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Study Shows Texas Principals Don't Stay on the Job Long

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Researchers have long tracked teachers' movements in and out of schools. But principals'? Not so much.

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin shows, however, that principals can be a pretty peripatetic bunch. Researchers Ed Fuller and Michelle Young examined data on Texas public schools from 1996 through 2008. They found that only half of newly hired principals stay on the job for three years. Seventy percent leave before their five-year anniversary.

The retention rates for principals at low-performing schools and schools with high concentrations of poor students are even worse.Twenty percent of newly hired principals at secondary schools with a high proportion of low-income students leave after a year.

You might think that a lot of these principals were moving from school to school, but Fuller says his previous research shows that's not necessarily the case. Most of the principals he studied left to take a job in central administration, retire, change careers, or go back to being an assistant principal, taking their hard-earned experience with them. And he suspects that kind of mobility could ultimately have a detrimental effect on student learning.

"The job is just too hard," said Fuller, "and people just can't do it for that long." Does he have a point? Or is this kind of movement peculiar to the Lone Star State? I'd love to hear from some principals on this question. In the meantime, you can check out the full study at the Web site for the University Council for Educational Administration, an international consortium of research institutions based at UT's college of education. The organization has promised to post it there later today.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this entry noted that 20 percent of newly hired principals in low-performing secondary schools stay longer than a year. Actually, the reverse is true. Twenty percent leave after the first year.

5 Comments

As an observer of education for over 40 years, I can say that there are few jobs that are more draining and more difficult than being a school principal. While my gig is in higher education, I've seen the burn-out rate among principals soar over the past two decades. Very sad.

Bob Rude

Bob,
Thanks for the comment. I wonder if the accountability movement has contributed to some of that burnout?
Debbie

The high turnover rate among principles is not surprising. The question should be; Why?
In the book, “Prelude to Chaos “, the author states that we have breed a group of students who are disrespectful, conniving, selfish, angry and so disruptive that our excellent teachers who want to teach them, can not. Because of interactions between a blame placing public- including politicians, the developed student traits, and overprotecting parents, we have developed an un-manageable system called education.

While we have made tremendous progress towards solving this problem, it is time to realize that new approaches to solving these problems are necessary. We as educators must solve the problems. Parents can not solve the problem because they are the children of yesterday that we have breed. Politicians cannot solve the problem because they are the stake holders of the mess.

We, as teachers have unfettered access to students. As such, we must use this fact to correct the problem which is the children we have created. Let us start by teaching them to be good citizens, to love each other, and be all we want to be, or fell we can be; but never at the expense of another. We must teach them to be self actualized.
J patrick
[email protected]
Author of Prelude to Chaos

The job is very, very hard. I've been a high-school principal for 6 years. The hours are incredibly long and the job is very public, with so many different groups wanting a piece of your time and so many complaints that it's easy to lose sight of your goals. There is huge pressure to raise test scores/graduation rates/college-acceptance rates. The skill set that is required for the job would earn you twice as much money in the private sector, yet people still call you overpaid. The university programs that "prepare" you for the job aren't at all what you need and there is very little mentoring or professional development on the job. On good days, though, I love my work. I just wish I didn't have to attend so many extra-curricular events.

Jamie,
Thanks for the view from the trenches. There may be a longer story for EdWeek to tell on this important issue. Stay tuned.

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