Pop Quiz: Are We Really Supporting Our Principals?

Pop quiz: Which of these statements are true about school principals?
  1. “School leaders’ effects on students contributes to 25 percent of the total school influences on a child’s academic performance.”
  2. “Fifty percent of new principals quit during their third year in the role.”
  3. “It takes school leaders an average of five years to put a mobilizing vision in place, improve the teaching staff, and fully implement policies and practices that positively impact the school’s performance.”
  4. “Conservative estimates of the cost to develop, hire and onboard each principal come to about $75,000.”
  5. All of the above.
Answer: E

Tackling Principal Turnover

A new report from School Leader Network spotlights the critical importance of school leadership and argues that focusing on principal pipelines is insufficient. This narrow focus ignores the real instructional and economic impact principal churn has on school systems, particularly teachers and students in high-poverty systems. Instead the report argues that we must address the issues that result in principal turnover. It proposes the following specific solutions:
  • Continue to invest in leadership development beyond pipeline investments.
  • Engage principals in authentic peer networks where principals can learn from other principals the art and practice of leading schools.
  • Provide one-to-one coaching support to principals beyond the first two years.
  • Revise the structure and purpose of district office principal supervisors’ roles.
The report also includes important information like:
  • The 10 worst states for principal churn.
  • Examples of estimated effect of high retention/achievement on  student life-time earnings.
  • A case study of a Charter Management Organizations (CMO’s) investment success.
Principals set the tone and climate in the schools they lead. We often expect them to be instructional leaders, talent managers, disciplinarians, cheerleaders, community leaders and the occasional therapist. While often they appear superhuman, they need our support, investment and gratitude.
Ann Whalen
Ann Whalen is senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Prior to returning to the U.S. Department of Education, she served as the director of policy for Education Post. Whalen has served more than five years in the Obama Administration with the U.S. Department of Education. At the department, Ann was director of the Implementation and Support Unit, providing technical assistance to ...

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