- The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has selected the Learning Policy Institute to manage a large-scale research project that leaders hope will improve principal turnover rates nationwide. The study is designed to explore what factors influence principal turnover, the rates of turnover in different demographic settings and the costs associated with turnover among school leaders, the NASSP announced Thursday.
- According to data released in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Education, principal retention rates in high-income districts is about 85%, while retention rates in lower-income districts is about 79%. Turnover can impact student achievement and teacher satisfaction because principals don’t stay long enough to see their growth plans for schools mature.
- The NASSP hopes the results will help policymakers and district leaders craft plans to improve principal retention rates. The first research brief is slated for release on March 19, a second brief will be released in July, and the third brief and final report should be released in the fall.
Past research indicates that many schools have trouble retaining principals, especially at the secondary level. A 2012 article by the National Education Policy Center showed that roughly one half of middle school principals remained at their same school for three years, compared to only about 30% of high school principals. While it often takes about five years for principals to implement positive changes, many leave before that milestone occurs.
A 2018 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics indicates that even principals who remain may have doubts about their long-term plans to stay in the profession. “Of public school principals who remained at the same school during the 2016–17 school year (“stayers”), 43% planned to remain a principal as long as they were able, 20% were undecided at that time, 19% planned to remain until eligible for retirement benefits from their job and 11% planned to remain until a more desirable job opportunity came along,” the authors wrote.
Effective principals can have a positive impact on teacher retention and student achievement at their schools. But they also have tough jobs and often work long hours. When they decide to leave a school, that decision can cost the school and the district in multiple ways, including a drop in student achievement and spending funds to recruit and train a new principal.
As districts look to hire school leaders, careful screening processes are important to determine whether prospective administrators are committed to the profession. Once they are hired, districts need to identify ways to retain them. And, in case those plans still fail, it's becoming more important to have a principal pipeline in place so the transition to new leadership will be easier.