Are We Effectively Supporting New Principals?
The American schools of today face issues that are unprecedented in our nation’s history. Among the top issues that have become part of the day to day reality of our school leaders include class size, poverty, family factors, technology, bullying, student attitudes and behaviors, parental involvement, student health, funding, and No Child Left Behind. For those of us who have been in the professional for ten years or more, we have certainly seen how these issues have come to consume so many parts of our job as school principals. Thinking back to the training and resources that were made available to me back when I started as a principal, I’m not convinced that I would have been prepared to meet the demands of the job as they are today.
Earlier this month, Education Week published an infographic from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) summarizing the information gathered from speaking with over 1,100 new principals as they provided insights into the day to day realities that they face on the job. The graphic had some startling results:
· 85% of new principals rated their stress level as “high”, yet 80% considered their job very satisfying.
· 6% are planning to continue in the career, and only 14% plan to stay in their role beyond 15 years.
· Over 80% of new principals believed that teachers helped them the most. Only 50% believed that their Superintendent helped them.
· Only 18% of new principals believed they were well prepared to guide teachers in integrating technology into their classroom.
· Only 20% of new principals believed they were well-trained in instructional methods and developmentally appropriate perspectives for early education.
Education Week’s Denise Superville talked about this survey in her article Rookie Principals’ Group Sheds Light on Early-Career Challenges. She wrote about young principals who were spending 60 to 70 hours a week just trying to keep up with the demands of their new role and how organizations like NAESP are working to support new principals today. She wrote, “The association used the survey results and anecdotes from the panel, along with research, to push for residencies, stronger recruitment and induction, mentoring for early-career principals, and dedicated funding streams for principals' professional development—all of which made it into a bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
This is not a new problem. Many schools and school districts have been actively engaged in rethinking their principal support systems for a while. In January of this year, New York City Chancellor Carmen Farina announced how he is overhauling the principal support system in his district, moving to a system where principals will have access to a regional Borough Field Support Centers that will support principals with a variety of topics staffed by experts in instruction, operations and students services, and English language learners. Farina says that in this new model, “We are drawing clear lines of authority and holding everyone in the system accountable for student performance.”
To contrast that work, in 2012 the New Hampshire Department of Education worked with the New Hampshire Association of School Principals to support a task force that developed a new evaluation model for school principals. From there, the state established principal support networking groups in each geographic region of the state. The purpose of these groups is to provide support and training for school principals on a variety of topics as determined by each group. Groups typically meet monthly and are facilitated by a veteran principal from that geographic region.
As we enter the 2015-2016 year, let’s hope that we as an educational community can figure out what we can do to better support our school leaders, both the newly appointed ones and those who have been in their role for a period of time.