- While 94% of principals say that they are satisfied with their current schools, about 25% say they would leave for a better-paying job and 13% say they have thought about staying home because they are too tired to go to work, Education Week reports in an analysis of a recent survey released by the National Center for Education Statistics.
- While the percentage of principals who stayed at the same school has increased by roughly 3% since the 2008-09 survey, the “principal churn” is higher in charter schools, in schools serving high-poverty schools, in city schools, and in schools with higher rate of student violence and disrespect. However, women principals, principals of rural schools, and those who admit their enthusiasm for the job has waned (30%) are more likely to leave the profession altogether.
- The average school principal is white, a woman, has less than three years of experience, and spends 60 hours or more a week on school-related activities. Surprisingly, however, principals who spend an average of 45 hours or less on school-related activities are more likely to leave the profession.
Effective principals can improve school climate, increase teacher retention rates and performance, and as a result, improve student achievement. However, to do that, most principals have to stay in place for more than a year or two. There are times when school district leaders find that shuffling principals is valuable to the district as a whole. However, principal discontent and turnover at a school affects the whole climate and replacing a principal altogether is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Some estimates place that cost at roughly $75,000.
District leaders should look at ways to lessen principal stress, prevent burnout and encourage principals in their love of students and of their profession. Lessening the work-load alone is not sufficient. The fact that principals who work less than 45 hours a week are more likely to leave the profession seems to indicate that these principals are suffering a lack of enthusiasm and symptoms of burnout before they leave. However, school leaders do need to be reminded about dealing with stress and keeping a good work-life balance or they will become “frazzled principals” who lose their effectiveness.
There are several ways to encourage effective principal leadership, lessen the turnover rate, and help prevent principal burnout. Providing effective professional development and support systems help. Shuffling duties that are not academic in nature to other administrators can also help principals focus on what has become their primary role. By finding ways to support principals in their role as leaders of the school, district leaders will develop strong allies in their pursuit of quality education.