Study Shows Texas Principals Don’t Stay on the Job Long

By Debra Viadero — October 09, 2009 1 min read
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Researchers have long tracked teachers’ movements in and out of schools. But principals’? Not so much.

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin shows, however, that principals can be a pretty peripatetic bunch. Researchers Ed Fuller and Michelle Young examined data on Texas public schools from 1996 through 2008. They found that only half of newly hired principals stay on the job for three years. Seventy percent leave before their five-year anniversary.

The retention rates for principals at low-performing schools and schools with high concentrations of poor students are even worse.Twenty percent of newly hired principals at secondary schools with a high proportion of low-income students leave after a year.

You might think that a lot of these principals were moving from school to school, but Fuller says his previous research shows that’s not necessarily the case. Most of the principals he studied left to take a job in central administration, retire, change careers, or go back to being an assistant principal, taking their hard-earned experience with them. And he suspects that kind of mobility could ultimately have a detrimental effect on student learning.

“The job is just too hard,” said Fuller, “and people just can’t do it for that long.” Does he have a point? Or is this kind of movement peculiar to the Lone Star State? I’d love to hear from some principals on this question. In the meantime, you can check out the full study at the Web site for the University Council for Educational Administration, an international consortium of research institutions based at UT’s college of education. The organization has promised to post it there later today.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this entry noted that 20 percent of newly hired principals in low-performing secondary schools stay longer than a year. Actually, the reverse is true. Twenty percent leave after the first year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.