- While Colorado has long been working to solve its teacher shortage problem, in recent years the state has increased efforts to address an equally important and growing issue — the retention of school leaders, specifically in rural communities, according to The Hechinger Report. This year a record 45 districts have welcomed new superintendents.
- A 2014 survey found that half of all new principals quit their jobs within three years, and a 2018 survey found that rural principals are more likely to leave their schools and the profession altogether than their suburban and urban counterparts.
- Some challenges for rural principals include persistent poverty, low-college going rates and extreme racial disparities in student outcomes, according to the article.
While studies indicate that strong school leadership can have a positive impact on student learning for the better, retaining and attracting these leaders is necessary to reap those benefits. The article features Matthew Snyder, a school leader in a small rural town in Colorado. In addition to being the district’s superintendent, Snyder is the principal of the elementary, middle and high school, the maintenance director, a substitute teacher and soon-to-be fill in bus driver.
Not surprisingly, as seen with Snyder, the task of being a school leader is harder with these additional responsibilities. While the workload and expectations alone could be a reason for the high turnover rate, the article also points to a lack of support, citing a study showing that when school leaders don’t get professional development, they are 1.4 times more likely to leave their job within a year.
This churn can also have ripple effects in a school community. In 2015 the American Institutes for Research (AIR) published an overview of retaining and attracting effective principals. Some effects of leadership turnover included declines in student achievement, the interruption of programs or reforms being implemented, low teacher morale and the creation of a change-resistant culture.
AIR suggested improving leadership preparation, creating earlier hiring timelines, investing in leader PD, assessing working conditions, investing in the creation of strong principal evaluation systems and reviewing school leader compensations.