL’s Balanced Leadership Professional Development program for School Leaders.  McREL’s program involves a series of 10, two-day, cohort-based professional development sessions to help practitioners learn and apply the 21 leadership responsibilities and 66 associated practices that McREL researchers have identified as the keys to effective school leadership.  To test the impact of the program on principal learning and behavior and on student outcomes, approximately 100 principals in Michigan’s rural schools were randomly assigned to receive the Balanced Leadership Professional Development Program or to a “business as usual” control group that followed standard district approaches to school improvement.  The main effect of interest in this study involves whether or not the treatment positively impacts student achievement. We hypothesize that students in treatment schools will have significantly higher levels of achievement in mathematics and English language arts than students in control schools

To test the impact of the Balanced Leadership program on student achievement we will use student-level test scores from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (the MEAP). The MEAP is administered each October and assesses the achievement of students in the subject areas of mathematics and English language arts in grades three through eight.  We will use October, 2008 as baseline (prior to intervention) achievement measures.  Student-level achievement scores were then collected annually for the next three years.

The study also involves a qualitative component designed to provide a richer description of principals’ application of knowledge acquired through the professional development program. From the larger, randomized study, five case study schools that were part of the treatment group were selected. Qualitative data include interviews, observations, document analysis, and field notes. Principals participated in three scheduled interviews, conducted within a two week period immediately following a BLPD training session.   Qualitative data were also collected for all treatment schools in the study regarding the fidelity of implementation. 

This paper will explore the impact of the program on student achievement, as well as the variability in implementation fidelity and program effectiveness.  We will use the data obtained from the qualitative component of the study to shed light on the findings, in particular the degree to which the program was implemented with fidelity, and will discuss the key role that the qualitative data has played in helping to understand and interpret study findings.