School Climate & Safety

What Principals Are Most Worried About Right Now

By Denisa R. Superville — May 15, 2019 3 min read
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With school safety dominating the K-12 conversation for the last year, about half of principals said they were the sole decision-makers about some safety and security procedures in their buildings, according to a survey released this month.

Those decisions included things like changing phone systems to add caller ID, using student fees to beef-up security at after-school events, creating check-in procedures for campus visitors, drafting in-depth school safety plans for their buildings, and reviewing their building’s crisis plans, according to MCH Strategic Data, a data and technology firm, which annually surveys principals about their concerns and the most pressing issues in K-12 education.

The firm did not include school safety in last year’s poll but added the topic to this year’s survey of about 800 principals because of the national news coverage on school safety in the past year, MCH Strategic Data said.

Overall, principals said they were most concerned about adequate funding, student attendance, teacher morale, behavior issues in students, and aligning assessments to standards.

Nearly 90 percent of principals ranked “behavior issues in children” as an important concern in 2019.

Those behaviors included classroom disruptions, bullying, and ignoring classroom rules, but principals were also worried about the need for additional resources to support students’ social-emotional learning and mental health, MCH Strategic Data said.

Principals drew a connection between the dearth of resources to help children’s growing needs and low teacher morale. Teachers are overwhelmed, principals said. That, along with compensation, contributed to low morale among the teaching staff, principals said.

About 46 percent of principals said teacher morale was the same at their school this year as last year. Eighteen percent said it was worse.

The issues that weigh heavily on principals’ minds remained more or less the same year as last year, though the level of concern on the principals’ part shifted in some cases. New concerns such as ESSA and technology were added.

MCH Strategic Data also detected new job titles in districts and schools that reflect a greater awareness of students’ non-academic needs.

Some of those titles included director of social emotional learning and director of pupil personnel, the latter of which may be responsible for supporting principals and others who work with students on issues that may affect their performance in the classroom.

Compared to previous years, principals said they were less anxious about how the Every Student Succeeds Act’s will affect them and that they were confident about their knowledge of the 2015 law, with about 70 percent of principals saying they believed they had a strong grasp of how ESSA will affect school funding.

The new questions on school safety and security provided additional insights into how the debate around increasing school security has trickled down to school buildings.

Among them:


  • More than 40 percent of principals said they had a sworn law enforcement officer on the premises.
  • 71 percent said they had implemented new safety procedures in the last year.
  • 80 percent said their staff had completed training on school safety and security.
  • 80 percent said funding for security measures came from the district’s general funds.
  • 20 percent said they got local funding for safety and security measures.

The survey was conducted in February, and the results were collected and analyzed in April.

You can dig into the report—which also includes questions on career and technical education, technology purchasing, and early-childhood education—here.

Caption: The 2019 Principals’ Assessment of Education, MCH Strategic Data

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.


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