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Shared Sense-Making, Agency, and Learning in School Development in Finnish School Reforms  

Tiina Soini, Kirsi Pyhältö, and Janne Pietarinen

Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.


Black Women Superintendents  

Sonya Douglass Horsford, Dessynie D. Edwards, and Judy A. Alston

Research on Black women superintendents has focused largely on their racial and gendered identities and the challenges associated with negotiating the politics of race and gender while leading complex school systems. Regarding the underrepresentation of Black female superintendents, an examination of Black women’s experiences of preparing for, pursuing, attaining, and serving in the superintendency may provide insights regarding their unique ways of knowing and, leading that, inform their leadership praxis. Informed by research on K-12 school superintendency, race and gender in education leadership, and the lived experiences and knowledge claims of Black women superintendents, important implications for future research on the superintendency will be hold. There exists a small but growing body of scholarly research on Black women education leaders, even less on the Black woman school superintendent, who remains largely underrepresented in education leadership research and the field. Although key studies have played an important role in establishing historical records documenting the service and contributions of Black women educational leaders in the United States, the bulk of the research on Black women superintendents can be found in dissertation studies grounded largely in the works of Black women education leadership scholars and practitioners. As a growing number of aspiring and practicing leaders who identify as Black women enter graduate-level leadership preparation programs and join the ranks of educational administration, questions concerning race and gender in leadership are almost always present as the theories presented in leadership preparation programs often conflict with or represent set of perspectives, realities, and strategies that may not align with those experienced by leaders who identify as Black women. For these reasons, their leadership perspectives, epistemologies, and contributions are essential to our understanding of the superintendency and field of educational leadership.


K–12 School Employee Perpetrated Student Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation  

Charol Shakeshaft

K–12 school employee perpetrated student sexual abuse, misconduct, and exploitation is the sexual boundary crossing of school employees to include verbal, visual, physical, and/or social media conduct of a sexual nature by a school employee directed toward a student. The sexual abuse of students by school employees is a worldwide problem that is under-documented and systematically ignored. Empirical work published since the first studies in the early 1980s explore five questions. How prevalent is the sexual abuse of students in schools? Who abuses? Who is abused? How does it happen? And, how can it be prevented?


The Intersection of Gender and Race in the American School Superintendency  

Susan J. Katz and Eva C. Smith

Significant research telling the stories of women’s experiences in the superintendency has only been conducted since the 1980s. Much of that research has been focused on White women, with fewer studies related to female leaders of color. By the beginning of the new century, there were more women in the pipeline for the superintendency—more women in graduate educational leadership programs, more women in the elementary principalship, and more women in central office positions. While increases have been made throughout the years, females only made up 27% of the superintendency, up only 2% from 2010. This stands in direct contrast to the female-dominated teaching force; given that the position of teacher is the first in the pathway toward the superintendency, women are clearly underrepresented as superintendents across the United States. This problem has been a topic for researchers, practicing academics, and doctoral students who conduct studies to understand what hinders women from accessing the superintendency in greater numbers.


Educational Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Swedish School  

Eva Hjörne and Roger Säljö

In the early 21st century, school leaders play an important role—mediating between political ambitions and policies on the one hand and local conditions in schools and classrooms on the other. Mediating between general policies and local needs and constraints becomes increasingly challenging in diverse and complex societies. One interesting element of this dilemma is how to handle the balance between inclusion and segregation of children who have difficulties following mainstream teaching. In such cases, educational policies have to be interpreted in the context of the needs and prospects of specific individuals; that is, school leaders have to close the gap between the general (policy) and the specific (students and their capacities). When engaging in such decisions, school leaders as mediators rely on categories that characterize students and their abilities. In recent decades, neuropsychiatric categories, especially attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD), have played an increasingly prominent role when such decisions are made, and this is an international phenomenon. An interesting set of problems that has not been the focus of much research is how school leaders perceive such dilemmas of deciding on the educational futures of children. In addition, we know little about what happens when children, after being diagnosed with ADHD, are placed in special educational groups. Important issues at this level concern what the teaching and learning situation they encounter is like, and what the likelihood is that participation in such special educational groups will improve their opportunities for the future. In other words, what are the gains and losses of such placements for students, and does the placement in a special educational group contribute to a successful educational career? Swedish school leaders emphasize the dilemmas they perceive in such high-stakes situations when the diagnosis ADHD is invoked as the main explanation for learning difficulties, since the most frequent outcome is segregation and placement in a special teaching group. In addition, research shows that the instructional strategies dominating these segregated settings are highly individualized forms of teaching, where often one teacher is instructing one student. Despite this arrangement, it is found that the students do not actively contribute to the instructional activities and dialogues; rather, it is the teacher who dominates the instruction. The question raised is whether exposure to such special educational practices will prepare children for a return to their regular classroom. If this is not the case, the dilemma is that the educational solution offered risks being counterproductive in the sense that the student will be even further away from reintegration into mainstream classrooms.


School Leadership and Gender- and Sexuality-Related Equity  

Thomas A. Zook

All students deserve a safe and welcoming atmosphere in which to learn and to be valued and respected as their authentic selves. For educational leaders, gender- and sexuality-related equity involves the recognition that schools often represent hostile, discriminatory, and inequitable learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ+) individuals; however, this is merely the first step. Establishing equitable learning environments for LGBTQ+ individuals requires action and, especially in this instance, the courage to take effective action toward purging the school culture of all institutionalized barriers and negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding LGBTQ+ people. School leaders dedicated to ensuring that all students genuinely have an equal opportunity to succeed will extend that obligation to the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning individuals, plus those who do not otherwise identify as heterosexual and/or gender compliant (LGBTQ+) and those who are merely perceived to be, as well as their family, friends, and allies, who are also all a vital and deserving part of the school community. Achieving gender- and sexuality-related equity involves the creation of LGBTQ+-inclusive curricula, decentering hetero/cisnormativity, eliminating homophobic and transphobic harassment and bullying, identifying and eliminating policies and procedures that discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, and ensuring that all school personnel have the necessary knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ+ realities to become caring and supportive allies.


Intersectionality in U.S. Educational Research  

Lisa Sibbett

Intersectionality is celebrated in education research for its capacity to illuminate how identities like race, gender, class, and ability interact and shape individual experiences, social practices, institutions, and ideologies. However, although widely invoked among educational researchers, intersectionality is rarely unpacked or theorized. It is treated as a simple, settled concept despite the fact that, outside education research, it has become in the early 21st century one of the most hotly debated concepts in social science research. Education researchers should therefore clarify and, where appropriate, complicate their uses of intersectionality. One important issue requiring clarification concerns the question: “Who is intersectional?” While some critical social scientists represent intersectionality as a theory of multiple marginalization, others frame it as a theory of multiple identities. Either choice entails theoretical and practical trade-offs. When researchers approach intersectionality as a theory of multiple marginalization, they contribute to seeking redress for multiply marginalized subjects’ experiences of violence and erasure, yet this approach risks representing multiply marginalized communities as damaged, homogenous, and without agency, while leaving the processes maintaining dominance uninterrogated. When scholars approach intersectionality as a theory of multiple identities, meanwhile, they may supply a fuller account of the processes by which advantage and disadvantage co-constitute one another, but they risk recentering Whiteness, deflecting conversations about racism, and marginalizing women of color in the name of inclusivity. A review of over 60 empirical and conceptual papers in educational research shows that such trade-offs are not often made visible in our field. Education researchers should therefore clarify their orientations to intersectionality: They should name the approach(es) they favor, make arguments for why such approaches are appropriate to a particular project, and respond thoughtfully to potential limitations.


Reinforcing Administrator Cultural Consciousness During the Social Media Revolution  

Thomas R. Hughes, Ijeoma Ononuju, and Grace Okoli

Schools have traditionally been viewed as socializing institutions, and expectations encountered across the educational profession have typically brought administrators to the forefront of the most complex cultural issues experienced across the nation. While growing social instability abounds and fuels an expansion of targets for widespread intolerance, it is increasingly evident in 2020 that the footings upon which racial tolerance was seemingly being built were likely never as solid as was once thought throughout the United States. Contemporary school leaders are expected to face increasingly complex challenges every day. These demands draw them further into a conflict-ridden reality where they are called upon to broaden their cultural awareness and increase their direct connection to the communities they serve. In light of these developments and especially factoring in the escalating intrusions from social media, it is clear that practices once employed to introduce and instill racial understanding within school administrator candidates are in need of updating. If these efforts are going to be successful in effectively supporting equitable leadership in our schools, this updating needs to be geared toward reinforcing and even expanding insights and abilities well beyond the traditional introductory considerations that have been advanced by training models to this point.


Teacher-Principal Trust  

Ismail Hussein Amzat

Trust is the keystone to creating enduring relationships and interconnectedness among people. Trust also plays a pivotal role in human social and organizational interactions. Trust is needed for any organization to create good networks. It is an impetus for cressating relationships with employees, as well as for building healthy societies. To be trusted in an organization, a leader such as a school principal must possess integrity, truthfulness, and transparency. Therefore, when defining trust, the role of trust in schools and what a school principal must do to be trusted by teachers should be explored. It is worth knowing what a trusting principal does or means to a school and the impact on a school, teaching, and learning.


Principals’ and School Leaders’ Roles in Inclusive Education  

Barbara Pazey and Bertina Combes

The United States and other developed countries have acknowledged and supported the rights of students with disabilities to receive an appropriate education for decades. The role of the principal and school leader in overseeing educational programs and ensuring these entitlements become a reality for students with disabilities has taken center stage. Discussions related to principals and school leaders fulfilling the roles of leader and manager on behalf of students with disabilities linked the complementary disciplines of general and special education leadership. The leadership approach they adopted led to debates surrounding the concept of inclusion and the provision of an inclusive education on behalf of students with disabilities. Current definitions of inclusive education are typically linked to concepts of equity, social justice, and recognition of the student’s civil right to be granted full membership in all aspects of the educational enterprise. The processes involved in creating an inclusive school environment require principals and school leaders to examine the values and beliefs that influence their own thinking and behaviors before they can communicate a vision of inclusion. Principals and school leaders must be willing to act in concert with others to create the type of school culture that unanimously and positively responds to difference so every student can achieve full membership and feel welcomed and valued.