Cover: Who is Leading our Schools?

Who is Leading our Schools?

An Overview of School Administrators and Their Careers

Published May 19, 2003

by Susan M. Gates, Jeanne S. Ringel, Lucrecia Santibanez, Catherine H. Chung, Karen E. Ross


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There is concern that now, as state and federal governments are increasing school accountability requirements and relying on school administrators to promote improvement, schools and districts will not be able to attract and retain enough qualified people to fill such positions. This report develops a conceptual structure for understanding the careers of schools administrators and describes what is known about those who hold such positions and how their characteristics have changed over time. It also describes how factors such as wages, working conditions, entry barriers, and incentives influence individuals’ decisions to seek particular administrative positions. Based on their review and analysis of existing research and empirical data, the authors find that there is little evidence of a nationwide crisis in the labor market for school administrators. They do, however, identify three key areas of concern: substantial variation in financial rewards at the state and local levels, barriers to entry into the field that affect people’s willingness to become administrators, and an administrative population with many members nearing retirement.

The research described in this report was supported by the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds.

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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