The job responsibilities of an administrator in K12 education have only gotten more complex over time, especially since the pandemic. As a result, principals are choosing to leave the profession at a higher rate than ever, which is one of the dominant contributors to shortages throughout the superintendency. But who is leaving, and why? Data released Monday by the National Center for Education Statistics offers some insight.
“Principal attrition is higher in public schools than it was five years ago, and veteran public school leaders with more years of experience leave the profession at higher rates than those with less experience,” NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr said in a statement.
Her remarks came in light of the newly published research from the NCES which revealed that roughly 1 in 10 (11%) of public school principals left their jobs between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. Additionally, some 80% of 2020-21 principals chose to stay at the same school a year later, which was lower than the count taken during the 2016-17 school year. Another six percent chose to move to a different school.
Some administrators even argued that pay was an issue for them. One-fourth of 2020-21 public school principals said they “somewhat” or “strongly agreed” they would abandon the profession as soon as possible if they found a higher-paying job. Among them, 73% stayed the following school year, while nearly 15% quit.
“These data are critical to understanding patterns of principal attrition, NCES Associate Commissioner Chris Chapman said in a statement. “We are able to observe how principal attrition has changed over the years, as well as how principal attrition and mobility vary based on characteristics of the principals and their schools.”
Private school principals shared similar feelings, the data suggests. In 2020-21, approximately 10% of principals left the profession, 83% stayed an additional year and two percent changed schools.
“Principals are critical supports for a school’s teachers and learners, and the country needs leaders in every school who are committed to the success of each student,” said Carr. “These data are a valuable snapshot for those at the district and state levels who must address the issue of principal turnover in their schools.”
- Percentage-wise, public school principals who made less money were leaving at greater rates. For instance, among the nine percent that made a salary of less than $75,000, 13% left the principalship. Comparably, among the 33% with a salary of $115,000 or more, 10% quit.
- Thirty-six percent of public school principals in 2020-21 said they plan to remain a principal “as long as they are able.” Another 12% said they’ll stay until they find a more “desirable job.” Among them, nearly 20% left the principalship the following school year.
- Fifty-eight percent of public school principals reported spending at least 60 hours or more per week on “school-related activities” in 2020-21 compared to 48% of private school principals.