school leadership

School Leaders Are Burning the Candle at Both Ends

By now, students and educators alike have settled into the rhythm of school life. Relationships have been re-established, new ones have been formed, and teaching and learning are well underway. Although the end of the school year seems far away, a single thought may begin to weigh on school leaders: How many teachers will stay?

Educator burnout is among the most pressing issues that we, as school professionals, face. A recent article in USA Today describes how educators and school leaders across the country are feeling increasingly exhausted in the wake of the pandemic. As a result, some schools are experiencing staffing shortages and are having to cancel classes or return to remote learning. A new National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) survey confirms just how tough the job of school leader has become. Of a nationally representative sample, 79% say they have been working harder than ever; 73% say they have been working longer hours than ever; 28% say they definitely plan to leave the principalship as soon as they can; and only 35%t report not receiving threats. 

Research shows that high teacher turnover—often referred to as “churn”—reduces student achievement and cuts into precious time and resources. A report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) finds that, on average, urban districts can spend $20,000 on each new hire when it comes to separation, recruitment, hiring, and training. It’s an investment that brings little return if teachers leave after one or two years in the classroom.

Teacher shortages will inevitably lead to school leader shortages. Now more than ever, principals and assistant principals are burning the candle at both ends, and their work is not sustainable. We have long known what school leaders need to do their jobs: more counselors, more social services, more of their voice in decision-making, more funding, and ultimately more respect. Funding that our members helped to advocate for—like the American Rescue Plan—is an excellent start, but it should be a permanent part of the education landscape—not something that educators must fight for year after year.

If we don’t provide educators more support, school leaders will walk away from the schools and communities they have ably served. I am committed, as is NASSP, to leading forward so that educators get the resources necessary to ensure that they, and their schools, succeed. Leading forward requires collaboration and support, and so does strengthening the school leader pipeline. After all, our work is incredibly rewarding but unbelievably challenging and impossible to do well alone.

Ronn Nozoe is the CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

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