Factors that Influence the Development of Professional Community in Catholic Middle Schools
This study of Catholic middle schools examined the human, environmental, and cultural aspects of school climate; the development of professional community; the implementation of national middle school recommendations; and identified correlations between these variables. General school climate was conceptualized through Tagiuri's (1968) elements of climate, which have demonstrated an enduring quality within research literature. The work of Hoy and Sabo (1998) helped further conceptualize middle school climate. Professional community was conceptualized through the work of DuFour and Eaker (1998) and conceptualization of the components of professional community was based on the work of Bryk, Camburn, and Louis (1999). Middle school practices were conceptualized from the most recent national report on middle-level education (National Middle School Association, 2010).Data for this study came from the survey responses of principals and teachers in Catholic schools in the state of Wisconsin that educate early adolescents. The final sample included 73 schools, representative of all five (arch)dioceses. Data were analyzed through descriptive statistics, multiple regression, and stepwise regression. The results of these analyses indicate that the norms of professional community were further developed than professional community practices. The major finding of this study is that principal leadership and total school size were predictors of the overall measure of professional community. Further analysis revealed that principal leadership, particularly supportive leadership, is a consistent and significant predictor of all six subscale measures of professional community. This study found no correlations between climate factors and the implementation of nationally recommended middle school practices.This study provides a comprehensive look at teachers, environments, and culture in Catholic schools serving early adolescents. It also measures the development of professional community and the implementation of middle school recommendations in these schools. Finally, this study helps leaders of Catholic education better understand the importance of supportive principal leadership in the promotion of higher levels of professional community. This finding gives important insight to diocesan superintendents, pastoral leaders, and school principals in fostering Catholic school improvement.
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