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Why Teachers Quit: It's the Principal, Stupid

A new study published in the Elementary School Journal finds that the main reason new teachers leave the profession is not the insane workload or the lack of resources but, alas, their principals.

Peter Youngs, an associate professor of education policy at Michigan State University, and Ben Pogodzinski of Wayne State University, surveyed 184 beginning teachers in Michigan and Indiana on the factors that might influence them to leave or stay in the profession. Topping the teachers' list, the researchers found, was how well a school's principal works with the staff.

The quality of the relationship with their principal was a stronger predictor of the teachers' intent to remain in the profession than factors related to workloads, administrative duties, resource availability, or the frequency of professional-development opportunities.

Given that nearly a third of teachers quit or change schools in their first two years of teaching, the study's findings highlight a potential need for better training for principals in leadership and interpersonal skills, said Youngs, the lead researcher for the study.

"The focus," he said, "would be on how principals could increase their knowledge of setting a healthy, productive school climate and understanding ways that their actions and leadership can impact new teachers' attitudes and outcomes."

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