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District of Columbia Offers Top Principals Three-Year Appointments

High-performing principals in the District of Columbia school system would be eligible for three-year appointments at their schools for the first time.

Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the three-year appointments, which would become effective in the 2015-16 school year, is a demonstration of her commitment to keeping high-performing principals on the job.

The three-year appointments would be offered to those principals who have had strong results at their schools in areas such as student achievement and instructional expertise based on the district's evaluation system.

Twenty-two principals will be offered the longer appointments in the 2015-16 school year. Under the terms, the principals must stay at their schools for three years.

"We know it takes a considerable amount of time and hard work to get to know the school community—its students, families, staff, and culture—and to improve academic performance," Henderson said in a statement announcing the new policy." A three-year appointment shows that we trust and value their leadership and ability to nurture a strong school community. I am excited to recognize our highest-performing principals with a deeper commitment to their continued success."

Principals who do not meet the criteria for three-year appointments would get one-year contracts. They could later qualify for the longer appointments if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Principal turnover has been a source of concern for those in education leadership. The Washington Post reports that the turnover rate in the District of Columbia's system is about 20 percent to 25 percent.

Principals are second—after teachers—among the in-school factors that affect learning. And when principals leave there are significant impacts on the schools. 

According to a report last year, "Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover,"  approximately one-quarter of principals leave their schools each year, half of all new principals leave their schools in their third year, and that turnover costs school districts millions of dollars annually.

Aware of that, school districts have been taking steps to keep their most effective principals on the job, including empowering teacher-leaders and boosting the role of assistant principals. (See Education Week's special report: Shaping Strong School Leaders.

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