Texas School Communications
Study: Training for Frontline School Practitioners is Indicated
Christopher Calvin, Ph.D.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of 81 teachers
and 43 site administrators about the classroom instructor’s public relations
role. This research was completed in two school districts in Texas during
the spring semester of 2000 using an instrument developed by the author.
Findings showed that (a) classroom instructors and site administrators perceive
the teacher’s public relations role as critical to school success, (b) a
majority of classroom instructors did not receive either preservice or inservice
public relations training, and (c) site administrators felt more strongly
than teachers that teachers should receive public relations training.
Stephen Stark, Ph.D.
Texas A&M University
Improving home-school relations has never been
easy, but if recent communications research is any indicator, then school
districts and universities have much to refine. Pope (1987) studied superintendents
and school district communications director’s attitudes and found that teachers’
public relations (PR) role was extremely important to the success of the
school. However, Wiget (1995) found that school executives rated training
for public relations as a low priority. Becker (1999) studied the increasing
use of technology by educators across the U.S. and found training deficient.
He did find an extensive increase in the use of technology by teachers and
other school personnel to reach the publics they serve and to improve instruction,
but with little subsequent preparation. An Education Commission of the States
document (ECS, 1998) states that only 15 percent of K-12 teachers in the
nation have received approximately 9 hours of training in technology. A Texas
study demonstrated similar results (Denton, Davis, & Strader, 2001).
With the ever broadening contact through the use of current technology and
a demanding school-community, it is essential to incorporate public relations
training into preservice and inservice teacher preparation programs. Furthermore,
this training should be grounded in the current tools of technology.
The sample for this study was drawn from two east Texas school districts,
Bryan Independent School District (BISD) and College Station Independent
School District (CSISD), representing approximately 20,000 students and over
2000 teachers and administrators. Eighty-one teachers were chosen from a
random sample taken from the two districts teaching pool. Forty-three administrators
agreed to participate out of 63 solicited. The appropriate sample size was
determined through the use of NQuery (1999), a statistical software package.
After three rounds of distribution, a 60% and 68% return rate was attained
for teachers and site administrators, respectively (see Tables 1 & 2).
The author, using the Delphi Technique, developed the Attitude of Teachers
Public Relations Role (ATPRR) Instrument I for teachers, and ATPRR Instrument
II for administrators. The questions for the survey were designed to maximize
teacher and administrator responses to individual items while minimizing
disruption to their daily work flow. The instruments underwent several revisions
and was pilot tested at the Principals' Institute at Texas A&M University
with 20 currently practicing and preservice administrators. ATPRR I included
33 items while ATPRR II had 30. Section I numbers 1-15 contained demographic
and related background information while section II 16-33 (ATPRR I) and 16-30
(ATPRR II) comprised primarily nominal and scaled response items with open
comment areas included. In the teachers' survey, eight modified visual analogue
scales were used to measure perceptions to questionnaire statements with
items 31 and 32 used to rate teachers attitudes about administrative and
district level performance with regard to providing training (see Tables
3 and 4). The administrators' survey utilized six modified visual analogue
scales to measure participant perceptions to survey statements relating to
the teacher's school communications role (see Tables 3 and 4). The six-item
subscale for the study [alpha = .8731, (n=124)] measured teachers'
(alpha = .6975, n=81) and administrators' (alpha = .7019, n=43) attitude
towards teachers’ public relations role was deemed reliable.
Table 1. Summary of Ethnicity and Gender of Faculty for Bryan ISD and
College Station ISD as Reported by the Sample
Note. DNR = did not respond.
| 2 (4.4%)
1 (2.2%) (DNR)
|6 (13.3%) M
37 (82.2%) F
2 (4.4%) (DNR)
3 (8.3%) (DNR)
5 (13.9%) (DNR)
Table 2. Summary of Ethnicity and Gender of Administrators for Bryan ISD
and College Station ISD as Reported by the Sample
Note. DNR = did not respond.
1 (4.0%) (DNR)
1 (5.6%) (DNR)
2 (11.1%) (DNR)
The data collected from the respondents to the ATPRR I and II were analyzed
to generate an overall picture of responses to the survey. Interpretation
and analysis of the data followed the principles provided by Gall, Borg,
and Gall (1996). Teacher responses and administrator responses were
disaggregated for individual and group analysis. Missing data was assigned
a code depending on the individual item response. The visual analogue scale
was coded and entered according to the value assigned to the question by
the participant. The data from the surveys were analyzed using the Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences (1999) to yield descriptive statistics, including
frequencies, percents, cumulative frequencies, cumulative percents, means,
and standard deviations. An Analysis of Variance was calculated comparing
means within and between samples at the .05 and .01 level of significance
for the continuous scales of both instruments.
The two school districts selected for this study serve the same community,
but with vastly different populations. Because of these differences, the
responses to the 33 item scale were consistently similar with a few noted
exceptions. The only minor differences between the two districts were among
professional roles, teachers and administrators (see Table 3).
This study demonstrated that frontline educators had a high level of interaction
with the public. Fifty-six percent of teachers and 76% of administrators
reported interacting face-to-face and electronically with external publics
between 1-6+ times each day. Even with this high level of interaction slightly
less than 50% of administrators reported receiving PR training in their graduate
programs with no teachers receiving this preparation at the undergraduate
or graduate level.
When technology was used for communications purposes approximately 84% of
site administrators and teachers reported using varying internet modes to
communicate directly with their publics. Most teachers and site administrators
noted that they had not received adequate preparation for this added job
function. However, there did seem to be some discrepancy among teacher and
administrator respondents as to how much use was attained. Between 70-80%
of all the study’s participants reported using desktop publishing programs
to communicate with internal and external clients, but a majority had claimed
little formal training for this added duty.
Over 65% of educators reported maintaining class web-pages, list-servs and
other internet based communication methods to reach internal/external clients.
Few within this group reported receiving formal training to fulfill this
role. Half of the administrators reported that, in most cases, they did not
receive any formal preservice training for this vital work, and 25% of the
teacher participants concurred. Of those participants reporting if any formal
inservice training was provided for these duties, 63% of educators said no
formal inservice training was afforded them.
Most teachers (82%) and administrators (100%) were aware that their district
had a public relations specialist, but most reported that this individual
did not provide or arrange for PR inservice training. Many of the teachers
(72%) were unable to respond to this item.
Teachers who reported having received formal PR preparation from their district
were asked to rate the training they had received and their administrations
efforts to bring this instruction to them. Ninety-five percent reported mangement's
efforts as average to below average with similar figures when teachers were
asked how the district's efforts faired (see Table 4).
When teachers were asked if inservice or preservice training would have helped
them in their current practice, over 60% reported in the affirmative indicating
a need for this instruction not only at the district level, but in college
courses prior to service. Further, instructors deemed it essential to receive
this training grounded in the "tools of technology" that they will be required
to use in praxis.
The mean scores were established on a scale of 1 to 7 with a 7 score being
the highest perceived importance and 1 being not important at all. The teacher's
mean response for the subscale was 5.02 while the administrators was 5.95.
Interestingly both teachers and administrators high and low scores were recorded
on items 18a and 20a of the instrument. For more comparisons of subscale
responses for teachers and administrators see Table 3. Table 4 displays
the findings for teacher participants pertaining to the quality of current
public relations performance and training.
Table 3. Summary of Bryan ISD and College Station ISD Teacher and Administrator
Responses to the Six-item ATPRR Survey Subscale Pertaining to the Teacher’s
Public Relations Role
|18a. If you have received preservice
PR training then please rate the importance of this training. (n=45 )
|19a. If you have received inservice
PR training then please rate the importance of this training. (n=44 )
|20a. The teacher’s role in your schools
PR efforts:(n= 123)
|20b. Teachers receiving preservice
PR training to the eventual fulfillment of their instructional role:(n=124
|20c. Teachers receiving inservice PR
training to the eventual fulfillment of their instructional role:(n=124)
|28. How important PR training would
be for the teaching staff involved in the public information mediums previously
|*Significant at the .05 level.
**Significant at the .01 level
Table 4. Summary of Bryan ISD and College Station ISD Teacher Responses
to the ATPRR Survey Items 31-34 Pertaining to the Quality of Current Public
Relations Performance and Training
Survey items 31-34 were included in ATPRR I (teachers’ survey) only.
|31. Rate your administrators efforts to bring
PR training to your campus. (n=77)
|Below Avg 23(51.1%)
Average (+) 20(44.4%)
|Below Avg 15 (41.7%)
Average(+) 19 (52.7%)
Missing 2 (5.5)
|32. Rate your districts efforts to bring
PR training to your campus. (n=79)
|Below Avg 27 (60%)
Average (+) 17 (37.7%)
|Below avg 16 (44.5%)
Average (+) 19(52.8%)
|33. Do you think that PR training
in your preservice university program
would have helped you better
deal with parents and your
local community in your first years as a teacher? (n=75)
Did not know 4(8.9%)
No 4 (11.1%)
Did not know 6 (16.6%) Missing 2 (5.6%)
|34. Do you think that inservice
PR training would aid you now
in your current teacher practice? (n=75)
Did not know 2 (4.4%) Missing
Did not know 4 (11.1%)
Missing 2 (5.6%)
According to this research, increased public contact is makes it necessary
for educators to gain much needed public relations training. Much of this
is due to the increased communication opportunities afforded through the
application of contemporary technologies. Although many of the teachers and
administrators receive little if any PR preparation, most practitioners believe
that this training, grounded in the current evolving technologies, is essential
to school success. Many of these modern communications tools are making it
impossible to remain isolated in the classroom and should be used effectively
to reach the many publics we serve (Anglin, 1995; Guillory, 2000; Leu &
Leu, 2000; Pierson, 2001; Roblyer & Edwards, 2001). Experts (Becker,1999;
Doyle, 1999; Meek, 1999; Marx, 1998 & Strasser, 2001) in school technology
and communications encourage this preparation of educators to master and
more fully utilize these powerful mediums for constructive use and to enhance
school communication as well as the public's perception of schools.
Teachers and administrators of BISD and CSISD recognize the importance of
preservice and inservice training for teachers in the public relations role,
as evidenced in this study. However, most of the teachers and almost half
of the administrators who responded to the survey had not received this training.
Several authors (Bernays, 1979; Hogan,1999; Meek,1999; West, 1985; 1997;
and Wiget,1995) stressed the importance of this instruction and its significance
for organizational improvement and to help encourage community support.
While administrators in BISD and CSISD recognized the importance of PR preparation,
teachers from both districts rated the quality and quantity of teamwork and
training for their PR function as poor. Without proper training, teamwork
is hampered. Otto and Greisdorf (1999) support the use of effective teaming
strategies to improve school community relations.
A majority of teachers and almost half of the administrators from BISD and
CSISD received little or no training. They recognized that they frequently
interact with the public and perform many public relations duties without
the necessary background to effectively carry out this task. Almost all teachers
and administrators recognized the importance of receiving high quality public
relations training to fulfill this important professional function. School
communications experts (Bagin,1988; Holcomb,1993; Kochamba and Murray, 2000;
Christian, 1997) have long recognized that one of the most important roles
educators play is the one in which they receive the least preparation. In
the age of national accountability, testing, increased use of technology
to communicate, and the increasing professionalization of teaching, is it
acceptable for colleges and school districts not to provide this training?
According to the literature, schools are moving from the traditional top-down
management conventions to more democratic practices. This phenomenon occurs
in current classroom application as well as in school leadership efforts
(Feinberg, 1998; Lashway, 1998; Thornburg, 1998). Technology helps to drive
much of this change. School communications is certainly no exception. The
public relations function of teachers has been over-looked for some time.
Preparation for this role has been neglected. If current school reform efforts
are to succeed, teachers and site administrators must have the tools and
training for this developing paradigm. Currently, for teachers, this preparation
is not apart of their pre-professional training, and as for the site administrators,
only about half in this study reported receiving this type of instruction
in graduate school.
Future research into parents' views and other school stake-holders must be
conducted to ascertain the attitudes they hold with regard to the teacher’s
public relations role. Preservice and inservice PR training programs need
to be established for teachers and reestablished for frontline administrators
in order for them to better carry out their roles in improving school community
relations and this training must be grounded in the current tools of technology.
*Full tabular results of ATPRR I&II are available at http://atprr.fws1.com/tables
Christopher Calvin, Ph.D.
7100 Almeda Road #1203
Houston, Texas 77054
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ITFORUM PAPER #70 - Texas School Communications
Study: Training for Frontline School Practitioners is Indicated by Christopher
Calvin, Ph.D. and Stephen Stark, Ph.D.. Posted on ITFORUM on April 11, 2003.
The author retains all copyrights of this work. Used on ITFORUM by permission
of the author. Visit the ITFORUM WWW Home Page at http://itforum.coe.uga.edu/