We know principals work long hours on a variety of crucial priorities, but only recently have we put some data behind that long-held belief. The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) issued a report last October that reviewed the 2012 data from the Schools and Staffing Survey to identify exactly how many hours principals spend on the job each week, how that time is spent, and how principals engage in professional learning. These highlights might not be surprising, but they provide a baseline for our consideration:

  • The average principal spends 59 hours a week on the job, rising to 62.5 hours for high school principals. Interestingly, these figures do not vary significantly by school demographic.
  • The largest chunk of the principal’s time (31 percent) is spent on administrative tasks such as human resource/personnel issues, regulation compliance, reports, and budget.
  • Principals still pursue formal workshops (94 percent) as their primary manner of professional development, but professional connections and communities are gaining momentum, with 72 percent of principals saying they regularly visit other schools to learn new practices and participate in professional networks (69 percent).

Administrative tasks are part of the job-there is no avoiding it. But as the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders 2015 remind us, we can and should view every task through the lens of one basic question: Will this improve student learning? The IES findings and this basic question are the genesis of the McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders (MMPSL). Principals are engaged in learning with a community of peers, sharing ideas, and encouraging one another toward our common goal of leading each student to maximize his or her potential.

As the principalship continues its rapid evolution through an era of high standards, you can expect that NASSP will return to these themes regularly in the MMPSL, on the pages of Principal Leadership, and in all of our programming.

JoAnn Bartoletti 
Executive Director, NASSP