School & District Management

Principals’ Salaries Rising, But Slowly, Survey Finds

By Bess Keller — March 10, 1999 2 min read

High school principals continue to make only slow gains in salary, according to a new survey, despite shortages in many districts and growing evidence that principals are among the hardest educators to replace.

The study from the National Association of Secondary School Principals found that high school principals got an average raise of 3.2 percent this school year. They make an average salary of $76,769, though pay varies considerably by region and size of school.

The survey of 880 districts was commissioned by the principals’ group and was conducted by the Educational Research Service of Arlington, Va.

This year’s salary gain for high school principals was about average for the decade, according to the report released here at the NASSP’s annual convention Feb. 26-March 2.

“If we consider the long days and weekends a principal works, add the pressure of managing a school building and staff, plus the responsibilities they have to students, parents, school boards and communities, the pay they receive is, in many cases, not enough,” argued Thomas F. Koerner, who retired this month after 27 years at the NASSP, including the last year as its executive director.

The Reston, Va.-based organization releases the survey each year at its convention.

Looming Shortage

Merely average pay raises also may not be enough to stem a looming principal shortage that many contend will be especially acute in high schools. (“Demand for Principals Growing, but Candidates Aren’t Applying,” March 3, 1999.)

A survey last year suggested that the most important factor discouraging candidates was too little money for the responsibilities of the principal’s job.

The survey was commissioned by the NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. (“Principals’ Shoes Are Hard To Fill, Study Finds,” March 18, 1998.)

As in recent years, principals and assistant principals at all levels of schooling earn the lowest salaries in the Southeast and the highest in the far West. Salaries in New England and the Middle Atlantic states also rank high.

Principals in the earlier grades fared better than their high school counterparts, registering average raises of 4.01 percent for middle school principals and 4.17 percent for elementary principals.

Principals of middle schools and junior high schools earn an average of $71,499; elementary school principals average $67,348.

Assistant principals saw increases of between 2 and 2.8 percent, depending on grade levels.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 10, 1999 edition of Education Week as Principals’ Salaries Rising, But Slowly, Survey Finds


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