In this message for the final Principal Leadership issue of the school year, I typically offer my best wishes for the summer and my encouragement for you to eagerly anticipate what a new school year will bring.

But I must also acknowledge that for at least 1 in 5 of you, this is goodbye. Preliminary NASSP research reveals that about 20 percent of principals do not return to their office the following school year, with higher rates for principals in urban and remote, rural contexts. These data come from the first brief in an intensive research project conducted for NASSP by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI). The brief is available at

The causes of principal turnover vary, but a review of existing research suggests we focus on several key areas in order to retain principals:

  • High-quality professional development for principals
  • Greater autonomy in school leadership
  • Compensation for principals commensurate with the responsibilities of the position
  • Reforming accountability systems to support principals in improving student learning
  • Improving working conditions that influence principals’ satisfaction with their role
  • Placing experienced and effective principals in high-needs schools

To be clear, your turnover matters. Leadership continuity reinforces a positive culture that creates the conditions for both teacher and student success. During the next several months, LPI will conduct more intensive original research on these factors to assist districts in retaining principal talent and to inform NASSP’s advocacy efforts. An interim report will be released in July during the 2019 National Principals Conference in Boston. We look forward to sharing the final comprehensive report in late fall.

Meanwhile, please accept my best wishes for a peaceful summer. And I know I will look forward, as we all do, to the excitement the 2019–20 year will bring.


JoAnn Bartoletti
Executive Director, NASSP