First-Year Principals in Urban School Districts

How Actions and Working Conditions Relate to Outcomes

by Susan Burkhauser, Susan M. Gates, Laura S. Hamilton, Gina Schuyler Ikemoto

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Research Questions

  1. How is the retention of first-year principals in the same schools associated with achievement in the schools where they work?
  2. What happens to achievement in schools that lose their first-year principals? How does this vary as a function of school performance under the principal who left?
  3. To what extent is principals' allocation of time associated with achievement or school-level retention?
  4. To what extent are principals' perceptions of teacher capacity and school and district environment associated with achievement and school-level retention?
  5. To what extent are principals' self-reports of their future plans associated with school-level retention?

Abstract

Principals new to their school face a variety of challenges that can influence their likelihood of improving their schools' performance and their likelihood of remaining the principal. Understanding the actions that principals take and the working conditions they face in the first year can inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention, but the research on first-year principals' experiences is limited. This report examines the actions and perceived working conditions of first-year principals, relating information on those factors to subsequent school achievement and principal retention. The study is based on multiple sources of data that were collected to support the RAND Corporation's seven-year formative and summative evaluation of New Leaders. New Leaders is an organization that recruits, selects, prepares, and supports school leaders to serve in urban schools. The authors found that (1) over one-fifth of new principals leave within two years, and those placed in schools that failed to meet adequate yearly progress targets are more likely to leave; (2) there were no strong relationships among principals' time allocation, student achievement, and retention; (3) teacher capacity and cohesiveness were the school and district conditions most strongly related to student outcomes; (4) principals' reported future plans were not strongly related to retention.

Key Findings

  • Over one-fifth of new principals leave within two years, and those placed in schools that failed to meet adequate-yearly-progress targets are more likely to leave.
  • We observed no strong relationships among principals' time allocation, student achievement, and retention.
  • Teacher capacity and cohesiveness were the school and district conditions most strongly related to student outcomes.
  • Principals' reported future plans were not strongly related to retention.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Background

  • Chapter Two

    Data Sources

  • Chapter Three

    Experiences and Outcomes of First-Year Principals

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusion

Research conducted by

This work was sponsored by New Leaders. The research was conducted in RAND Education, a unit of the RAND Corporation.

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