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Transformative Leadership  

Carolyn M. Shields

Transformative leadership theory (TLT) is distinct from other leadership theories because of its inherently normative and critical approach grounded in the values of equity, inclusion, excellence, and social justice. It critiques inequitable practices, oppression, and marginalization wherever they are found and offers the promise not only of greater individual achievement but of a better life lived in common with others. Two basic propositions (or hypotheses) and eight tenets ensure the comprehensiveness of TLT. The first hypothesis is that when students feel welcome, respected, and included, they are better able to focus on learning and, hence, distal academic outcomes improve. The second hypothesis is that when there is a balance between public and private good emphases, and students are taught about civic participation, democratic society is strengthened. To fulfil these hypotheses, TLT is neither prescriptive nor instrumental; it does not offer a checklist of actions, but instead offers eight guiding tenets to ensure responsiveness to the needs of specific organizational and cultural contexts. The origins of TLT lie in a rejection of primarily technical approaches to leadership that do not adequately address the diversity of 21st-century schools and that have not been able to reduce the disparities between dominant and minoritized groups of students. Transformative leadership theory, like transformational leadership, draws on Burns’s concept of transforming leadership, although the two have sometimes been confused and confounded. Transformational leadership has more positivist overtones and focuses more on organizational effectiveness and efficiency; TLT has been operationalized as a values-based critical theory, focused both on beliefs and actions that challenge inequity and that promote more equity and inclusive participation. TLT draws on other critical theories, including critical race theory, queer theory, leadership for social justice, and culturally responsive leadership, as well as transformative learning theory, in order to promote a more equitable approach to education. Thus, it takes into account the material, lived realities of those who participate in the institution as well as organizational contingencies. To do so, the following eight specific interconnected and interrelated principles have been identified from the literature: • the mandate for deep and equitable change; • the need to deconstruct and reconstruct knowledge frameworks that perpetuate inequity and injustice; • the need to address the inequitable distribution of power; • an emphasis on both private and public (individual and collective) good; • a focus on emancipation, democracy, equity, and justice; • an emphasis on interdependence, interconnectedness, and global awareness; • the necessity of balancing critique with promise; • the call to exhibit moral courage. Questioning, dialogue, free-writing, reflection, deliberative and distributive processes, and relationship-building are central to the successful implementation of TLT. TLT in education is a proven way to address the persistent opportunity and achievement gaps between dominant and minoritized students and of enhancing democratic participation in civil society. In other areas, such as business, non-profits, social services, or sociocultural support agencies, TLT offers a comprehensive way for leaders to reflect on how to provide equitable, inclusive, and excellent environments for both clients and employees.

Article

Queer Students in the Carceral State  

Erica Meiners and Jessica Fuentes

Despite the gains some components of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community achieved during the 2010s in the United States and across the globe, young queer students in K–12 educational environments are still vulnerable to criminalization. Dismantling the movement of young queer youth into the U.S. carceral state also requires challenging systems that may be perceived to be unconnected. School privatization and the deprofessionalization and removal of employment protections for school personnel shapes cultures in schools for LGBTQ young people. Punitive school discipline policies—which often purport to protect queer students—deepen criminalization and do not produce safer schools. While policy shifts may be necessary, they are never sufficient, and building support for all young people, including LGBTQ communities, requires ideological and paradigm shifts, not simply quick fixes. The tools of the carceral state—including increased punishment—will not produce the kind of safety that schools and communities need.

Article

Transformational School Leadership to Dismantle Inequitable Systems  

Deirdra Preis

A key reason for the failure of U.S. school leaders to challenge systems of inequity is the lack of exposure to the theory and skill development needed to manage the resistance and political challenges that inevitably occur when interrogating unjust traditions of practice. As preparation programs aim to improve their candidates’ future success in addressing inequitable educational access, it is critical that they develop in their students the self-efficacy around relational practices and strategies needed to manage the micropolitics of transformative work. Examining how transformative K–12 school leaders effectively challenge structural inequities and manage to sustain their leadership positions during turbulent times can help to inform such curricular and instructional revisions. Some of the key practices identified by successful transformative K–12 leaders include engaging in reflection around their positionality, developing racial literacy, effectively facilitating shared visions and collective responsibility for social justice advocacy, building the capacity of stakeholders, developing critical alliances through transparent and authentic community involvement, and participating in supportive professional peer networks that offer ongoing reflection, study, and support. By providing such content and skill practice, and ensuring that instruction and mentoring are provided by faculty who are experienced in transformative leadership, leader candidates can be better prepared for the realities of this challenging work, increasing the likelihood that they will act transformatively upon assuming school leadership roles.

Article

Restorative Justice in Education  

Kristin Elaine Reimer and Crystena Parker-Shandal

Restorative justice in education (RJE) is a philosophical framework that centers relationships in schools, calls attention to issues of justice and equity, and provides processes to heal harm and transform conflict. The use of restorative justice (RJ) in schools gained large-scale attention from teachers and school boards since the 2010s. In the 1990s and early 2000s many school boards around the world took up what was generally known as “zero tolerance” approaches. It meant that punitive responses, such as suspension, expulsion, and exclusionary practices, were used by administrators and teachers more readily and frequently. Research continues to show that exclusionary punishments are harmful—especially to Indigenous students, students of color, and other marginalized students—in many ways, for example, increasing dropout rates, decreasing overall student achievement, and strengthening the school-to-prison pipeline. Gaining more momentum in the 2010s (although practiced by many teachers and communities before this), RJ approaches became a way to challenge a system that was simply not working and further harming students. Many educators and school boards saw RJE as a means to reduce suspensions and expulsions and to increase their graduation rates. Others have seen RJE as a critical process for facilitating school equity and racial justice. This continuum of approaches to RJE impacts how research is conducted, what research questions are asked, who is included in the research process, and how it is disseminated. While some researchers still position RJE as solely an alternative to punitive disciplinary models, an increasing number of researchers view RJE as a paradigm shift for how people relate to one another in the context of schools, including through relational approaches to pedagogy. This relational way of being centers people’s humanity and promotes shared accountability within learning communities.