Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE)

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Levin, S., Scott, C., Leung, M. & Bradley, K. (2020). Supporting a Strong, Stable Principal Workforce. Boston, MA, USA : The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI).


Strong and stable school leadership is critical for success in schools across the nation. The duties of the principal are many and varied. Principals, for example, can oversee instruction, purchase curricular materials and supplies, and provide professional learning and supports for teachers. Carrying out these duties effectively makes a difference for student achievement and graduation. Principal leadership also impacts teacher satisfaction and teacher turnover. Unfortunately, many schools do not have stable principal leadership. Nationally, the average tenure of a principal is about four years, and nearly one in five principals, approximately 18 percent, turn over annually. Often the schools that need the most capable principals, those serving students from low-income families, have even greater principal turnover. To better understand the phenomenon of principal turnover, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) collaborated on a study. In cooperation with WestEd, LPI conducted a national survey of 424 secondary school principals. LPI also conducted six focus groups with 33 school leaders from 26 states. The NASSP-LPI survey and focus groups asked principals about their intentions to stay in the principalship, as well as the extent to which they experience conditions that research has shown to be related to principal retention and turnover. These conditions, summarized from the research literature, fall into five categories: working conditions, compensation, accountability systems and evaluation, decision-making authority, and professional learning. Principals varied in the degree to which they reported the conditions related to principal turnover and their intentions to leave their positions. In general, larger percentages of principals planning to leave reported adverse conditions. The report discusses these conditions in the order in which principals’ overall survey and focus group responses indicated that they were a concern. However, the conditions are, in fact, highly interrelated. Importantly, while a smaller percentage of principals cited lack of professional learning as a reason for leaving their positions, research suggests that professional learning


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Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
90, avenue Vincent d'Indy
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Outremont (Québec) H2V 2S9

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Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
CRIFPE – C-543
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7