Practices and Trends in School Administration
reviewed by E. Edmund Reutter, Jr. - 1962
The booming business of publishing books on educational administration is largely due to the rapid, but essentially undisciplined, expansion of college programs to prepare administrators. Increasingly rare is the institution of any sort of higher education which does not also offer courses for administrators. There is, however, a dearth of instructors properly qualified to teach educational administration on the intellectual level of professional courses in law or engineering. Many who probably could do well as instructors are not available because college salaries are dismally low when compared to those of practicing administrators. The differential between public school administration and college teaching of the subject is much greater than for other positions in the public education enterprise. The deplorable result of such circumstances is that large numbers of courses in educational administration are textbook-bound.
Basically, the demand for courses in educational administration stems from several factors. Public school enrollments have burgeoned, necessitating many more people to perform traditional administrative functions. Furthermore, planning and operating constantly expanding programs require more administrative time than is the case with relatively stable undertakings. In addition, the functions performed by the public schools have increased in number, adding materially to the administrative load. Also not to be overlooked is the blooming of "citizen participation" in public school activities, which has focused public attention more critically on the quality of administrative performance.
Then, too, it is still regrettably true that the role of the public school teacher is so lacking in prestige that a desire for outward success frequently drives teachers into administration. Moreover, it remains a fact that good salaries in public education are almost exclusively reserved for administrators.
At present, however, there is no basic consensus as to what constitutes an effective school administrator, much less as to how he should be trained. Course patterns to an unwholesome extent are inconsistent among colleges with respect to both content and level of presentation. In most institutions, there are virtually no prerequisites for admission to administration courses other than the general requirements imposed on all students. It is common for experienced school principals to sit next to administrative tyros. Thus, the problem of what to put into a given textbook is a perplexing one for authors on academic grounds as well as for publishers on commercial grounds.
The struggle is illustrated by considering the three generalized administrative textsthose by Stoops and Grieder and their respective collaborators, focusing primarily on over-all organization in public education and central office activities, and the one by Corbally, focusing on secondary school administration. In his preface, Stoops says that his "textbook has been written to help graduate students and on-the-job practitioners in school administration, especially those in central office positions" (p. v). Later, as if recognizing that perceptive readers may question this dichotomy of goal, he explains, "The book's stress upon leadership, policies, and teamwork has a contribution for both graduate students and practical administrators" (p. v). The most laboriously derived rationale for one book's serving varied audiences is to be found in Corbally. "The authors hope that this book will not only be of value to the prospective and untried principal, but will also provide guidance and assistance to the experienced administrator as he attempts to improve his performance as a secondary school principal. In addition, the secondary school teacher should find much of interest and value here concerning his role as a member of the professional team that makes up the staff of a secondary school" (p. v). Then, two paragraphs later, Corbally avers that the writers "do not assume . . . that every reader of this book is convinced that he should be a secondary school principal, and much of their effort is to provide material that will assist the reader to appraise himself as a prospective administrator. It is as important to help a person discover that he is not interested in a profession as it is to help others improve themselves in a profession to which they are fitted" (p. vi). Grieder (a second edition with Truman M. Pierce replacing the late William E. Rosenstengel) is by far the most direct of the trio. According to the first sentence of the Preface, "This book has been written for the typical introductory course in general school administration."
Grieder very successfully reaches his clear target. Stoops reaches the audience of students beginning organized study in administration of school systems better than that of on-the-job practitioners (unless the latter are not properly trained for their postsa possibility not to be discounted). Of Corbally's expressly sought reader groups, that of the "prospective and untried principal" is most appropriate.
Of these three general texts, the Grieder book is the most thoroughly documented, both as to quality and recency of references. It also is the most neutral, leaving the reader to form his own judgments on relatively more points than do the other two. Status is best presented by Grieder, as are competing points of view on many controversial points.
Stoops tends to be more of a procedure-oriented volume with frequent lists of principles and practices to be observed in achieving what the authors consider to be good operation. Each chapter ends with a series of "trends" which frequently are stated more as predictions of the future than statements of genuinely current tendencies. The idea of specifically isolating trends is an excellent one, but the idea would have been much more effectively carried out if its treatment had been less terse and more documented. Indeed, the bibliographical base of this volume (as explicitly revealed in footnotes and related readings) is its weakest point from the perspective of its potential use as a textbook.
The Corbally volume gives more attention to the philosophy of the administrative role than do the books by Grieder and Stoops. There is more of the 'what in general terms than the bow in specific terms. This is a very readable volume, due both to its tendency not to probe very deeply and to the writing style employed.
A good companion volume to Corbally is Hansford. This book is "designed to be of immediate and practical assistance to the high school principal in meeting the everyday problems he encounters on his job" (p. iii). Using the format of questions and answers, it discusses the 135 questions most frequently faced by newly appointed principals as revealed in a study of their duties. The feature which sets the Guidebook apart from most other books of this type is the thorough documentation to substantiate the answer given to each question. After each question is discussed (usually in one, two, or three pages), Hansford gives specific page references from several works dealing with the issue under consideration. Following each of twenty-six units, there are general references.
At the other end of the practical-theoretical continuum from Hansford is Campbell. This volume records the major presentations at a seminar held at the University of Chicago. As a book, it has the strengths and limitations probably indigenous to an effort of this kind. One could wish the editors had done more in the way of commentary and interpretation to bind the speeches into a more integrated whole. On the other hand, the lack of editorial comment could be welcomed by more sophisticated readers, willing and able to make meaningful personal interpretations. The dozen authors include academicians in psychology, sociology, and education, as well as practitioners in educational administration. Thus, varying perspectives are to be found in the volume. Most chapters reveal an admirable depth of scholarship, although a couple tend to be intellectually shallow.
Nevertheless, both the attempt and the degree of success achieved in exploring the relevance of concepts and research in administrative theory to the practice of administration in the field are impressive. Also, the general tone of this series of papers is admirable. Happily missing are the increasingly frequent pseudo-intellectual diatribes against some ill of school administration, allegedly attributable to lack of theory, and the messianic pleas of those who proclaim salvation for administration only through a particular brand of theory development. Andrew Halpin bluntly states that "there does not exist today, either in education or in industry, a single well developed theory of administration that is worth getting excited about. Recent hue and cry on this subject have created a completely false impression; many superintendents and professors of education have been led to believe that our knowledge in this area is more secure than it actually is" (p. 5). This caution bears restatement at a time when professed interest in theory is becoming a status symbol for those concerned with educational administration.
Falling into the category of personal statements of a philosophy of leadership is the Webers' book. Using the popular word "leadership" in a generalized and vague sense, the authors state their purpose as "to help teachers and lay people concerned with education to assume more adequately leadership roles" (p. viii). No attempt is made to present a coherent leadership theory in the sense that "theory" is used in Campbell. Rather, this volume is simply a collection of observations and suggestions. Its authority essentially is to be found in the experience of the writers as distinguished from basic research and tested experience in psychology, sociology, or administration in general. As a text, this was its prime weakness when originally issued by a different publisher in 1955. One is perplexed as to why it should be reissued in late 1961 with no attempt to update its content when the years since it was written have produced so much academic work related to leadership.
One characteristic of a profession is the existence of a well developed pertinent literature of high intellectual quality. At present the status of the literature on educational administration warrants much more attention than apparently is being given to it. There is reason to believe that there exists much material that should be more widely disseminated than is the case, certainly if the calling is to flourish.
Needed is a sort of middle ground between generalized items and doctoral-type research reports. Publishing arrangements for penetrating analyses and syntheses in depth are woefully inadequate. Commercial publishers appear reluctant to produce volumes not likely to be financially profitable. This gives rise to the multipurpose book which by its very nature is academically weakened by having to try to accommodate disparate audiences. The trend for publishers to try to get a general volume in every large sub-area of educational administration (school systems, secondary schools, elementary schools, finance, personnel, public relations, etc.) has led to little specialization among publishers. In general, university presses and professional journals are not doing nearly enough to fill the void. The promise of the inexpensively produced paperback book has not been capitalized upon largely because, although cost of production is less per unit, so is intake per unit sold, and promotion and handling costs are about the same as for other books.
Scholarly, but not pedantic, analyses and commentaries form an important basis of a profession's internal communication, discussion, and criticism. Without an abundance of such dialogue, it seems doubtful that an occupation can rise very high in the hierarchy of professions. This problem must be faced if educational administration is to make the kind of contribution that can properly be expected from a true profession.
E. EDMUND REUTTER, JR.
Teachers College, Columbia University