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An analysis of administrator attitudes toward tasks in school administration.

This study reports attitudes of current school administrators toward routine tasks in an attempt to offer insight into why the job may or may not be considered a wise career choice or even a desirable job. The research question for this study is: What makes the principal's position desirable and what makes this important leadership position less desirable? Researchers on the job of principal have discussed the increasing complex nature of educational leadership. Some have even suggested why the principal's position is one that fewer and fewer teachers seek to fill (Fenwick, 2000; Fenwick & Pierce, 2001). Survey results are reported indicating which tasks were rated positively and negatively by respondents as well as possible explanations for these results.


There is research that suggests the educational community faces a crisis relative to the limited number of candidates for the position of principal. McAdams (1998) describes a pool of applicants for principal vacancies that continues to shrink. A recent report (Rayfield, 2002) suggests that the job of a principal is complex and difficult, and many duties of the principalship are not identified as positive factors in job satisfaction. In a paper presented at the University Council for Educational Administration annual convention Zellner, Jinkins, Gideon, and Doughty (2002) discuss the difficult nature of recruiting candidates to fill educational leadership vacancies. The notion that the principalship is a position that fewer and fewer educators aspire to is germane to the discussion (Fenwick, 2000; Fenwick & Pierce, 2001). Why would teachers choose not to become principals? Sergiovanni (2001, p. 17) reports on the ever-changing role principals are taking on. The duties of the principalship continue to expand (Portin, Shen, & Williams, 1998). This expansion has created a situation in which principals have to make choices relative to the duties that will consume their time. With a recent emphasis on educational leadership and a reduced emphasis on managerial duties, principal preparation programs are training administrators for the position of instructional leader (ISLLC, 1996). Portin, ct. al. (1998) provide evidence of building level administrators having to make difficult choices between instructional leadership and managerial tasks. What appears to be constant with regards to the principalship is that this role continues to expand (Sergiovanni, 2001, p.17). New responsibilities are added, however, no responsibilities are deleted. Sergiovanni's work on the complex and changing nature of the principalship may be frightening to many educators. The nature of the work a principal is expected to perform may also provide a clue as to why teachers are reluctant to become principals. Jenlink (2002) uses a metaphor of a bricoleur to describe the work of an administrator. That the successful administrator must use the materials available to lead the school might create apprehension in prospective administrators. The idea that administrators must be become "a jack of all trades and a master of all trades" certainly places pressure on the principals.

This study reports attitudes of current school administrators toward routine tasks in an attempt to offer insight into why the job may or may not be considered a wise career choice or even a desirable job. The research question for this study is: What makes the principal's position desirable and what makes this important leadership position less desirable?

The research design was quantitative, using survey research methods to collect data. The procedures included development of a random sample of schools in Ohio. This sample was selected from a list of all secondary schools belonging to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

The design required development of a survey instrument. This was done with the assistance of a group of administrators. The experiences of this group of principals provided a background for development of survey items. Using survey research techniques, a random selection of secondary (grades 9-12) principals across Ohio was questioned relative to their perceptions of the duties they are required to perform. The study involved over 100 practicing secondary administrators. Urban, suburban, and rural principals provided a rich pool for data collection. Experience in educational administration ranged from 1 year to over 25 years.

Responding to statements using a Likert scale, participants provided answers to a survey developed by the researchers. Questions were posed that were directed at determining which duties of the principalship were reported as "satisfying" and which duties were reported as "not satisfying". Follow-up phone interviews with 33 of the participants allowed the researcher to clarify responses, and collect more detailed data. These results are not discussed in this report.

Survey Instrument

The survey came into existence after a discussion involving six principals at a roundtable discussion. Various "complaints" related to the duties each of the participants were required to perform were listed in a brainstorming session. The data collected at this initial session served to begin the development of the survey instrument. As a draft of the survey was made ready, additional administrators became involved. After a series of drafts, the final survey was developed. The survey included various duties principal must perform with participants indicating the degree to which they found various duties satisfying. The final survey instrument was pilot tested for ease of use using a small group of principals in the northwest Ohio area via email correspondences. In the second week of March 2002, 150 surveys were mailed to the sample across Ohio. 73 surveys were returned within two weeks. A reminder notice, complete with a second survey instrument was mailed out after the two-week deadline passed. The second mailing brought forth an additional 39 responses.

Validity (both content validity and construct validity) of the instrument was provided through the logical analysis of the survey instrument by a panel of experts (Hailer & Klein, 2001 p. 85). Evidence of content validity results from a logical analysis of test items to determine how well they represent a particular construct or notion (Hailer & Klein, 2001 p. 86). This is often accomplished by using a panel of experts in the field to analyze the survey items. Construct validity evidence is derived using an approach that examines the theoretical foundations of the concept being measured. A careful definition of the variables being measured provides this theoretical foundation (Hailer and Klein, 2001 p. 87). Through consultation with several practicing principals in schools located in northwest Ohio, the researcher developed strong construct and content validity with the survey instrument.

Data Analysis

The responses from the collected surveys were analyzed, utilizing SPSS software. Descriptive data printouts included frequencies for each survey item, percents of the various responses for each item, means, and standard deviations for responses to each item.


Many of the duties associated with the principalship were identified as satisfying. For example, participants rated the duties associated with recognition of student achievement as being very satisfying. Other areas identified as having a positive influence on the job satisfaction level of high school principals included:

* Curriculum alignment or development

* Leading professional development

* Selection of teachers

The data collected also suggest that secondary principals in Ohio are performing many tasks. This necessitates that the leaders in the high schools become "experts" in many areas. The requirement for performance of so many tasks is one area that principals identified as being a negative factor in job satisfaction. Other areas that were reported as neutral or not satisfying included:

* Fiscal management, particularly fundraising

* Supervision of transportation personnel

* Dealing with disruptive students

* Attendance issues

* Contract management

* Compliance with state mandates

Although the mean of many of the items listed in the neutral category indicated that principals do not find the duties particularly negative in terms of job satisfaction one must understand that the distribution of values placed on responses ranged considerably. For example, when we examine the response to the item "special education supervision responsibilities," the mean score is 3.19. This indicates that principals, "on average" did not associate this item as being a negative factor in job satisfaction. A closer look at the frequencies associated with the responses indicates that 32% of the participants were neutral with regards to this item; however, 37% of the responses were negative or very negative. Only 21% of the participants viewed this duty as satisfying. Compliance with state mandates is another area that provides a similar response. The mean score reported indicates that this duty is in the neutral range with a score of 3.14. The data, however, indicate that only 25% of the respondents find compliance with state mandates


The purpose of this study was to examine some factors of the principalship through job analysis and review of literature that might explain current prevailing attitudes of reluctance of many to seek and apply for the principalship.

The findings show that the work of the secondary principal is complex and requires a great deal of commitment and talent. This might partially explain applicant reluctance toward the job. The comparison made earlier in this paper to the principal being a bricoleur is well supported. The "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" phrase comes to mind, however, the secondary principal must become the Master of All Trades, period. The requirement to become "expert" across many disciplines tends to make the principal's job look overwhelming and might also explain reluctance toward the job.

As the work of the secondary principal continues to grow with regards to complexity, universities and programs are forced to offer experiences that provide students with sufficient opportunities to learn the skills necessary for success. Most importantly, administrator preparation programs will have to address the perceived reluctance for the position and somehow address this in their coursework. Identifying and elaborating on positive aspects of the job as well as establishing support/mentoring programs is needed. Perhaps this could be implemented during required field experiences and practica, ff not in coursework across the board.


Fenwick, L. (2000). The principal shortage: Who will lead? Cambridge, MA: The Principal's Center, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Fenwick, L. & Pierce, M. (2001). The principal shortage: Crisis or opportunity? Principal, 80(4), 24-32.

Hailer, E., & Kleine, P. (2001). Using educational research: A school administrator's guide. New York: Longman.

Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium. (1996). Standards. [On-line.] Available: http ://

Jenlink, p. (2002). Leadership as a bricolage of scholarly practice: A critical examination of disciplinary discourses and practices. Paper presented at the University Council for Educational Administration Annual Convention. Pittsburgh, PA. November 2002.

McAdams, R. (1997). A systems approach to school reform. Phi Delta Kappan. October 1997.

Portin, B., Shen, J., & Williams, R., (1998). The changing Principalship and its impact: Voices from principals. NASSP Bulletin, 82(602), 1-8.

Sergiovanni; T. (2001). The principalship: A reflective practice perspective. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Zellner, D., Jinkins, D., Gideon, B., Doughty, S. (2001). Sculpting school leadership for the recruitment and retention of the principal. Paper presented at the meeting of the University Council for Educational Administration, Cincinnati, OH.

Robin Rayfield, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership, University of Toledo. Thomas Diamantes, Associate Professor, Educational Administration, Department of Educational Leadership, Wright State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Thomas Diamantes, Associate Professor, Educational Administration, Department of Educational Leadership, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Dayton, OH 45435-0001; Email:
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Author:Diamantes, Thomas
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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