Principals’ Emotional Intelligence and Its Impact on Adequate Yearly Progress
by Evelyn Henry and Warren Hope
Colleges and universities prepare candidates with theory and leadership scenarios, enabling them to become leaders of successful schools. However, some principals do not lead their schools to success. Cognizant of this reality, it would be beneficial to know why principals with equivalent leadership training often experience different outcomes of school success based upon student academic achievement. The literature claims that emotional intelligence influences leadership in an organization. Indeed, some scholars assert that leaders who possess high levels of emotional intelligence have a greater effect on their organizations than their counterparts who have lower levels of emotional intelligence.
This research sought to ascertain the degree of correlation between Georgia’s elementary and middle school principals’ emotional intelligence and school status of “meets” or “does not meet” Adequate Yearly Progress. A successful school and principal are identified through the criterion of meets Adequate Yearly Progress. It was postulated that principals with high levels of emotional intelligence would be leaders of schools that meet Adequate Yearly Progress, and those with low levels would be associated with schools that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress. A binary logistic regression model was used to analyze data obtained from 125 elementary and middle school principals. Five research questions were formulated to guide the inquiry. A key question was: Is there a correlation between a principals’ emotional intelligence and a school’s status of meets or does not meet Adequate Yearly Progress?
Henry & Hope discuss the correlation between
emotional intelligence and school status.
Today, public education in America pivots around accountability, and there is an expectation that the principal will fashion a learning environment that manifests student academic achievement. According to Bracey (2003), to improve student achievement in public education, it is important to explain why principals with equivalent educational training obtain different outcomes of school success. It is well known that the principal is the most important administrator in a school and is responsible for achieving its mission. Colleges and universities provide them with theories and practical knowledge to organize and lead successful schools; however, some principals fail to do so (Harris, Day, Hadfield, Hopkins, Hargraves & Chapman, 2005).
A student’s academic accomplishment in a school, to a large extent, depends on the principal’s leadership style and character (Cunningham & Cordiero, 2006). According to Goleman (2004), there are many leadership styles, and the most effective leaders operate their schools according to one or more of them. Many leaders are able to vacillate between styles, depending on the situation and the school’s environment and culture.
With a chosen leadership style, principals must be able to create working relationships with many people and also perform the roles of mediator, mentor, negotiator, and networker (Cherniss, 1998). Hackman and Johnson (2004) stated that a school leader’s effectiveness depends on his or her personality, the behavior of the followers, the nature of the task, and communication style. Today, successful leadership is defined by inspiring and motivating others, promoting a positive work environment, perceiving and understanding emotions, and fostering an organizational climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into success (Bolston, 2001). Principals operate in an environment that involves working and collaborating with others, as a result, effective interpersonal and communication skills are essential. How they handle their emotions and react to those of others in various situations affects their leadership.
Principals cope with unprecedented demands of serving as instructional leader, increasing students’ test scores, meeting state standards, and addressing the academic needs of diverse student populations. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is a catalyst for increased accountability for student academic performance. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a component of NCLB, has the attention of principals and virtually every stakeholder in the education enterprise. AYP is an annual mandated performance goal set by each state that determines whether a school is awarded the status of “meets” or “does not meet” AYP. AYP performance goals are used to establish whether or not schools are educating students effectively by requiring an accountability system to determine if they are making progress towards the goal of one hundred percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014 (Education Week, 2004).
In the state of Georgia, AYP is a measurement tool that monitors the academic progress of each student in all school districts. AYP is used to make accountability decisions and assign schools a rating of “meets” or “does not meet.” Schools that meet AYP are designated as “successful,” while those that do not meet the standard are considered “failures.” AYP in Georgia is determined through three student performance factors:
Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), which is given annually to each student in the state. Students must show a yearly percentage rate increase in mathematics and reading. Subgroups of students (i.e., low-income, Black, Hispanic, English language learners, and special needs) must also show an increase in language, mathematics, and reading.
The average daily student attendance rate must be ninety-two percent; no student should miss more than fifteen days in one academic year.
Qualifying student subgroups (i.e., low-income, Black, Hispanic, English language learners, regular education, and special needs) must meet the 95 percent test participation goal.
A school that fails to meet any of the three performance factors is stamped “does not meet” AYP. A school that does not meet AYP for seven consecutive years is subject to sanction, with parents given the opportunity to select another school at the expense of the district, or the school is subject to restructuring with options of state takeover or conversion to a charter school managed by a private company.
Working in combination with issues of student academic accountability under NCLB, principals are also responsible for creating and supporting a shared vision for their schools’ growth, which includes input from teachers, staff, parents, and community (Bardach, 2008). To ensure that each student receives a quality education, parents have the option under NCLB to decide where their children will attend school in a district. To sustain employment, principals must compete with private and other public schools to obtain a sufficient student population to remain open. Accordingly, Bagin, Gallagher and Moore (2008) indicated that principals must be proficient in public relations and possess the ability to communicate effectively and convey a positive perception of the educational opportunities that are being offered at their institution.
Leaders with similar education, training, and work experience will often experience very different degrees of organizational success. In education, this variation in success among leaders may be attributed to an abundance of resources for students, smaller class sizes, school climate and culture, and parent and community involvement (Bagin, Gallagher, & Moore, 2008; Owens & Valesky, 2007; Hackman & Johnson, 2004). Lewandowski (2005) asserted that the key to successful schools are the students themselves, who must be allowed to incorporate their input into the curriculum. Edmonds (1986) offered several indicators of an effective school, including strong leaders; an orderly, humane climate; frequent monitoring of students’ progress; and high expectations for all students.
Conflicts exist in the literature regarding the attributes of an effective school. However, research by Caruso and Salovey (2004), and Goleman (2006) revealed that principals who possess emotional intelligence (EI) are an asset to schools. Dimensions of EI, according to Caruso and Salovey (2004) and Goleman (2006), are self-awareness, self-management, relationship-management, and social-awareness. Principals who employ these dimensions of EI at a high level are able to develop a close connection with school staff, parents, and community leaders (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2008).
2. Principals and Emotional Intelligence
A principal spends a considerable amount of time interacting with people and their issues, often at the expense of other tasks. He or she must have the emotional ability to build and maintain positive and trusting relationships (Patti & Tobin, 2006). A principal who precisely recognizes a teacher or parent’s slight frustration during a meeting and understands the significance of that emotion will be better able to predict the teacher’s or parent’s subsequent actions and respond appropriately (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002).
Principals who understand the emotional needs of school personnel students usually produce a positive environment where teachers are effective and students tend to flourish academically (Denham, 1998; Brackett, Rivers, Lerner, Salovey, & Shiffman, 2006; Mills, 2003). When a principal has the ability to recognize, comprehend, identify, articulate, and adjust emotions, he or she creates healthy open communication and a learning environment that generates a sense of student safety and value (Caruso & Salovey, 2004). Gray (2009) asserted that emotional intelligence is the cornerstone of every decision a principal makes; solving problems and making judgments are a part of a leader’s system of values and beliefs. A principal’s emotional intelligence skills are vital to a collaborative effort to increase student achievement and to ensure the school’s well-being as a learning community (Gray, 2009). Harris, Hopkins, Hadfield, Hargraves, and Chapman (2005) surmised that as challenges facing principals in schools become increasingly multifaceted over the next decade, it is possible that the best principals will be judged on how they manage their emotions and respond to others rather than how they manage systems or structures.
Fullan (2002) implied that principals who are emotionally intelligent are aware of their own emotional composition and are sensitive and inspiring to others. Fullan also asserted that EI principals are able to handle daily school related problems and think conceptually as they transform the school organization through teachers and community organizations. Principals with the capacity to successfully express their fundamental feelings and emotions are crucial to effective school leadership.
Howard Gardner, Daniel Goleman, Peter Salovey, John Mayer, and others have provided a significant amount of data indicating that individuals who exhibit an extensive amount of understanding of emotions experience more organizational success (Bardach, 2008). Indeed, during the past two decades, no psychological concept has had a greater influence on leadership development than EI (Boyatzis & McKee, 2005). EI is a promising area of research given its potential to influence leadership and organizational goals. As the search for interventions in education to manifest increased student academic achievement continues, EI presents itself as a framework with potential to transform leadership to obtain improved student achievement outcomes. However, EI research in the field of educational leadership is still in the early stages of development, and results related to its impact on school leadership and student academic achievement is limited. Given EI’s accolades in the literature, there is a need to know more about whether there is a viable connection between it and school leadership.
3. Purpose of the Study
This research had a twofold purpose: (a) determine whether there is a correlation between the EI of elementary and middle school principals in Georgia and school success as codified in the status of meets or does not meet AYP, and (b) ascertain if there is a relationship between principals’ EI score and age, gender, and ethnicity relative to school success specified in meets or does not meet AYP.
4. Research Questions
Five research questions were generated the guide the inquiry. They are:
Is there a correlation between a principal’s emotional intelligence and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP?
Is there a correlation between a principal’s emotional intelligence competencies perceiving and managing emotions and school status of meets or does not meet AYP?
Is there a correlation between a principal’s age and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP?
Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence competencies, understanding, and managing emotions and a principal’s ethnicity?
Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence competencies perceiving emotions, using emotions to facilitate thought, understanding emotions, and managing emotions and a principal’s gender?
5. Research Methodologies
A correlation prediction procedure was used to analyze data concerning the degree of association between a principal’s EI score and school status of meets or does not meet AYP. A correlation prediction procedure identifies simple associations between variables and specifies the extent to which the variables are related. This information is used to predict the outcome of the predictor variable and criterion variables. This research sought to ascertain whether a relationship exists between the criterion variable, school status, meets or does not meet AYP, and the predictor variable, a principal’s EI score.
Once a relationship was detected for the bivariate, a measure of association for the data was conducted using a Point-Biserial Correlation Coefficient model to provide a numerical measure of the strength and the direction of the criterion and predictor variables. The criterion variable, school status, is dichotomous; therefore, a logistic regression model was utilized to determine the degree of association between principals’ emotional intelligence scores and the school status, meets or does not meet AYP. The logistic regression data helped predict whether a principal’s emotional intelligence scores can determine a school’s AYP status. The alpha for this research was set at .05.
6. Sample and Sampling Procedures
Principals were selected from the 1,659 elementary and middle schools in the state of Georgia. For the 2008-2009, school year, 1,440 schools met AYP. Of this number, 1,047 were elementary and 393 middle. Two hundred nineteen schools did not meet AYP. Of this group, 104 were elementary and 115 middle. The status of meets or does not meet for each school was recorded. The principal’s name, ethnicity and gender were obtained from the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) website. This information was used to select every other Black and White female and male principals of schools that met and did not met AYP. A convenience sample of 200 elementary and middle school principals was selected from the GDOE website.
A proportionate quota sampling procedure was used to ensure that an equal representation of females, males, Caucasians, and African Americans participated in the research. Proportionate quota sampling is used when the population and distribution across groups is known, and when normal sampling may not provide individuals in minority groups (Trochim, 2006). The fixed quota for the participants was based on the characteristics of ethnicity and gender. The non-random sample of 200 principals solicited to participate consisted of 100 principals (50 middle and 50 elementary) in schools that meet AYP and 100 principals (50 middle and 50 elementary) in schools that did not meet AYP. Among the sample of 100 in the category meets AYP, 50 principals were females, 25 African American and 25 Caucasian; 50 were males, 25 African American and 25 Caucasian. In the category did not meet AYP, the sample of 100 consisted of 50 females, 25 African American and 25 Caucasian; 50 males, 25 African American and 25 Caucasian.
The AYP school status of meets or does not meet followed the principal if he or she was transferred to another school. An individual who served as an elementary or middle school principal during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 terms and transferred to a different position at another elementary or middle school in Georgia was allowed to participate in the research.
Principals of 100 elementary and middle schools that did not meet AYP and those of 100 elementary and middle schools that met AYP were asked to complete the Mayer Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) online. An e-mail was sent to the 200 principals asking for their participation—125 responded. Multi-Health Services, owners of the MSCEIT copyright, supplied a list of the identification codes for each principal who completed the MSCEIT. These codes were also used to contact principals who did not respond to the survey in the initial two-week window.
A decision was made to compile the returned data into two groups for analysis. Therefore, a web address of www.mhsassessments.com and a code was assigned to principals of the 100 schools that meet AYP and to the 100 in schools that did not meet AYP. After five weeks, 51% (n=64) of principals in the meets AYP group and 49% (n=61) in the does not meet group returned a completed MSCEIT yielding a 63% response rate. MHS e-mailed a data sheet containing the four EI content area scores and the total EI scores of each principal, which was entered into SPSS 19.
An AYP report for each elementary and middle school in Georgia is public information and accessible on the GDOE website. These data identify a school as meets or does not meet AYP. Data were downloaded and entered into SPSS 19 to be associated with principals’ EI scores, which would reveal the existence of a correlation.
7. Research Instrument
The MSCIET was designed by David R. Caruso, John Mayer, and Peter Salovey in 1995. Deemed an ability test of emotional intelligence, it is suitable for use with individuals 17 and older. The test consists of 141 items that yield a total emotional intelligence score and four branch scores, perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions.
Instrument Reliability and Validity
The MSCEIT was scored according to a general consensus criterion, based on the responses of a large number of individuals randomly selected from countries around the world; the majority was residents of the United States. For example, if 90% of these individuals specified that a particular picture of a child’s face with a deep frown showed fear and anger, then participants who gave that specific response on a future test would be considered as providing the correct answer (Mayer et al., 2002). The aggregated item scores are converted to average standard scores with a population mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, as is customary in psychometric tests of intelligence related constructs. The reliability of the MSCEIT was determined on the basis of 2,888 participants. The total scores of the participants in the experiential area, strategic area, and branch scores in perceiving, using, understanding, and managing emotions were computed using split-half analyses as the items were heterogeneous. Reliabilities for the eight individual task scores were computed as internal-consistency (alpha) reliabilities (Brackett & Mayer, 2003). Using consensus scoring, based upon the agreement of a large number of people, the MSCEIT has a full-scale reliability of .93, with area reliabilities of .90, experiential and .88, strategic. The reliabilities of the MSCEIT four branch scores range from .79 to .91. This indicates that this test is a highly reliable at the four Branch, Area, and Total score levels (Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003). Brackett and Mayer (2003) found a test-retest reliability for the full-scale MSCEIT of r = .86, over a 3 week period with an N of 60. Expert scoring was fairly comparable, with a full-scale test reliability of .91 and branch scores ranging from .76 to .90.
Rivers, Brackett, and Salovey (2008) conducted a study using 5000 participants from a general population in an effort to determine the content validity of the MSCEIT. Participants were educationally, ethnically, and gender diverse. Many were from other countries, and ages ranged from 18 to 69. Rivers et al. concluded that the general EI evaluation of the MSCEIT was valid as a “total score.” The MSCEIT also shows strong evidence of response-process evidence validity (Mayer, Roberts & Barsade, 2008). The response-process evidence of validity is a form of validity that determines whether the questions raised by the MSCEIT are ones that a test taker can answer and then matches the individual’s response to a criterion of correctness (Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade, 2008). The MSCEIT assesses how well people solve problems using emotions, thus, the conclusion is that the MSCEIT measures the key issues of EI and is valid.
8. Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
A binary logistic regression model determined the association between the dichotomous criterion variable, school status, and the continuous predictor variable, a principal’s EI. A Point Biserial correlation was also used to determine the relationship between a principal’s total emotional intelligence score and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP.
Descriptive statistics were used to summarize principals’ responses on the MSCEIT and to provide a demographic analysis of a principal’s age, gender, and ethnicity. Summary data of the demographic variables, age, gender, and ethnicity were used to respond to research questions 3, 4, and 5. Table 1 shows principals’ age, gender, and ethnicity in relation to the criterion variables, meets or does not meet AYP.
The age data for principals associated with meets AYP reveal that the largest subgroup is comprised of ages 40 and 49 (37.5%). The data also indicate that the largest age subgroups for principals associated with does not meet AYP was between 40 and 49 (24.6%). The range of age for both groups was between 23-69 years.
Demographic data for gender associated with meets AYP shows that 64.1% (n=64) of principals were females and 35.9% (n=23) were males. The statistics for gender associated with does not meet AYP indicate that 57.4% (n=35) of the principals were females and 42.6% (n=26) were males. Ethnicity data reveals that the largest principal subgroup, 56.2% (n=36), associated with meets AYP were Black. Blacks, 50.8% (n=31) were also the largest subgroup associated with does not meet AYP status.
The means and standard deviations for the EI branch scores (a) understanding emotions, (b) perceiving emotions, (c) managing emotions, and (d) facilitating thought are shown in Table 2. This information was used to respond to research questions 3, 4, and 5. Table 2 shows that of the four EI branch scores associated with meets AYP, the perceiving branch had the highest mean score, 88, and a standard deviation of 21.2. The results also indicate that the perceiving branch score associated with does not meet AYP had the highest mean score, 87.5, and a standard deviation of 19.9.
Table 3 shows individual branch scores perceive, facilitate, understand, and manage cross tabulations for principals whose school met AYP. Table 4 reveals individual branch score, perceive, facilitate, understand, and manage cross tabulations for principals whose school does not meet AYP. When comparing specific branch score interval percentages, Table 3 shows that there is not a significant difference between principals’ scores for AYP status meets and does not meet.
Inferential statistics allow for an interpretation to be made from the sample of principals selected from the population of elementary and middle schools in Georgia. Binary logistic regression and Point Biserial correlation coefficient determined if the independent continuous variable emotional intelligence (total EI or combinations of EI branch scores), would be influential in computing the outcome of the dichotomous variable, schools that meet or do not meet AYP.
9. Results of Data Analysis
The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 19 was used to process data from the MSCEIT. A binary logistic regression model and a Point Biserial Correlation procedure were used to acquire results enabling a response to the research questions.
Research Question 1
Is there a correlation between a principal’s Emotional Intelligence and school status of meets or does not meet AYP? A Point Biserial correlation was used to ascertain the relationship between a principal’s total EI score and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP. The results show a weak negative relationship that was not statistically significant at the .05 level, rpb= -.083, p=.357. The relationship between a principal’s total emotional intelligence score and a school’s status of meet or does not meet AYP is not statistically significant.
Research Question 2
Is there a correlation between principals’ EI competencies perceiving and managing emotions and school status of meets or does not meet AYP? A binary logistic regression model was used to test if a principal’s perceiving and managing emotions branch score predicted a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP. Results of the regression were not statistically significant, χ2 (2) =.019, p=.991. Beta coefficients, along with tests of significance, are presented in Table 5.
Research Question 3
Is there a correlation between a principal’s age and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP? A binary logistic regression model was used to test if a principal’s age predicted a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP. Results of the regression were not statistically significant, χ2 (1) =2.168, p = .141. The beta coefficient along with tests of significance is presented in Table 6.
Research Question 4
Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence competencies understanding and managing emotions and a principal’s ethnicity? A binary logistic regression model was used to test if understanding and managing emotions branch scores predicted a principal’s ethnicity. Results of the regression were not statistically significant, χ2 (2) =5.287, p = .071. The Beta coefficients along with tests of significance are presented in Table 7.
Research Question 5
Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence competencies perceiving emotions, using emotions to facilitate thought, understanding emotions and managing emotions and a principal’s gender? A binary logistic regression model was used to test if perceiving, facilitating, understanding, and managing emotions branch scores predicted a principal’s gender. Regression results were not statistically significant, χ2 (4) =2.437, p = .656. Beta coefficients, along with tests of significance, are shown in Table 8.
Reponses to research questions one and two derived from a correlation procedure, which disclosed the influence of principals’ EI in schools that were assigned a status of meets or does not meet AYP. The analysis revealed that principals’ overall EI had a weak negative effect that was not statistically significant in relation to a school’s AYP status. The literature conveys that
EI has a significant effect on leadership performance and that effective leaders consistently use their EI to advance their organizations (Patti, Holzer, Stern & Brackett, 2012; Bradberry & Graves, 2009; Goleman, 1995). The results of this research, however, indicates that a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP is not related to a principal’s EI.
Goleman (1995) suggested that leaders in organizations with the ability to identify negative emotions and manage those feelings will have a more profound effect on employee productivity. Research by Andrews and Sober (1997) indicated that school leadership can have a positive effect on school achievement. Results of this study are not consistent with that conclusion. Analysis of response data relative to research question two indicates that there is no association between a principal’s EI branch scores of perceiving and managing emotions and a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP. A conclusion that can be drawn from this result is that there is a need for more research in the area of EI and school leadership.
For research question three, a binary logistic regression procedure was applied to determine the association between a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP and a principal’s age. Analysis shows that principals’ age had no significant effect on emotional intelligence and a school’s designation of meets or does not meet AYP. This result is consistent with research conducted by Shipley, Jackson, and Segrest (2008), who found that the relationship between emotional intelligence and age in leadership is slight, and, at the most, to no significance.
Shipley, Jackson, and Segrest (2008) used a sample of 500 and concluded that the level of emotional intelligence among school leaders peaked at age 54 and then proceeded to decline. One explanation could be that younger principals are more attentive to the importance of their roles as leaders and have a higher stake in career longevity, thus creating a greater awareness of personal skills related to emotional intelligence necessary for interacting successfully with people in the school and community. Results of this study divulge that age has no effect on principals’ emotional intelligence score and thus no role in schools meeting or not meeting AYP. This result is not consistent with that of other studies, which suggests that as individuals age, EI increases.
A binary logistic regression procedure was used enabling a response to research question four. The results indicate that EI branch scores of understanding and managing emotions did not predict principals’ ethnicity in Georgia schools that meet or did not meet AYP. This result is consistent with Bar-On’s (1997) research with 3,831 participants, where it was found that there is no significant difference in EI scores among various ethnic groups in North America.
The binary logistic regression data analysis used to answer research question five revealed that gender had no influence on a school’s status of meets or does not meet AYP. This result is consistent with Bar-On (2000) and Orloff (2009); both suggested that when observing the overall ratings of EI of females and males, there are far more similarities than differences. Orloff (2009) also indicated that women possess the ability to restrain negative feelings such as anger and self-doubt while men maintain adaptability, tolerance, and impulse control. Prior research by Mayer, Roberts, and Barsade (2008), Salovey, Bedell, Detweiler, and Mayer (1999), and Sternberg and Kauffman (1998) on gender differences in EI have shown that in terms of total EI, females and males do not seem to differ in their leadership effectiveness.
Prior EI research has associated leadership with student achievement. Given this conclusion, individuals preparing to become principals could benefit from in-service trainings and staff development in EI. It follows that principals high in EI can lead schools where increased student academic achievement is a norm. A premise of this research was that principals with high EI scores would be leaders of schools that meet AYP, and those with low scores would be associated with schools that did not meet AYP. Results of this research indicate that principals in schools meeting and not meeting AYP had similar scores on the MSCEIT. Thus, there was no correlation between a principal’s EI and school status of meets or does not meet AYP. This result is not consistent with the premise that principals with high EI scores would be leaders in schools that met AYP and those with low EI scores would be leaders in schools that did not meet AYP. As well, results of this research do not confirm high leader EI scores as a predictor of school success as determined by student academic achievement. The literature links high leader EI scores to organizational success. In particular, Goleman (1995, 1998) asserted that leaders who have high levels of EI have a greater effect on an organization than their counterparts with lower levels. This association was not confirmed using the sample, variables, and the correlation prediction procedures applied in this research.
Thus, research results lead back to Bracey’s (2003) conclusion that it is important to find out why principals, with equivalent educational training and occupational experience, obtain different levels of school success. Education has experienced many interventions with promise to improve student academic achievement. Some have met expectations, others have not. EI is relatively new in the area of school leadership, and additional research is needed to determine its impact on leadership in schools and whether or not there is potential to positively affect student academic achievement.