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Survey: Urban Superintendents Are Staying on the Job Longer

Notwithstanding recent moves in New York, Atlanta and Chicago, urban superintendents are spending much longer at the helm than they did in 1999, according a new report from the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of urban districts.

The average tenure of urban superintendents is rising, from 2.33 years in a survey conducted in 1999 to 3.64 years in the most recent survey. Twenty-nine percent of the urban school coalition's district leaders have been in office for five or more years, up from 12 percent in 1999. And only 9 percent have been in office for one year or less, down from 36 percent in 1999.

Michael Casserly, the council's executive director, attributes the growing length of tenure to two factors: the movement towards standards, and a greater understanding among school boards that rapid school leader turnover is correlated with poor student results.

With standards, "the onset of the movement gave superintendents and boards something to anchor their superintendent evaluations to. It provided a more objective set of determinations," he said in an interview. "The decisions are not wholly political, like they used to be."

Also, he said, "I think boards are much more attuned to the negative consequences of constantly turning over one's superintendent. The number of people willing to do these jobs is not infinite, and they don't just grow on trees."

Mayoral control of schools has been promoted as a way to promote urban superintendent stability, but Casserly said that the jury is still out on whether that management method has worked. There also seems to be little evidence that school leaders from education backgrounds are lasting any longer on the job than leaders who have other professional experience.

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