The Charter Blog

A First Look at Public School Leaders

The National Center for Education Statistics released a First Look at the data in 2015-16 National Teacher and Principals Survey (NTPS) and there are some interesting numbers in there. Because the tables break out principals in traditional public schools and principals in charter schools, they provide a chance to see where these leaders are similar and where they’re different.

A strong principal can make a big difference. Leadership has been found to be the second most important school-related factor, behind high-quality teachers, that contributes to student learning. In addition, giving principals autonomy around choosing staff, curriculum, scheduling, and budgeting can have a positive impact on student achievement. According to the NTPS, charter school principals were 10 percentage points more likely to say that they have a major influence over setting performance standards for students and determining the content of professional development for teachers than were traditional public school principals, and they were 20 percentage point more likely to say that they have a major influence on establishing the curriculum in their schools. This is an important point – innovation and flexibility are key tools for strong leaders.

As our country continues to experience demographic changes, the role of principals has become more complex. According to the report, although fewer than half of public school students were White in 2015, nearly 79 percent of school principals in traditional public schools were, compared to 70 percent in charter schools. While still not enough, there are now nearly 2,000 school leaders of color in charter schools, out of about 7,300 principals, and we know that many of them are inspiring leaders. If a principal is expected to be “a hybrid of an aspirational leader, a team builder, a coach, and an agent of visionary change,” then more of them should reflect the demographics of the students they lead.

The NTPS tables also found that charter school and traditional principals are similar in many ways. Both groups reporting working about 59 hours a week – which is a lot. Both groups have about 6 years of experience as principals, with an average of about 4 years at their current school. The average age was nearly identical (46 vs. 48), as was the percentage with a Master’s degree or higher (64 percent vs. 61 percent). Unfortunately, even with similar backgrounds, charter school principals reported an average salary that was about 10 percent lower ($88,000 vs. $96,400).

We’re looking forward to the release of the full data set, as well what the survey learned about teachers. These are the folks on the front line in our public schools and these nationally representative surveys give us our best insight into who they are and how they feel about their job.

Posted in Research