If you look at school from a principal’s viewpoint, especially those who are relatively new to the job, you might find that putting out “small fires” and sometimes “big fires” take a great deal of their time. Even if principals come to the job with special administrative training, it’s difficult for them to think ahead about curriculum, teaching, and moving forward with technologies when their days are filled up with administrative tasks and problems that cannot be handled by another on the staff. Education Week reports (in Samuel’s Principal Turnover Bodes Poorly for Schools) that many principals (about 20%) leave their job within one to two years and only about 50% are still at their schools after five years even though it takes about three years for principals to “get the lay of the land” at a school in order to make a difference. They leave for a variety of reasons, including the inability to raise test scores quickly. So what do we need to provide schools with the best principals? We need to engage educators who will be effective leaders in specialized training for their jobs, we need to encourage principals to continue on at their schools even though the first few years may be difficult, and we need to encourage principals to learn to appreciate the culture within a school and use this knowledge plus collaboration with staff to bring about change.
Education Week also provides a PDF download ($4.95) called Spotlight on Principals, which features nine articles on topics such as training and evaluation, recruiting effective school leaders, secrets of success, and principal turnover.