Supporting a Strong, Stable Principal Workforce: What Matters and What Can Be Done

Research shows that school functioning and student achievement often suffer when effective principals leave their schools. This third summarizes the study findings and

suggests specific strategies that districts, states, and the federal government can utilize to address factors most likely to influence principal mobility.

Key Findings

NASSP and LPI surveyed a stratified random sample of secondary school principals selected to represent U.S. secondary schools by community type, size, percentage of students of color, and percentage of students eligible for the federal lunch program.

The NASSP-LPI survey asked these principals about their intentions to stay in the principalship, as well as the extent to which they experience conditions that other research has shown to be related to principal retention and turnover. Key findings indicated:

  1. Working conditions and district supports related to working conditions emerged as concerns.
  2. Principals’ compensation and financial obligations were related to their mobility plans.
  3. High-stakes accountability systems and evaluation practices can discourage some principals.
  4. A lack of decision-making authority is a concern for some principals.
  5. Many principals faced obstacles to professional learning opportunities.
  6. Larger percentages of principals serving in high-poverty schools and cities reported some of the circumstances associated with principal turnover.

Local and Federal Policy Implications

To be responsive to these findings and to better prepare, develop, support, and retain effective school principals, policymakers at the local level should:

  • Support evidence-based principal professional development through Title I, Part A funds.
  • Support improved working conditions by providing principals with the resources they need to hire adequate administrative staff and student support personnel.
  • Provide principals with appropriate autonomy in decision making through Peer Assistance and Review programs that provide mentors for struggling teachers to help improve their practice and by providing due process if a teacher’s practice does not improve.

Policymakers at the federal level should:

  • Create or expand programs that help underwrite the cost of high-quality principal preparation—for example, provide funding to cover the cost of preparation programs in exchange for a commitment to serve in a high-poverty or rural school.
  • Compensate principals adequately and equitably within the state and across districts and provide additional financial incentives for principals who commit to working in high-need schools.
  • Support local efforts to prepare and develop effective school leaders by increasing state and federal investments in leader preparation programs and their high-quality professional development, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • Support local efforts to improve whole child and student supports by providing sufficient state and federal funding under Title IV, the Student Success and Academic. Enrichment Grant program.

 

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