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Peabody Journal of Education, Volume 91, Issue 5, 2016

Independent Schools: Issues and Opportunities

Introduction to Independent Schools: Issues and Opportunities

Patrick Shuermann, Vanderbilt University
Myra McGovern, National Association of Independent Schools

This issue of the Peabody Journal of Education discusses a sector of education not commonly entertained in education policy research: independent schools.  Independent schools educate about 10% of the nation’s school children, and this issue draws together research on independent schools and the problems that they face.  This discussion can shed a light on issues that are particular to independent schools as well as those that apply to both public and independent schools. For example, independent schools have unique relationships with private colleges and have their own ways of identifying quality teaching, since they are outside the bounds of the traditional accountability systems of public schools. But, like any school, an independent school seeks to create a healthy environment for its students with high-caliber leadership at the helm that reflects the diversity of the school’s students.

The Content of the Issue

Four of the articles in the issue discuss independent school leadership.  Troy Baker, Stephen Campbell and David Ostroff in “Independent School Leadership: Heads, Boards, and Strategic Thinking attempt to fill in the gaps left by extant literature on independent school leadership. Their study examines two processes that effect school leaders’ work: the “onboarding” of the leadership and the extent to which leaders are sought out, recruited or cultivated before they are brought on staff. The authors find that leadership is more effective when existing staff is intentional about weaving new members into the fold and inviting and engendering the right values and perspectives into incoming and future leaders within the school community.

Jean-Marc Juhel of Buckley Country Day School in “Leading and Managing Today’s Independent School: A Qualitative Analysis of the Skills and Practices of Experienced Heads of Independent Schools in the New York Metropolitan Area” examines the practices of New York Metro area heads of independent schools to create “paradigms” of school leadership skills that leaders should espouse.  His findings indicate that effective leaders keep daily school administration organized and on-point, communicate well with their communities, manage the vision and identity or brand of their schools effectively, and are ever aware of their obligations to and their relationship with their board.

The next piece concerning leadership is Ara Carlos Brown’s piece “Examining the Pipeline: People of Color’s Pathway to Headship.”  This article bears witness to the trend that leadership of independent schools lack diversity and the difficulty that candidates of color face when pursuing positions of leadership.  His study finds that applicants of color typically have to have more experience and elite schooling compared to their white peers. 

Pearl Rock Kane and Justin Barbaro’s “Managing Headship Transitions in U.S. Independent Schools”captures what its like for independent school heads in their first year on the job.  Their article points out the pit-falls and successes that schools and their leaders experience in the on-boarding process and serves as a guide in how to facilitate a transition that equips new leaders to succeed.

The last five articles deal with elements that are common to all schools (i.e., students, teachers and relationships with other schools), but their topics are ones not typically discussed in education policy research.  Angela M. DeSivla Mousseau, Terese J. Lund, Belle Liang, Renée Spencer, and Jill Walsh write about female affluent adolescents’ tendencies to lose sleep as they contend with the academic stresses of attending elite high schools in “Stressed and Losing Sleep: Sleep Duration and Perceived Stress Among Affluent Adolescent Females.”  Kai Bynum’s article “Exploring the Spiritual Lives of Adolescent Males”ruminates on students’ connectedness to the world and higher powers/forces, which are usually left out of discussions of State-provided schooling.  Joan Buchanan Hill in “Questioning Techniques: A Study of Instructional Practice” and Matt Balossi and Natalia R. Hernandez in “On Teacher Quality in Independent Schools”both examine effective practices of teachers.

Vince Durnan in “Cases in Partnership Between Independent Schools and Universities” rounds out the issue on a discussion of the unique partnerships that exist between independent schools and universities--special relationships that could inform public schools and universities as they seek to propagate K-12 and schools of higher education partnerships.  While not the focus of the articles, they collectively remind researchers of the importance of the elements of schools that are hard to measure—student mental and spiritual health, as well as relationships and dynamics of the classroom cultivated by effective teaching and school communities.  A discussion that helps to contribute to the well-being and success of independent, as well as public and charter, schools.

CONTENTS

Introduction to Independent Schools: Issues and Opportunities
Patrick Schuermann and Myra McGovern
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 569-573.

Independent School Leadership: Heads, Boards, and Strategic Thinking
Troy Baker, Stephen Campbell, and David Ostroff
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 574-587.

Leading and Managing Today’s Independent School: A Qualitative Analysis of the Skills and Practices of Experienced Heads of Independent Schools in the New York Metropolitan Area
Jean-Mark Juhel
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 588-605.

Examining the Pipeline: People of Color’s Pathway to Headship
Ara Carlos Brown
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 606-615.

Managing Headship Transitions in U.S. Independent Schools
Pearl Rock Kane and Justin Barbaro
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 616-627.

Stressed and Losing Sleep: Sleep Duration and Perceived Stress Among Affluent Adolescent Females
Angela M. DeSilva Mousseau, Terese J. Lund, Belle Liang, Renée Spencer and Jill Walsh
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 628-644.

Exploring the Spiritual Lives of Adolescent Males
Kai Bynum
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 645-659.

Questioning Techniques: A Study of Instructional Practice
Joan Buchanan Hill
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 660-671.

On Teacher Quality in Independent Schools
Matt Balossi and Natalia R. Hernandez
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 672-690.

Cases in Partership Between Independent Schools and Universities
Vincent W. Durnan
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 91, No. 5: pages 691-710.


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