Cover: How Much Influence Do Teachers Have in Their Schools?

How Much Influence Do Teachers Have in Their Schools?

It Depends on Whom You Ask

Published Apr 7, 2020

by William R. Johnston, Goke Akinniranye, Christopher Joseph Doss

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Research Question

  1. What is the difference between teacher and principal perceptions of teacher influence and decisionmaking powers in schools?

A growing body of research suggests that school management models emphasizing teacher influence in school governance have a range of benefits, including increased teacher job satisfaction, improved academic performance, and more-effective organizational learning. However, nationwide data from the American Educator Panels show that principals are significantly more likely to perceive that teachers have influence in their schools than teachers. More principals than teachers feel that teachers are involved in making important school decisions. Almost all principals agree or strongly agree with the statement that teachers have a lot of informal opportunity to influence what happens at their school — a much higher rate than for teachers. In addition, almost a third of teachers feel uncomfortable voicing concerns. These perception gaps between teachers and principals signal a disconnect that may foster professional stagnation and frustration.

Key Findings

Different views of influence from the classroom and the principal's office

  • Ninety-six percent of principals surveyed feel that teachers are involved in making important school decisions, while only 58 percent of teachers do.
  • Almost all principals (98 percent) feel that teachers have a lot of informal opportunity to influence what happens at school — a much higher rate than for teachers (62 percent).
  • Ninety-seven percent of principals thought their teachers were comfortable voicing concerns, but 31 percent of teachers reported that they are not comfortable voicing concerns in their schools.


  • Principals should critically examine the leadership opportunities they believe they are providing for their teachers and to establish systems and structures that foster regular dialogue about important school decisions.
  • Principals should also explore ways to foster a culture of trust among school staff and leadership, so that teachers feel comfortable expressing concerns.

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