December 15, 2016

REL Northeast & Islands at EDC Studies Role of K–12 Principals

What does it mean to be a K–12 principal? A new report reveals how complex the job can be.

Just how much work is it to be a school principal? New research from REL Northeast & Islands at EDC is shedding light on how consuming the job can be.

“We found that school principals routinely log 60-hour work weeks,” says EDC’s Heather Lavigne, who coauthored Principals’ Time, Tasks, and Professional Development: An Analysis of Schools and Staffing Survey Data. “While principals themselves are keenly aware of this fact, it is often overlooked by district leaders, teachers, and parents. Many people simply do not know how complex the role of the principal can be.”

The study examined data from a nationwide survey of principals and school leaders. The research team found that high school principals spent the most hours per week on the job, and that all principals spent more than half their time on internal administrative tasks and curriculum- and teaching-related tasks. They also found that principals of schools that did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) during the previous year spent more hours on the job than did principals whose schools did meet AYP.

“I think the education community can use this study as a jumping off point to get to know principals at the local level,” says Lavigne. “By working with principals to identify and understand the pressure points on their time, districts and schools may be able to find additional supports for their leaders, allowing principals to better focus on the most important priorities of the school.”

Lavigne’s study is the latest in a series by REL Northeast & Islands that examines issues affecting school leadership. Earlier studies addressed the topics of professional development for teachers, school climate, and educator evaluation.