High Principal Turnover Found in Low-Performing Schools

Christina Hentges

Advocates for Children and Youth
December 2007

It's not just teachers who struggle to stay in failing schools. Their principals are also completing very short tours. Researchers examined principal turnover in small samples of low-performing, high-poverty schools in three Maryland districts--Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George's County--and found a relationship between turnover and student performance. In Baltimore City, 90 percent of the sample schools experienced at least one principal change in a five-year span. In Baltimore County, 57 percent of schools experienced two or more changes. Meanwhile, academic achievement at those schools was dismal. The quality of replacement principals is suspect, too: between 70 and 90 percent of them were first-time school leaders. To stanch the bleeding, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley recommended incentives, of upwards of $200,000 over four years, for principals at various failing schools. These issue briefs comprise a worthwhile snapshot of the relationship between turbid leadership conditions and failing schools. But they would benefit from some additional research into the actual correlation of principal turnover and test scores and why principals flee so quickly. You can find the three profiles and related analysis here.

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