K-12 School Administration Term Paper

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K-12 School Administration

A Comparative Critique of 10 K-12 Education Articles

The pace of legislative change created by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act "and the natural rivalry between different groups with different ideas about what works best" in schools has caused no end of confusion, tension, miscommunication and outright division among those who need to work together" according to much of the professional literature on the subject (Friedman & Johnson 2006:1). However, improved public relations between parents and schools are essential to create the partnerships to make progress toward common goals, "ensuring that teachers, parents and students share a bold new vision for learning" (Friedman & Johnson 2006:1). While there is wide agreement that 'better' communications between the school administration and the public is essential, the methodology of how to go about transmitting messages about the school, as well as what sort of information should be emphasized remains controversial.

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Although schools are not technically a business, the role of principals and other school administrators as CEOs of the public school system is one popular way to view administrator's, superintendent's and principal's roles. One 2005 review in Reference & Research Book News of a new text devoted to the subject of the business of public schooling entitled "Public relations for schools; a resource guide for principals," even advocates obtaining feedback about school satisfaction through marketing surveys and polls, traditionally the province of private enterprise, as well as more traditional forms of garnering parent and community input such as advisory committees, forums, and conferences. The aim of school public relations on the K-12 level, the article asserts, is to bolster the school's image through media opportunities and generate interest in fundraising and finding out what 'works' for parents through focus groups and surveys is essential. Rather tartly, Robert Sagor calls this the "can you top this approach" to generating positive buzz, along the lines of a commercial boasting that a certain soap detergent gets clothes whiter than white, because the company has solicited feedback about what messages make consumers want to buy the soap (Sagor 1995:1).

Term Paper on K-12 School Administration Assignment

In contrast, Brian Woodland in the peer-reviewed journal School Administrator stresses that school public relations should influence community perceptions by explaining what schools do through informative websites, not by soliciting opinion polls to discover what works in the short-term. He reminds the administrator the "National School Public Relations Association points out that 90% of school image is based on quality service: in the association's words," convincing the parents that the school is "doing a good job.' (Woodland 2001:1) Only "seven percent is listening, actively seeking out input...Only three percent is about telling," forms of communication "and contrary to the usual approach of school administrations "that doesn't mean telling people what you want them to hear" (Woodland 2001:1).

Indeed, according to a 2007 article in Business Wire, "New Technology Tools Have High Acceptance Rate in Public Relations," technology such as websites that are informative in content rather than openly devoted to advertising and that are always accessible can generate a more positive feeling amongst consumers of all services and products, more so than traditional marketing techniques like soliciting product feedback through mail-in surveys. Beatrice Fennimore likewise rejects the fusing of business, politics, and marketing with education on a linguistic level: "Educational leaders have been under pressure to adopt expressions from the business and political domains. But simple statements about 'restructuring' or 'ensuring high standards' may falsely imply a quick fix to complicated longstanding human dilemmas," which is also one of the criticisms of the stress on standards-based testing and calculable improvement in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (Fennimore: 2001: 1). Thus, it is critical for educational leaders to temper the language of business and politics with public reminders of the moral and ethical mandates of schooling in a democratic society, and fulfilling these mandates take time. Equity, fairness and social justice are "concepts not always associated with business management or political dealings" (Fennimore 2001:1).

Just because improved communication can be helpful does not mean that school communications and public relations should be confused with advertising in a business environment, which stresses downplaying or putting a positive spin on shortcomings and emphasizing only the positive. Thus while Tom Salter gives promotional, cheerleading advice to school administrators, suggesting: "athletic events offer a great public relations opportunity...announce at a basketball or football game promote the new computer lab; congratulate an outstanding student for an award or scholarship; thank a volunteer for hours of dedication; mention a teacher's recent award; congratulate an academic team for its accomplishments. And ask the booster club to give you a page in the program booklet to promote the school system" according to Woodland and Fennimore, this does not foster a sense of school engagement on a meaningful level about how to improve things or really raise parental confidence, especially when heightened expectations of improvement are not met by the administration, teachers, or students (Salter 2004:1).

Another important piece of advice is avoiding a tone of defensiveness with the public. This may prove difficult, as No Child Left Behind legislation also means that administrators and teachers are held accountable for their students' success, yet the teachers and administrators generally do not control the curricular decision-making process that affects student's performance (Findlay 2005:1). However, the 'circling the wagons' or the "decide-and-defend" approach to school district policymaking a without involving parents and other community members can create more controversy, alienate the community, and foster more divisive debate in the long run (Leighninger 2003: 1).

Above all, keep the information local, immediate, and specific (which can be difficult when discussing changes on the federal level and how they affect schools on the local level) as in response to the question: Whose interests should the schools serve -- the nation interests or my child's interests? (Graham 2004:1) Parents ultimately want to know how changes in testing policy will affect their student in the short-term, not the future of the school or nation in the long-term (Graham 2004:1).

Honesty about challenges and shortcomings are critical to generate new solutions amongst administrators and parents alike. Public relations must be accessible and transparent, and parents are growing more and more sophisticated about seeing through traditional advertising puffery, even in product-based advertising. They will be able to see through, even more easily the 'spin' put upon negative developments by their own child's school. The nature of often confusing and ever-changing standards and legislation requires schools to explain in clear and concise terms to parents what this means to their child, and how their children's education will change, as a result of such legislation, over the future. Using the Internet is important, because parents can check constantly for updates about the school, and feel a sense of connection with their child even when far away, but connecting with parents on a personal and interactive level, and soliciting their input is equally important. However, although parents can provide input, administrators must also provide leadership, and parents desire that leadership, even if they do not always articulate this directly.

Ultimately, most of the literature stresses that school leaders are not CEOs, although their managerial capacity is often considerable. They must view themselves in dialogue, not simply with teachers or with individuals with an official capacity, but with teachers, students, and parents as well. They do not merely delegate, or pass down information about changes in policy or decisions, but they must carefully think how the message is conveyed, and how perceptions of that message should affect policy. Yet they cannot nor should they simply 'satisfy' parental expectations about student performance, they also must lead parents to change their minds and hearts when a change in school policy is federally required, or simply deemed necessary by the school leadership.

Works Cited

Fennimore, Beatrice. (2001, Aug). "The power… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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