I Have a Voice So Listen: Principal Perception of the Texas Accountability Intervention System (TAIS)
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Across the United States, individual states have taken the mandates from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which originated in 2001 as part of the Reformation Era (Foley & Nelson, 2011), and created improvement structures to support schools in need of improvement. The concern with this process is in the description of how the school improvement structures are developed and presented to schools. The clear message is that principals are to implement these structures regardless of how they feel about their worth. Miller-Williams and Kritsonis (2009) challenged this when they reported, “Leaders perform a valuable service when they discern that a venerated system or process has outlived its usefulness, or that it is operating as originally designed but against the organization’s overall purpose” (p. 2). The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of principals participating in one such school improvement structure mandated in Texas, the Texas Accountability Intervention System (TAIS). Included in this description of their experiences with the phenomena of TAIS, is their perception of how their feedback is used to inform this system at the State level. This study focused on answering the following research questions: What are the lived experiences of principals connected by, and participating in, the phenomenon of the TAIS process? How do these principals perceive their feedback is utilized to inform adjustments in the TAIS process by the State of Texas? What recommendations for the TAIS process would principals make to the State, given the opportunity? This research applied the theoretical framework of Distributed Leadership Studies (DLS). The DLS framework posits that, “Leadership activity is constituted – defined or constructed – in the interaction of leaders, followers, and their situation in the execution of particular leadership tasks (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2004, p. 10). The key aspect of the framework is in the interaction of leaders and followers within their situation. While Spillane’s work applied the DLS framework to schools specifically, with the principal as the leader and teachers as followers, I argue that this same framework applies to the State level of education. The connection in this research study is made between the DLS framework and the Texas Education Agency as the leader and school leaders as the followers. The DLS perspective shifts the unit of analysis from the individual to a web of leaders, followers, and the situation (Spillane et al., 2004), and the State has the opportunity to use the web of leaders in schools to its advantage. Rather than simply allow state and federal governments to continue to impose their school reform ideas on school districts and schools, this research included interviews with five principals of schools in central and south Texas who completed the TAIS process within the last two years. This provided the opportunity to hear from a group of principals who have lived experiences with the same phenomena, the TAIS process, while in the same role, school Principal. It also provided insight into their perception of how their feedback on the TAIS process, once completed, is used at the State level to further inform the process in the future. The key findings from this research study, in connection to the research questions were: (1) There is an absence of Principal feedback at the State level in regards to the TAIS process and its implementation and (2) Principals have strong and viable recommendations to offer the State that will serve to improve the TAIS process.