What the data says about superintendent turnover in 2023-24

In the last five years, more than 40% of districts have witnessed one superintendent departure. Which states faced higher levels of attrition?

The duties and obligations associated with district leadership have changed tremendously over the last several years. As Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho once told us, we’re in a new era of the superintendency, and leaders must adapt. “Be so bold in your approach to work that you actually invite termination for being so passionate,” he said. However, that original spark for education many leaders once had has since faded due to a multitude of factors like student behavior, lingering pandemic-related issues and other headaches—and the data shows.

Research from The Superintendent Lab, a website dedicated to providing insights and research about school district leadership, offers some perspective on some of the most pressing challenges surrounding the superintendency, including leadership turnover.

To give you a better idea of the state of superintendent attrition across the U.S., we’ve compiled some key findings based on The Superintendent Lab’s research.

A five-year snapshot

Between 2019-20 and 2023-24, more than 40% of districts witnessed one superintendent departure, according to data visualizations created by Rachel White, founder/PI of The Superintendent Lab. Some 7.9% of districts had two superintendents leave and 1.5% saw three or more depart.

Overall, more than half of districts across 37 states had at least one superintendent departure since 2019-20.

Attrition rates are higher in certain states

Headlines over the past year have highlighted this issue in their respective states. Nearly one-third of superintendents in Oregon, for instance, are in their first or second year, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. In Georgio, too, the number of superintendent departures nearly doubled over the past two years, according to 11Alive.

More from DA: NSPRA names its 25 superintendents to watch for 2023

Similarly, The Superintendent Lab found that between the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, attrition rates in district leadership were greater than 20% in 14 states. States like Montana, Hawaii, New Mexico, Louisiana, North Carolina and Delaware saw attrition rates of 24% or higher in 2023-24. West Virginia, however, had the highest level of attrition at 36.4%.

Some states are losing female leaders

There has been extensive research about the ongoing gender gap in the superintendency. A recent report from ILO Group suggests that of the nation’s 500 largest school districts, just 152 of them (30.4%) are led by women.

The Superintendent Lab’s data paints a similar picture, although its state-by-state analysis shows signs of regression in some areas.

For instance, states like New Hampshire, Idaho and Delaware have made tremendous progress in this regard. In the last five years, they’ve seen increases in female superintendent hires ranging from nine to 12%. On the other hand, states like New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota and others have seen declines in female district leaders since 2019.

For a more in-depth look at this data, which includes interactive data visualizations and additional media briefs, visit The Superintendent Lab here.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

Most Popular