Effective engagement : a study of educational leader interactions with legislators in the 2013 session and its impact on education policy in Montana
Lougheed, Kala French
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Politics and education continue to become more intertwined, and the need for educational leaders to effectively engage in political participation increases. Although limited discussion exists in the literature about the political participation of school leaders (Crow & Weindling, 2010; Milstein & Jennings, 1972) and political engagement is called for in the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards for School Leaders standards (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1996), few studies have examined the types of activities educational leaders engage in politically nor the effectiveness of those activities in influencing policy outcomes. This study examines, through the lens of stakeholder theory, the historical context of the relationship between politics and education, the current status of the relationship, and the reasons for school leaders' hesitancy to engage in political affairs. It also examines the considerations of the legislature and their perceptions on effective engagement, to better understand and consider future efforts of educational leaders to influence policy. The quantitative study includes electronic surveys of school leaders, legislators, and education stakeholders to identify effective methods of political engagement, using descriptive statistics, Spearman correlation, and open coding of open response questions to answer the following research questions: 1) What were the most effective methods of legislative engagement and interaction utilized by educational leaders during the 2013 legislative session in Montana? 2) Was there a difference between engagement activities reported prior to the 2013 session? Responses were also compared with prior study results, legislator responses, and to one another for inter-rater reliability and triangulation. The most effective activities school leaders engaged in were specific conversations with legislators regarding education issues, and both written and in person testimony. The results demonstrate a need for school leaders to align their engagement efforts more closely with activities deemed effective by legislators, though there were significant differences in the activities reported during the 2013 session. Conclusions include the need for school leaders to overcome barriers to engagement, for increased stakeholder participation and policy community engagement, and for further research.