Principals as Assessment Leaders in Rural Schools

  • Patrick Renihan University of Saskatchewan
  • Brian Noonan University of Saskatchewan


This article reports a study of rural school principals’ assessment leadership roles and the impact of rural context on their work. The study involved three focus groups of principals serving small rural schools of varied size and grade configuration in three systems. Principals viewed assessment as a matter of teacher accountability and as a focus for the school professional team. They saw themselves as teachers first, stressing their importance as sources of teacher support, serving a ‘buffer role,’ ameliorating external constraints to effective assessment and learning. Bureaucratic environments and trappings of large-scale assessment were seen to be incompatible with the familial nature of rural professional contexts. Other constraints were the logistical challenges of small student populations, higher instances of multi-graded classrooms, and the absence of grade-alike professional interaction. Conversely, smallness enabled professional interaction and transformational leadership. Finally, the quality of system-level support emerged as a critical catalyst for assessment leadership at the school level.  


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Author Biographies

Patrick Renihan, University of Saskatchewan
Patrick Renihan is a professor in educational administration and the director of the Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. His research interests are rural education, the principalship, board/ceo assessment, and school effectiveness.
Brian Noonan, University of Saskatchewan
Brian Noonan is an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education and a professional affiliate in the Department of Educational Administration. His research interests are in educational research and enquiry, instructional psychology, classroom assessment, and educational policy development and evaluation.  
How to Cite
Renihan, P., & Noonan, B. (2012). Principals as Assessment Leaders in Rural Schools. The Rural Educator, 33(3).
Research Articles