Did Principal Turnover Increase During the Pandemic? Maybe
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruptions in almost every aspect of life, including education. Schools across the globe were forced to pivot to remote learning, and the shift has been anything but smooth. Amidst all these changes, attention has turned to the impacts of the pandemic on school leadership, specifically principal turnover.
As schools went virtual, headlines began suggesting that there is a significant wave of principal resignations, retirements, and workforce reductions following the pandemic. The reason was simple: many school leaders were faced with new and unforeseen challenges, such as implementing distance education, keeping staff and students safe, maintaining mental health, and dealing with budget cuts. These issues have weighed heavily on many school leaders, making the job even more stressful than usual.
The fear of principal turnover is a significant concern due to its potentially negative impacts on school quality, student outcomes, morale, and continuity. A change in leadership can also harm relationships with teachers and other staff, leading to further issues. Consequently, education leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders have been monitoring principal turnover closely.
So, did principal turnover really increase during the pandemic?
The answer seems to be mixed, depending on the state or district. A national survey of nearly 1,000 school leaders conducted in March 2021 found that 37% of principals and assistant principals reported they were considering leaving the profession earlier than planned due to the pandemic. Another survey conducted in the fall of 2020 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals reported that 13% of respondents had resigned since March, and an additional 45% were considering leaving due to the pandemic’s pressures.
Conversely, some states and districts have seen no such patterns, with principal turnover remaining relatively stable. For example, in Texas, principal turnover rates have stayed virtually unchanged during the pandemic, with fewer principals leaving than in 2019-20. Similarly, in New York City, the number of principals who retired or resigned during the first year of the pandemic was comparable to the prior two years.
It’s important to note that principal turnover has been a long-standing issue in education, with turnover rates averaging around 20% nationally. Thus, the pandemic may have exacerbated this trend, but it’s also possible that turnover remained relatively stable, given the deep-rooted causes.
In conclusion, there is no clear answer to whether there has been an increase in principal turnover during the pandemic. While some states and districts have seen considerable turnover, others have seen no significant changes. However, given the critical role of school leaders in ensuring student success and well-being, it’s essential to address this issue proactively to promote stability and continuity during the pandemic and beyond.