Stepping Stones: Principal Career Paths and School Outcomes

Tara Béteille, Demetra Kalogrides, Susanna Loeb

NBER Working Paper No. 17243
Issued in July 2011
NBER Program(s):   ED

More than one out of every five principals leaves their school each year. In some cases, these career changes are driven by the choices of district leadership. In other cases, principals initiate the move, often demonstrating preferences to work in schools with higher achieving students from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Principals often use schools with many poor or low-achieving students as stepping stones to what they view as more desirable assignments. We use longitudinal data from one large urban school district to study the relationship between principal turnover and school outcomes. We find that principal turnover is, on average, detrimental to school performance. Frequent turnover of school leadership results in lower teacher retention and lower student achievement gains. Leadership changes are particularly harmful for high poverty schools, low-achieving schools, and schools with many inexperienced teachers. These schools not only suffer from high rates of principal turnover but are also unable to attract experienced successors. The negative effect of leadership changes can be mitigated when vacancies are filled by individuals with prior experience leading other schools. However, the majority of new principals in high poverty and low-performing schools lack prior leadership experience and leave when more attractive positions become available in other schools.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17243

Published: Analyzing the Determinants of the Matching of Public School Teachers to Jobs: Disentangling the Preferences of Teachers and Employers (with Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, and James Wyckoff). Journal of Labor Economics, 31(1), pp. 83-117. 2013 . Different teachers, different peers: The magnitude of student sorting within schools (with Demetra Kalogrides). Educational Researcher, 42(6), pp. 304-316. 2013 . Measuring test measurement error: A general approach (with Donald Boyd, Hamilton Lankford, and James Wyckoff). Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 38(6), pp. 629-663. 2013 . Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English language arts and teachers' value-added (with Pamela Grossman, Julia Cohen, and James Wyckoff). American Journal of Education, 119(3), pp. 445-470. 2013 . The early childhood care and education workforce in the United States: Understanding changes from 1990 through 2010 (with Daphna Bassok, Maria Fitzpatrick, and Agustina S. Paglayan). Education Finance and Policy, 8(4), pp. 581–601. 2013 . Effective Instructional Time Use for School Leaders: Longitudinal Evidence from Observations of Principals (with Jason Grissom and Ben Master). Educational Researcher, 42(8), pp. 433-444. 2013 . Systematic sorting: Teacher characteristics and class assignments (with Demetra Kalogrides, and Tara Beteille). Sociology of Education, 86(2), pp. 103-123. 2013 . How teacher turnover harms student achievement (with Matthew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff). American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), pp. 4-36. 2013 . Principals’ perceptions of competition for students in Milwaukee schools (with Matthew Kasman). Education Finance and Policy, 8(1), pp. 43-73. 2013 . Recruiting effective math teachers: Evidence from New York city (with Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Matthew Ronfeldt, and James Wyckoff). American Education Research Journal, 49(6), pp. 1008-1047. 2012 . Stepping stones: Principal career paths and school outcomes (with Tara Beteille and Demetra Kalogrides). Social Science Research, 41(4), pp. 904–919. 2012 .

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