In all of public education, is there a job that has gotten worse in past years than that of principals? And yes-- there are many, many truly terrible principals out there. How surprising is that, really? Who would want to sign up for a job that provides all of the responsibility with none of the power and the absolute guarantee that somebody in your district will be hating pretty much every decision that you make.
At least, that's the common perception. And I would love to find some sexy, click-baity spin to put on the study just released by the USDOE, but the most surprising thing in the study is the degree to which things don't suck in the front office. But there's still some interesting data here about the state of principalling in US education.
The National Center for Educational Statistics has released the findings of its 2012-2013 follow-up survey that was designed to check principal attrition rates, and while the survey is not exactly chock full of shocks and surprises, there's some interesting data to be unpacked.
We'll be looking at what happened between the 11-12and 12-13 school years.
There were 114,330 principals in the US. Over that span, 78% stayed in place. 6% moved to different schools (movers), 12% left the field (leavers), and another 5% went... somewhere, but we didn't get that data. So, mystery departures.
The rates of departure were pretty even between male and female principals.
Between private and public, some differences emerge when you break it down by age. In the under-45 crowd, private schools had 11% attrition, while public schools had 8%. In 45-54, private had 9% and public 8%, and over 55, private schools had 13% leavers and public 20%. Of those leavers, retirements only accounted for roughly a third-- 38% of the public and 30% of the private leavers were retirees.
Of movers, 54% of the public principals moved to another school in the same district, with 6-9 year veterans most likely to make that kind of move. 70% of the private school principals moved to another private school, and that move became less likely, the more years of experience they had. The movers who jumped from private to public or public to private were tiny, tiny, tiny.
The fun parts of the report come in the charts. Here are some fun facts about the State of Principalling in 2011-2012.
In public schools, age distribution is more even than you might expect. Of the 89,453 public school principals, 35,630 were under-45, 29,650 were 45-54, and 24,250 were over-55. But even though teaching is predominantly female, only 51% of principals are women. 10% are African American, and just under 7% are Latino.
44% of the principals had been at their school for less than three years. Only 11% had been there more than ten. One piece of good news-- only 7% had had less than five years in a classroom before moving into the office. That figure was 18% for private schools.
In public schools, 53% of principals reported and over-sixty-hour work week.
In public schools, 73% of principals felt they had a major influence on setting performance standards, but only 43% felt they had a hand in establishing curriculum. While have-strong-influence numbers were high for hiring, handling discipline, and teacher evaluation, only 64% felt they had a big say in how the budget would be spent. The picture is very similar in private schools. None of these factors appear to correlate strongly with departure.
So. The world of principals not quite so bad, apparently. We do have the same problem there that we have in the classroom-- a population that doesn't look much like the student population. But we are not hemorrhaging principals in the same way we're losing teachers. Of course, there are some principals we would like to lose, but that's another column.