Term of Award

Fall 2001

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

T. C. Chan

Committee Member 2

Fred Page

Committee Member 3

Catherine Wooddy

Committee Member 4

Cathy Jording

Abstract

This study sought to establish baseline data on environmental knowledge, opinions, and perceptions of elementary principals and to make comparisons based on academic success rankings of schools and to national results. Underlying the study was the premise that today's students need to be prepared to be able and informed environmental stewards, their preparation needs to come early and will come primarily from school, educators must understand environmental issues if they are to prepare students, and the principal's role in that process within the school is critical - a role which has not been adequately explored.

The self-reported study looked at 200 elementary principals in the state of Georgia. The population selected for the study included principals from the 100 top and 100 bottom academically ranked elementary schools as reported in the Georgia Public Policy Foundation Report Card for Parents. Their scores on the NEETF/Roper Environmental Knowledge Survey were compared between these two Georgia groups and to a national sample. Georgia elementary principals' scores were compared to environmental programs evident in their schools. The two Georgia groups were also compared on environmental opinion and perception responses on mandates, programs in schools and time devoted to these, environmental education as a priority, and the impact of various factors on the strength of environmental studies in schools.

Georgia elementary principals leading schools at the bottom of the academic performance scale achieved environmental knowledge scores comparable to the national sample. However, principals of academically successful schools scored significantly higher on environmental knowledge than their colleagues from low performing schools (p<.05) and higher than the national sample (p<.001). Both Georgia principal groups strongly support a mandated environmental education curriculum for Georgia. The two groups were comparable on distributions of time devoted to environmental education across grade levels; however, principals from the more successful schools reported significantly (p<.01) greater amounts of time allotted to environmental studies. Both groups reported the same variety of environmental programs and practices evident in their schools and similar participation in these activities at various grade levels.

Most significant (p<.01) was the comparison of ratings each group gave to environmental education as an instructional priority in their schools; principals supervising successful school programs viewed environmental education as a higher priority. These successful principals also recognized the importance of both administrator and staff interest as influencing factors and ranked these two variables as strongly impacting the success or failure of environmental initiatives in schools. Surprisingly, comparison of principals' environmental knowledge scores to numbers of programs showed no significant relationship. The study pointed to the need for improved environmental education preparation and training for all educators, especially those in educational leadership roles.

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