From the Field

The Impacts of Principal Turnover

Principal turnover rates in this country have risen to a staggering 18 percent—higher than the rate for teachers. Researchers Brendan Bartanen from Texas A&M University, Jason A. Grissom from Vanderbilt University, and Laura K. Rogers from University of Utah conducted a study into how principal turnover affects school performance. To help gauge the impact, the researchers looked at principal turnover by different types of leadership transfers: whether a principal was demoted or promoted to a different position.

The study, The Impact of Principal Turnover, found that principal turnover on average has a negative effect on school performance. The negative effects are largest when principals transfer to a different school or are promoted to a central administrator position. However, schools where principals were demoted did not face a negative effect and actually benefited from the leadership change. While there may be a positive effect in demoting a principal, the study also found that it is harder to retain high quality teachers amid unstable leadership. The researchers acknowledge that the negative impacts could appear in the short term, while some of the positive effects of changing principals become clear in later years.