The shortage of principals is a subject often discussed. As more baby boomer principals plan for retirement and as the job of principals becomes more demanding and complex, the question that keeps being asked is who will replace outgoing principals. Superintendents and principals weigh in on this very important issue in an article in Edutopia magazine.

The article references past studies about the principal shortage, including one commissioned by NAESP and NASSP in 1998, and a more recent one by the Northeast Regional Elementary School Principals' Council, which found that more than 36 percent of principals in nine northeastern states plan to retire within the next five years.

The article also looks at how some school districts are getting creative in their effort to fill principal positions, including mentoring programs for aspiring principals. (Although not mentioned in the article, NAESP offers the PALS (Peer Assisted Leadership Services) program, which trains experienced school leaders to mentor new and aspiring principals.)   

In the Edutopia article, California superintendent Paul Mercier says the bottom line is that principals must be trained, and feel supported and part of a team. “A superintendent must create a culture that is all about solving problems together,” says Mercier. “The single most important thing we can do to bring in and support new principals is make sure that they don't feel they’re out there all by themselves.”

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I am currently in an administrative course. I see and hear what principals are going through and it makes me second guess myself sometimes. "Do I really want to pursue an administrative position?" With all of the pressures from our government and less and less support from the parents, I do not know if it is really worth it. In the meantime, I will continue to get my administration certification just in case I decide to use it. Maybe in a few years it will be worth it.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

With the field of education constantly adapting I think that many educators are afraid to make the jump to be a principal. Today's principals are more complex and demanding. I think of the job of a principal to that of a football coach in the NFL. Both are playing a high stakes game where winning (achieving high standardized test scores)are all that seem to matter. If your building or team loses too often then you're finished. I believe this to be the reason for the shortage of principals. I think that Melissa D. said it best when she posted "Do I really want to pursue an administrative position?....I will continue to get my administrative cert. just in case I decide to use it."

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I agree with so many of the postings. I too am in the end phase of my administrative certificate. I have had the opportunity of working with five principals in five years. Yes, some may find that hard to believe that i have enjoyed working with so many different people in one district in such a short period of time, but what i have been able to learn from each administrator has given me great insight into what to do and not to do, and what administrative styles work and do not work. I do agree that administrators today must wear many hats because education is changing so quickly and the expectation is so great. I feel strongly that the only way you can make positive change is to be part of the force that makes the rules and enforces the changes. I liked Nate R's analogy that being a principal is like being a coach in the NFL. For me, I'm ready and excited about the challenge!

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Spot on. I am a science teacher who is currently debating whether or not to pursue a Ph.D. in leadership vs. science education or instructional technologies. While I truly feel that the leadership track would give me more leverage to influence change in education, I've seen what my friends who became principals go through on a daily basis. I had given myself a year to make this decision, and I'm still without an answer.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I am currently studying to be a Principal. It has been an interesting and rewarding road. The article captured it very well. Principals not only handle building issues, but they have so much more on their plate. Parents and students seem to know the law inside and out. I don't know if that is a good thing or not. As I complete my administrative internship, a principal wears many hats. It is so important to keep communication going with other administrators. As we all say in education, "Don't reinvent the wheel." I can see why many people steer away from this profession because they fail to know what it all entails. I am ready and willing to be a leader in our schools! I hope others will give it a chance. Remember...if you do it for the students, how can anyone say you did it wrong?

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Many individuals who have been principals for quite a few years have seen their position change quite a bit. If you reflect on some of the changes in the past twenty years you can see how different the principalship is today. Special education needs, safety and security, NCLB requirements, and technology are just a few of the areas that have changed considerably over the years. Collaborative efforts amongst principals are necessary for support; technology such as this principals' blog is an example of staying connected. Requirements change over the years and one must be willing to be innovative and welcome new ways of doing things. Through this all, balance is the key. No one is irreplaceable,we are only human, and we must learn how to do,delegate, and dump what we need to. The students are our utmost priority on the job that we give 110% to, but we have a life outside of work where people love, need, and depend on us. Life is a balance. In order to truly be our best, we must also remember to take care of ourselves.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I too am completing my journey to becoming an Administrator. I agree that a Principal's responsibilities continually increase. As an Administrator your knowledge base must be varied and ever increasing. It is Important to remind ourselves that the challenges exist because our students are faced with more difficulties. It is our responsibility to guide and educate as best as we can.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I also am studying to become an administrator. I have begun an internship and the responsibilities of a principal and the vast amount of information they must know and use is overwhelming. More importantly, I fear that by stepping out of the classroom the constant interaction with students that I enjoy so much will go by the wayside to make room for parents, staff, the state and the federal government. Is it really worth it?

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I am currently completing my prinicipal internship. I will be done June 30th. There is so much to learn. I very much enjoy the one on one with students. My big concern is losing that contact. There is so much paperwork and politics involved. It is much safer to remain where I am at.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I too an completing an administrative certification program. I think many teachers are not choosing administration because of the large number of hats a principal wears. In years past, principals were basically expected to maintain order within the building and instruction was handled by the teachers. Today, principals need to have a firm handle on discipline while also understanding curriculum. Principals need to led teachers by keeping up to date with the latest research on learning and teaching. They also have to questions instructional methods and try to keep teachers from becoming too stagnant. This task is probably overwhelming to many current teachers which leads to them not going into administration. However, I have confidence in my generation of teachers to fill the void.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I have just entered into an administrative program for Principals. I would agree with many that I do have some reservations as to whether or not this is what I want to do. I currently teach math and very much enjoy it. I do however feel like I would like to provide myself with options. The leadership position of the principal is one that intrigues me. However, developing a balance between the "politics and paperwork" and staying connected with your students and staff is something that I would suspect is difficult. I am anxious to continue my studies and then complete an internship. Maybe then I will have a clearer picture as to whether or not this is something for me to pursue.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Similar to many of you, I am completing my principal certification program and internship. I believe it will be a rewarding career path, but at the same time, there are alot of challenges that must be considered. I believe that monetary constraints in many districts have led to a shortage of administrators. With fewer administrators, and less "support", today's principals are being asked to do a little bit (or alot) of everything. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough time in the day to handle all of these tasks and responsibilities.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I too am ending my coursework to become a principal, and much like many of you am excited about the possibilities of the future. It isn't without a lot of fear and uncertainty about what this job will throw at you. From additional requirements from the state, IEP for both gifted and learning support students are ever changing, and the NCLB craziness that is always at your door, there is a lot to be concerned about. So I'm not surprised that there is a shortage of Principals out there. It is a tough position to WANT to get into, but let's not forget some of the positives; our salaries will probably double.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Third time is a charm…Technical problems the first 2 times.

Two things I would like to address:

1. What principals shortage? That must be down South much like the alleged shortage of teachers. Up here in good ol’ PA, I have a couple friends that have interviewed dozens of times against scores of other qualified candidates for a few administrative positions.

2. As for mentoring new candidates, would you expect anything less? I liken a new principal to that of a fledgling teacher fresh from their student teaching experience. You need that “on-the-job” training. If I were a central administrator, I wouldn’t even consider “new meat” for the “number 1” position. You have to cut your teeth under the tutelage of an experienced manager.

Respectfully,
Mike Gazzo (administrative candidate extraordinaire)

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I agree with Mike G. there is no principal shortage in PA. I on the other hand have watched several of my female friends who were highly qualified be passed over for a less qualified male. Many of my friends who would be fantastic principals tell me that they would never placed that stress upon themselves - why - they feel that the higher administration does not support principals as well a they support teachers.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Shortage or not, I think we have placed too much on the plate of principals today- especially the new ones. There are considerably more issues to contend with than previous generations had to endure and the monetary benefits are not always sufficient. Even when they are the corresponding stress and- at the very least, perpetual motion are not healthy for the individuals and especially not for their families. I am completeing my Master's in Ed. Leadership at present and will not be continuing to principal cert. for this exact reason. Human beings can only give so much of themselves to so many roles; when one increases the others must decrease. Addressing the myriad functions principals have to assume now would most certainly address the shortages.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

Many of you have noted that you are in the process of completing principal certification courses. I am listing my blog address so that folks can read a piece I wrote about managing or leading. There is clearly a difference between educational leadership and how one would "manage" a building. All come under the guise of the principal. Feel free to comment on either of the pieces there. There will be more to come. http://gcs.infostreamblogs.org/tmartellone

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I am currently working on my principal internship and find there is a lot more to being an administrator than I perceived. However, I believe it can be just as rewarding as being a teacher. When I was becoming a teacher, all I heard about was how there was a shortage and jobs would be all around especially in math. Well that wasn't the case. Now that I am working to be a principal, I hear the same, but as commented earlier, in PA, it is still hard to come by a job. There a ton of great candidates interviewing and still cannot find a job. As for the remark "Why do you want to have that job?" Well it's another question I heard when I became a teacher, from teachers and principals. It is frustrating because I don't do my job for the salary, I do it because I want to help kids. If I wanted to make a bigger salary I certainly wouldn't be working to become a principal, I'd be in college changing my career. Sure you have to make sacrifices, but who doesn't. There are others who are on-call everyday and have to drop what they are doing to go do their job even if it is simply "turning off the lights in the building." I still have some course work to complete, and I am anxious to make the change. I hope others in similar programs at least take a chance and if it isn't for you, you can most likely go back to the classroom.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I too am in the Admistrative Leadership program. I am presently in my last course and will be taking my test shortly. I just have my intership to complete. I agree with so many of the comments about the many facets of being a principal, from testing to technology. I am somewhat confused at this point and I am hoping that during my administrative internship I will get some more direction as to what I would like to do, or the "bigger" question do I really want to be a Principal??? Of course if I do choose to be a principal will I have the opportunity, and where??? There are so many things to consider. Hopefully I can work through these and make a decison that works for me!!! Also, I agree that I don't think any of us would be in education for the money whether it be teaching and/or administration!!!

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

I currently am finishing up my administrative internship this summer. I plan to someday become an administrator, but at this time I do not feel as though I am completely prepared. There is just so much to know. In the near future, I would like to pursue a position as a curriculum director or possibly a department chair. There is still so much that I would like to learn about the education system before I decide to run a school. I do not want to just jump into a position if I do not feel confident that I could do the best possible job that I could do. I want to be overly prepared. It is a big job and I want to be ready and qualified when I decide to take on the position. I would like to be as well rounded as possible in regards to my knowledge of education.
I do agree that principal’s are forced to wear many hats these days. But I do also believe that any job is going to be what you make of it. Administrative jobs are not the only positions to require long hours of work with very few “thank you’s”. I think we need to always try to keep the children in mind. As an administrator, you are capable of making serious changes in education, all which can greatly impact the lives of the children.

re: Where Have All the Principals Gone?

After reading through all of the previous posts, I wonder what am I really doing here...As a special education teacher, with a tremondous mentor/leader, (my principal), I thought I wanted to be an adminstrator. I developed schedules, created budgets, oversaw and evaluated paraeducators, enjoyed using technology, attended a million meetings, and many other things. I thought I really wanted to be the school leader, but I agree with one of the previous posts - am I ready and willing to leave my first love, the classroom? I would be leaving that all behind to wear the many hats, and deal with parents, students, teachers and central administration. All for what, so I can work 12 months a year? Maybe, just maybe, if there were adequate principal mentoring programs, I would be ready to take that leap. As for right now, I am just fine with taking in all of the education the principal program has to offer me.

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