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Discussion Cross-analysing the three cases shows all three head teachers displayed qualities and characteristics of democratic, socially just, culturally responsive leaders in varying degrees and results at school level. ECHS headteachers must balance several antagonistic objectives such as access to opportunities, relationship building, management of the school and school accountability. The purpose of ECHS is to increase access to further education and high school completion rates for 1st generation students who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and students of color (NC New Schools, 2013).
At times this purpose conflicts mandates set in place that specify head teachers must show all students are building towards being successful, measured through a system of standardised tests. All three headteachers exhibited attributes of a democratic leader, but at different levels. Principal Robinson stimulated collaboration amongst his practioners and teams of teachers using fortnightly planning meetings while Principals Lewis and Washington applied open door policies where both teaching staff and pupils felt welcomed. Although Principal Robinson sought pupil voices during monthly assessment meetings with pupils, she often did not take their views or opinions into deliberation when making decisions that impacted the pupils experiences. Finally, Principal Robinson was not an advocate for her pupils within or externally of the school.
Contrariwise, Principals Lewis and Washington encouraged their pupils as evidenced by them continually working with teaching practioners to assist them to understand that discipline should be managed based on pupils individual cases not through blanket, zero-tolerance guidelines. Although both headteachers actions at times conflicted with teacher’s beliefs on discipline, Principals Lewis and Washington thought that treating students with respect and valuing them as individuals was more imperative to their overall well-being and progress. Many teaching practioners often say they want all pupils to succeed and access education, but it is essential that this is actioned to implement a change. A socially just leader, nonetheless, acts upon the principle that all pupils should have access to a high quality of educational practices. Reflecting on this, Principal Robinson did not qualify as a socially just leader because she valued achievement and having top test marks over warranting that traditionally disenfranchised pupils had access to her school. For example, only 6 out of 350 students that applied for a place three years ago were black- african yet neither Principal Robinson nor the teachers and parents seemed to be concerned about this fact.
School A participants believed that gaining access to the school and its academic provision was a privilege and that only hand-picked pupils should have the prospect to attend the school, this is contradictory to the actions of a socially just headteacher and the purpose of ECHSs initiatives. Instead, Principals Lewis and Washington exemplified socially just headship. Both head teachers wrote allowances that started their schools and then allowed open access to educational programmes for all, as they believed that historically underserved and underrepresented pupils should have the same right to education that students from more affluent backgrounds. Research indicated that both head teachers showed that they appreciated and respected their pupils and their needs, which helped student to take risks and partake in each school’s rigorous early high school development program. Each headteacher exhibited culturally responsive leadership, although Principal Robinson’s take painted a contrary picture about cultural sensitivity. All head teachers had high expectancies of their pupils and endeavored to create a family-like atmosphere within their institutes. Principal Robinson’s drive to institute “community norms” about all from what people could warm up in the kitchen to what type of clothing an individual could wear indicated that she expected pupils to integrate into the conventional culture upon arrival at the school. Instead, Principals Lewis and Washington showed cultural responsiveness when they contested teacher’s deficit rational about student’s behavior and achievement. Both head teachers also had an ethic of care toward all pupils and the communities where they operated. Principal Washington gained great credibility with parents and pupils when he worked closely with teacher to assist in changing the culture of the school, to embed value towards the school’s purpose and mission. Based on the findings from this research, each headteacher encouraged student achievement by creating schools that were supported with their individual values and beliefs systems on achievement, access to academics, impartiality, capacity-building and associations (Harris, 2002).
Whilst Principal Robinson created an school that encouraged pupil success as measured by test marks and academic performance, Principals Lewis and Washington created schools that encouraged access to education and opportunity over academic performance and standardized test results. The study conducted is significant because schools in the US, as in the UK are becoming more diverse and will require headteachers that establish democratic, socially just, culturally responsive leadership to spearhead them. The reason these types of headteachers are necessary is because the educational history and experiences of most students of color and lower-income students in USA has been tremendously negative and counter to many educator’s claims of wanting equitable, quality educational opportunities for all pupils.
In order to remain competitive globally and relevant in the future, then a dramatic change is required across US schools to ensure the first generation of color and low income pupils are catered for. Since the leadership team is typically the individual tasked with leading such changes at the senior level, then current and future headteachers, along with school stakeholders, must recognize historic prejudices and take well-defined, purposeful initiatives within and outside the school to bring about significant change. This research indicates that headteachers at early college high schools must practice democratic, socially just, culturally responsive leadership if they desire to be an effective ECHS leader. If headteachers, teachers, and policymakers continue to view students of color and lower-income students as deficient and incapable or unwilling learners, then the results schools have seen with these pupils for decades will continue unchanged. In light of numerous local and national protests against police brutality, unfair judicial systems, and education systems that exclude students of color and lower income students, public school headteachers, and classroom practitioners must acknowledge their responsibility in leading conversations, practices, and systems that promote equitable, socially just, and culturally responsive educational opportunities for all pupils. Senior leadership, chiefly those that serve at diverse academic institutes, must reflect on how their action, or inaction, contributes to negative school experiences and consequences for pupils of color and lower income students.
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