NASSP Survey of Principals and Students Reveals the Extent of Challenges Facing Schools
Reston, VA—The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) released results today from the NASSP Survey of America’s School Leaders and High School Students. Designed by school leaders and students, this nationally representative survey explores their opinions on the challenges of leading and learning at school as well as their thoughts on mental health, school safety and how to better meet the needs of all learners.
“As a student, it’s incredibly rare to be asked for my opinion, even when people are discussing what’s best for kids,” said Laila Dargan, student at Willow Spring High School in Fuquay-Varina, NC, and a member of the survey design team. “There are a lot of similarities between what school leaders and students think and I hope this serves as a reminder for policymakers to talk to all of us who are actually in the schools.”
“Principals in every state are facing enormous challenges resulting in significant stress with no end in sight,” said Ryan Merriwether, principal of North Junior High School in Evansville, IN, and a member of the survey design team. “The survey results make clear that while we love working with students and teachers, our conditions are unsustainable and if left unaddressed, could result in principal shortages that will be difficult to overcome.”
“This survey makes it clear how to better meet the needs of those who learn, teach and lead in our schools every day,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “Across all demographics, there was consistency in the survey responses. Every district, state and federal education leader should use these results as a guide on how to better support our students and educators.”
Finding #1: One out of two school leaders claim their stress level is so high they are considering a career change or retirement.
- 38% of school leaders are looking to leave within the next three years, with 14% planning to leave in the next year and 24% planning to leave in the next 2–3 years.
- The educator shortage is likely contributing to these stress levels, with 73% of school leaders agreeing that staffing shortages are a problem at their school.
- School leaders say better work-life balance would be most likely to keep them in the profession (28%); followed by a higher salary (21%), more societal respect for the profession (15%) and more teachers and staff (12%).
- The majority of school leaders claim they spend more than six hours a week on administrative paperwork (70%), spending time with students (64%) and administrative meetings (52%). However, the majority prefer to spend more than six hours a week on spending time with students (72%), supporting staff with teaching (69%) and observing teachers in the classroom (60%).
- Overwhelmingly, school leaders agree they are generally satisfied with their role in their school (88%), have adequate resources (86%), autonomy in school decisions (86%), a voice in the policies impacting their schools (83%) and enough opportunities for professional development (82%).
Finding #2: The majority of students (73%) report they are generally satisfied at their school, but there is an opportunity to involve them more in school planning and policies.
- 82% of students report that they receive adequate support from their teachers and school to advance their learning and 81% report that their school offers the classes and programming they need.
- Just 61% of students believe that the curriculum prepares them for the real world and the life they want as an adult.
- 69% of students claim that the curriculum taught in their school is relevant to their experiences and needs.
- Students do not feel their opinion is represented in major decisions and policy considerations. Only 28% report their opinion is represented “a great deal” at the school level. This figure is even lower at the district (13%), state (14%) and federal levels (11%).
- While 68% of students report their school involves students in the planning and preparation of school events, this figure drastically declines when it comes to involving students in the planning and preparation of school safety plans (28%), school policy and governance meetings (31%) and in the planning and preparation of mental health programs (33%).
Finding #3: Three-quarters of school leaders (73%) and students (74%) report they needed help with their mental or emotional health last year.
- Of those who needed help, only 54% of school leaders and 46% of students actively sought help, and 67% of school leaders and 53% students were able to get the help they needed.
- A slight majority of students (64%) feel mental health and self-care are valued at their school.
- A significant portion (82%) of school leaders identified using federal funding to increase the number of school psychologists, counselors and other health professionals as important.
Finding #4: The majority of school leaders (70%) and students (51%) report they have personally been threatened or attacked, physically or verbally during the past year.
- 15% of school leaders and 14% of students report having been physically attacked/assaulted this past year.
- Almost half of all school leaders report being verbally attacked this past year either in person (47%) or online (42%).
- One-half of school leaders (51%) report student behavior is worse than before the pandemic, with the majority concerned about online bullying (85%), in-person/physical bullying (82%) and drug use (80%) in their school.
- A majority of students are also concerned about drug use (63%), gun violence (53%), in-person/physical bullying (52%) and sexual violence between students (51%) in their school.
- 79% of school leaders feel their school is “extremely” or “very safe” and almost all school leaders (94%) feel confident they can respond to possible violent acts at their school.
- Yet, a mere 53% of students report their school is “extremely” or “very safe” and 73% of students feel confident they can respond to possible violent acts at their school.
- The majority of school leaders (77%) and students (70%) identified using federal funding to reduce violence and bullying in schools as important.
Finding #5: School leaders and students agree that more work needs to be done when it comes to meeting the needs of underserved students.
- Only a quarter of school leaders (26%) “strongly agree” that their school meets the needs of non-native English speakers, followed by LGBTQ+ students (28%), students from low-income households (37%) and students of color (39%).
- Similarly, 28% of students “strongly agree” that their school meets the needs of LGBTQ+ students, followed by non-native English speakers (30%), students from low-income households (31%), students with learning disabilities (39%), students with physical disabilities (39%) and students of color (41%).
- Just 21% of students “strongly agree” that the people who work at their school look like the students who attend their school.
- Students report that their school provides opportunities to learn about other cultures (68%) and that their school provides opportunities about how to be more accepting and inclusive (73%).
Finding #6: School leaders and students believe there are some benefits to pandemic practices that help meet students’ unique needs.
- A quarter of school leaders (27%) and students (25%) prefer hybrid learning to in-person only learning or remote learning only.
- School leaders adopted some pandemic practices for the long-term, particularly attending virtual meetings with teachers, administrative staff and families (62%), greater use of technology in learning (60%) and more frequent physical and mental wellness checks with students, teachers and staff (60%).
- More than half of students (53%) are interested in continuing self-paced student learning, followed by greater use of technology in learning (51%) and more frequent physical and mental wellness checks with students, teachers and staff (48%).
While school leaders and students differed in their responses, survey data was largely consistent across demographic groups within these samples, including race, gender, years of experience and school populations.
To view the full results, visit https://survey.nassp.org/
The development of the NASSP Survey of America’s School Leaders and High School Students was assisted by nine current school leaders and NASSP members and nine National Honor Society students from across the United States. Gotham Research Group, an independent research firm, developed and administered the survey. It was conducted online from June 5 through June 23, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 principals and assistant/vice principals in middle and high school and 1,000 8–12th grade students enrolled in school for the 2021–22 school year. The margin of error for each sample is ±3.1 percentage points.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of middle level and high school principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.