Voices of Assistant Principals on the Importance of Student Discipline to Effective Schools



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Research in education, criminology, and sociology has long suggested that there is a strong, reciprocal connection between students’ behaviors in school and their academic achievement. Student misbehavior in schools has also been described as a serious problem by the public as well as school practitioners. Traditionally, assistant principals are assigned the responsibility of managing student discipline in schools and maintaining the learning environment in classrooms. Despite the important role that assistant principals perform to ensure that teachers can teach in a safe and effective atmosphere, little research has been conducted that examines the complexity of the role of assistant principals. The majority of the existing research examines the managerial roles and responsibility of the assistant principal and does not address the complex interactions and leadership skills that are necessary to sustain the learning environment of schools. The purpose of this study is to provide and describe the perceptions of assistant principals regarding student discipline as well as their perceptions regarding the manner in which teacher behaviors impact student discipline. The results of this study will expand the knowledge base regarding the complex role and expectations of the assistant principal and provide useful information that can be used to inform graduate level educational leadership courses and the preparation of school leaders. The study is significant because the current emphasis in education regarding assessment based accountability has made it paramount for administrators to increase the achievement levels of all students. Student misbehavior diminishes the time and learning focus in the classroom, and the students involved often lose valuable instructional time while serving a disciplinary placement that removes them from the classroom. Understanding the perceptions of assistant principals regarding student discipline and the effects that teacher actions can have on it is significant because assistant principals are responsible for addressing and improving student behavior in the classroom. In addition to being the person responsible for managing the campus wide discipline program, the assistant principalship also serves as a succession track for the principalship. For this study, 371 practicing campus assistant principals from a large, Gulf Coast metropolitan area were interviewed. The survey utilized cognitive interviews and the items measured the assistant principals’ perceptions regarding the importance of student discipline as well as their perceptions regarding the reasons why some teachers have very few discipline issues in their classrooms while others seem to have constant misbehaviors regardless of the student populations that they teach.