- A recent survey published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals reveals that elementary and middle school principals are primarily concerned about student mental health, poverty, behavior, home situation, security, housing and emotional well-being, THE Journal reports.
- Though the survey sample (893) is a relatively small portion of all K-8 principals, it shows a shift in focus as social-emotional needs did not rank in the top ten concerns 10 years ago.
- Top school and staff concerns for K-8 school principals now include teacher shortages and staffing troubles, teacher performance, teacher and staff morale issues, and teachers being resistant to improvement.
With state and federal pressure to improve student achievement bearing down on principals, they are looking for more ways to improve outcomes. As more research comes down tying student achievement to factors outside the school environment, principals at all levels are feeling increased pressure to change those factors. In addition to school-related educational concerns, principals are now feeling the pressure to provide students with food, clothing, health care, and even laundry services.
Social-emotional well-being is also a growing concern with the increase in research about the effect of these factors on achievement. The primary concern for principals in 2018 was dealing with the increase of students who have emotional problems, most of which stem from situations outside the school environment. As THE Journal notes in an article comparing the 2018 principal survey with earlier surveys, “None of these showed up as major concerns in the 2008 survey. (In that first survey in 1928, a big concern was the lack of physical space available for the principal and resources such as bookshelves.)”
The issue of student well-being is clearly one that is bigger than schools alone can handle. While schools may be good places to identify student needs, principals should not feel the pressure to solve these issues alone.
State leaders who are demanding more of schools in terms of performance need to be made more aware of how outside factors are affecting student performance and find determine better ways to address those issues. Poverty, crime, substance abuse and child abuse and neglect are issues that affect the entire state and nation, not just schools. But academic performance is often affected by these issues. In the meantime, principals need to be able to focus on their key responsibilities, which are all related directly to the education of students.