Multiple perspectives in alternative school leadership development: A study of three first-year urban principals

Jann Coles, Fordham University


The role of the school principal has become increasingly more challenging. This study analyzed the professional lives of 3 principals to learn about their 1st year on the job and to offer suggestions about how to improve principal preparation. A series of interviews and observations of 2 middle school principals and 1 elementary provided the data, using case study and portaiture methodologies. Using Bolman and Deal's (1997) 4-frame model for analyzing leadership challenges, the study found that until the challenges in these frames (structural, human resource, political, and symbolic) were overcome, the principals were not able to concentrate on instruction. All 3 principals survived their 1st year, in most instances successfully navigating the Bolman and Deal frames, which allowed them to focus on student achievement. The following implications and recommendations resulted from the study: Preparation programs should: (a) Screen aspiring principals carefully for crucial personal and professional attributes; (b) provide full-time year-long residencies; (c) include numerous opportunities for aspiring principals to lead groups of adults; and (d) focus on instructional leadership. Principals should: (a) Plan with Bolman and Deal's model in mind; (b) pay special attention to matters of safety and student discipline; (c) realize that education is as much about politics as education; and (d) develop staff capacity. School districts should: (a) Give support for principals' ideas and (b) provide resources. Preparation programs, principals themselves, and school districts should work to develop support groups for new principals.

Subject Area

School administration|Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Coles, Jann, "Multiple perspectives in alternative school leadership development: A study of three first-year urban principals" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3178857.