CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Principals need community relations training, UI professor says
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Over the past 15 years national education groups
have pushed for greater community and parental involvement in public schools.
But in terms of preparing Iowa principals to be a community liaison, little
has been done, says a University of Iowa professor who is closely looking
at principals' professional development needs.
College of Education professors Michelle Young and Stewart Ehly are
researching Iowa public school principals' roles in developing and sustaining
parental and community involvement programs. Young says research in this
area is needed because prior studies have concentrated mostly on determining
what skills teachers need in order to build effective relationships with
parents and community members.
"We have a number of expectations for principals in regard to parent
and community involvement, but we don't know what skills they need,"
Young and Ehly's early research findings from surveys of 200 principals
show that in Iowa most principals agree that parental involvement is a
very important part of the schooling process, but few school administrators
have had training in either parent or community involvement. Young says
many administrators are forging ahead with available information and resources
to create programs.
Young says that in the absence of training programs, principals may
feel uncertain about how to effectively involve parents in decision-making,
how to address parental demands for school change or how to involve parents
who feel alienated from the school.
As communities grow more diverse, principals will need skills that prepare
them, for example, to develop and implement changes collaboratively with
their communities, Young says.
Young says these and other preliminary findings have implications for
future preparation and professional development programs.
The researchers hope to apply the information gathered from their yearlong
research to develop principalship training and professional programs to
educate them in building respect and trust among parents and school staff.
The principal study is funded by a grant from First in the Nation in
Education, an Iowa educational research foundation. The researchers will
provide their findings to Iowa educational policymakers, principal professional
development groups and principal training institutions at the UI, Iowa
State University, University of Northern Iowa, and Drake University.