Principals as Assessment Leaders in Rural Schools

Patrick Renihan, Brian Noonan


This article reports a study of rural school principals’ assessment leadership roles and the impact of rural context on their work. The study involved three focus groups of principals serving small rural schools of varied size and grade configuration in three systems. Principals viewed assessment as a matter of teacher accountability and as a focus for the school professional team. They saw themselves as teachers first, stressing their importance as sources of teacher support, serving a ‘buffer role,’ ameliorating external constraints to effective assessment and learning. Bureaucratic environments and trappings of large-scale assessment were seen to be incompatible with the familial nature of rural professional contexts. Other constraints were the logistical challenges of small student populations, higher instances of multi-graded classrooms, and the absence of grade-alike professional interaction. Conversely, smallness enabled professional interaction and transformational leadership. Finally, the quality of system-level support emerged as a critical catalyst for assessment leadership at the school level.


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