Principal, teacher turnover exceeds pre-pandemic levels

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Dive Brief:

  • Principal turnover reached 16% nationally by the end of the 2021-22 school year — jumping 13 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels, according to a new RAND Corp. report. Teacher turnover hit 10% nationally the same year, increasing 4 percentage points from pre-pandemic rates. 
  • Surveyed district leaders said staffing shortages appear to be less acute overall in 2022-23 compared to the previous year, RAND found. By category, staffing shortages in fall 2022 persisted the most among substitute teachers, special education teachers and bus drivers. High-poverty districts also still struggled to fill several teaching categories.
  • Efforts are underway to take on these challenges: 90% of districts reported one or more policy changes at the district or state level to tackle staffing shortages, and nearly half said those new policies included increasing pay or expanding grow-your-own programs. 

Dive Insight:

While the teacher shortage has received plenty of policy attention, the RAND report recommends principals get equal focus. In particular, it calls for more attention to finding and retaining high-quality principals. 

RAND’s conclusions are based on a survey of 300 school district and charter school network leaders from October to December 2022.

The principal turnover findings are in line with other surveys, including one from the National Association of Secondary School Principals that showed over half of 1,000 school leaders were considering a career change or early retirement in 2022. Those principals cited staffing shortages and their own mental health as reasons they were looking to leave the profession.

To stay on the job, 28% said they need a better work-life balance, 21% reported wanting a higher salary, 15% said they need more societal respect for the profession and 12% said they need more teachers and staff, the NASSP survey found. 

One bright spot from the RAND report: There are some early signs of the teacher shortage improving as district and state policies zero in on the issue. That in turn could help ease principal turnover. 

Even so, the RAND report recommends that policies addressing teacher shortages focus on producing and retaining qualified teachers over rushing to fill immediate needs. That approach, RAND said, has greater potential in the long run for boosting the number of teacher applicants and filling positions.

This article originally appeared in

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