Illinois Education Research Council Releases Study on Illinois Principals

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An increase in the level of school principal attrition in Illinois coupled with low return rates indicate a greater loss of principal resources from the state in recent years, according to a new study from the Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) located on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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The vast majority of principals who left Illinois public schools did not return. Of the 8 percent of all principals who left Illinois public schools during the study timeframe, 89 percent had not returned by 2008. And few principals left to pursue work out

An increase in the level of school principal attrition in Illinois coupled with low return rates indicate a greater loss of principal resources from the state in recent years, according to a new study from the Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) located on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.    

This study continues the IERC’s examination of changing trends in the characteristics of Illinois educators in light of changing conditions in the policy atmosphere within which they operate. The study includes data concerning school principals across the state in more than 3,900 public schools and points out that district administrators are likely to continue to face increased pressure to recruit talented new principals because of the losses in the principal ranks.

The IERC study examined principal retention and turnover in Illinois public schools and is the second report of an IERC series on public school principals in Illinois from a two-year study funded by the Joyce Foundation.

Karen DeAngelis, assistant professor in the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester (previously with the IERC), and Bradford R. White, senior researcher with the IERC, conducted the study in line with the IERC’s mission to provide objective and reliable evidence for P-20 education policymaking in Illinois.

DeAngelis and White’s findings focus on principals’ movement during 2001–2008, a time marked by increasing school accountability and public scrutiny of principal effectiveness. Other research indicates school principals have a significant, though largely indirect, impact on school quality and student outcomes.

The current IERC study explores how principals’ job movements are related to their personal and school characteristics and examines changes over time. Some of the study’s key findings include:

  • Principal turnover has increased. On average, 79 percent of all principals stayed in the same school from one year to the next between 2001 and 2008, compared to approximately 86 percent of all principals between 1987 and 2001.
  • Chicago principals exhibited both greater retention and greater attrition than principals in other locales. While seemingly contradictory, the average percentages of Chicago principals who remained in their schools from year to year and who left Illinois public schools altogether were greater than those of principals in other locales. This is because Chicago principals rarely move to principalships in other districts.
  • The vast majority of principals who left Illinois public schools did not return. Of the 8 percent of all principals who left Illinois public schools during the study timeframe, 89 percent had not returned by 2008. And few principals left to pursue work outside of education.
  • Illinois principals who moved across districts tended to move to more advantaged schools, but those who moved within districts did not. Principals who transitioned across district lines tended to move to schools with significantly lower percentages of low-income students and higher average achievement levels. In contrast, principals who changed schools within districts experienced little difference, on average, in the characteristics of the students and teachers in their new schools.
  • For better or worse, accountability pressures appear to have had a negative impact on principal stability in Illinois between 2001 and 2008. Accountability pressures, both with regard to student achievement and teacher qualifications, appear to have contributed to this instability such that student achievement scores, a school’s AYP status, and the percentage of non-highly qualified teachers in a school all affected principal turnover during this time.

The complete report is available at http://ierc.siue.edu. For more information, call the IERC, (618) 650-2840, or (866) 799-4372.

SIUE’s emphasis on undergraduate education, complemented by faculty research, creates practical applications for student learning. Located in the second most populated area of the state, this Illinois university draws students from all 102 Illinois counties, 42 states and 50 nations.

The SIUE School of Education offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, speech pathology/audiology, exercise/wellness and a wide range of teacher preparation areas. Students blend their classroom activities with hands-on experiences in a variety of diverse rural, urban and metropolitan settings.

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