The relationship between the theory of transformational leadership and data use in schools : an exploratory study
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Nationwide reform efforts strive to improve schooling through a range of approaches including improving the quality of campus leadership, restructuring organizational design, and revamping instruction. National and state education policies reflect the reforms addressed in educational research literature and drive state, district, and campus based improvement initiatives. For example, the more recent influence of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability system has led to a significant increase in the use of data to drive instructional decision-making. Campus leadership is key to both the successful implementation of data initiatives (Wayman and Stringfield, 2006) as well as comprehensive reform efforts (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005). The literature provides a wide array of leadership theories that offer promise in understanding more effective approaches to leading school improvement efforts; however, much of this literature remains conceptual and vague (Leithwood, Harris, & Hopkins 2008). Data use has gained increasing attention in the literature as well, but the research lacks a strong conceptual framework for leadership. The purpose of this paper is to view data use through the lens of Leithwood’s model of Transformational Leadership in order to explore the linkages between the leadership theory and data use practices and to offer a framework that situates data use as a tool to increase all students’ academic performance and build a democratic and socially just learning organization. The linkages between Transformational Leadership and data use are presented as both bodies of literature are reviewed. The study was guided by the following questions: 1) What are the levels of Transformational Leadership Behaviors exhibited at each campus? 2) What are the data use practices being implemented on each campus? 3) What is the relationship between Transformational Leadership and data use? Two schools served as the sites for the research which drew on both quantitative and qualitative data sources to address the research questions. Results and findings show evidence of Transformational Leadership Behaviors that linked closely with the data use practices. The final discussion offers a preliminary conceptual framework delineating the intersection between the theory of Transformational Leadership and data use in schools.