ESS Form

Enabling School Structure

School structure is conceptualized along a continuum from hindering at one extreme to enabling at the other.

The prototype for an enabling school structure is a hierarchy that helps rather than hinders and a system of rules and regulations that guides problem solving rather than punishes failure. Although hierarchy can hinder, that need not be the case; in fact, in enabling school structures principals and teachers work cooperatively across recognized authority boundaries while retaining their distinctive roles. Similarly, rules and regulations are flexible guides for problem solving rather than constraints that create problems. In brief, both hierarchy and rules are mechanisms to support teachers rather than vehicles to enhance principal power.

The prototype for a hindering school structure is a hierarchy that impedes and a system of rules and regulations that is coercive. The basic objective of hierarchy is disciplined compliance of teachers. The underlying administrative assumption in hindering structures is that teacher behavior must be closely managed and strictly controlled. To achieve the goal of disciplined compliance, both the hierarchy and rules are used to gain conformity. Indeed rules and regulations are used to buttress administrative control, which, in turn, typically hinders the effectiveness of teachers. In sum, the roles of hierarchy and rules are to assure that reluctant, incompetent, and irresponsible teachers do what administrators prescribe. The power of the principal is enhanced, but the work of the teachers is diminished.

Reliability and Validity of the ESS Form

The ESS Form is a 12-item Likert-type scale that measures the degree to which school structure is enabling; the higher the score, the more enabling the school structure, and conversely, the lower the score, the more hindering the structure. The reliability of the scale is consistently high - usually .90 or higher (Hoy & Sweetland, 2001). The construct and predictive validity have been strongly supported in a number of studies (Hoy & Sweetland, 2000; Hoy & Sweetland, 2001).

Scoring Key

Items 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, and 12 are scored 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 corresponding to the extent of frequency of each item, with never=1 and always=5.

Items 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 11 are reversed scored, that is, these items are scored 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 with never=5 and always=1.

The higher the cumulative score on the scale, the more enabling the school structure is judged to be.

Computing A Standardized Score using the ESS FORM for purposes of comparison:

First, compute the average score for each respondent on the ESS Form. That is, first reverse the scores on those requiring it (items 2,4,7,8,9,11) and compute the average ESS score for each respondent.

Then compute the average ESS school score by summing all the average scores of the respondents and dividing by the number of respondents in the school.

Next, convert the school score to a standardized score with a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100. Use the following formula:

Standard Score for Enabling Structure = [100*(ESS-3.74)/.381]+500

That is, compute the difference between your school ESS score and the mean for the normative sample (ESS-3.74). Then multiply the difference by one hundred [100*(ESS-3.74)]. Next divide the product by the standard deviation of the normative sample (.381). Then add 500 to the result. You have computed your school's Standard Score for Enabling School Structure.

You have standardized your school scores against the normative data provided in an Ohio sample of elementary schools. For example, if your school score is 700, it is two standard deviations above the average score on enabling structure of all schools in the sample; that is, the school has a more enabling structure than 97% of the schools in the sample. You may recognize this system as the one used in reporting individual scores on the SAT, CEEB, and GRE. The range of these scores is presented below:

If the score is 200, it is lower than 99% of the schools.
If the score is 300, it is lower than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 400, it is lower than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 500, it is average.
If the score is 600, it is higher than 84% of the schools.
If the score is 700, it is higher than 97% of the schools.
If the score is 800, it is higher than 99% of the schools.


Hoy, W. K. & Sweetland, S. R. (2000). School bureaucracies that work: Enabling, not coercive. Journal of School Leadership, 10, 524-541.

Hoy, W. K. & Sweetland, S. R. (2001). Designing better schools; The meaning and measure of enabling school structures. Educational Administrative Quarterly, 37, 296-321.

Ohio State School of Education
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