Schools across the United States are experiencing a shortage of qualified principal candidates. This is particularly worrisome for districts dealing with large populations of disadvantaged students and low academic achievement.
Because little research exists on leadership issues within a rural context, Andrea Beesley co-authored an article that examines the characteristics of rural principals versus their nonrural peers in the High Plains states. This study used data from the Schools and Staffing Survey, as well as the Principal Follow-Up Survey. Researchers observed differences in principals based on demographic characteristics, as well as perceptions of duties and autonomy, to determine if and how these factors contributed to retention.
Results showed that rural schools in the High Plains regions had a higher proportion of male, nonminority principals than did nonrural schools. Though there were no differences noted in years of experience, nonrural principals held a higher percentage of post-master's education specialist and doctoral degrees than rural principals. Both groups of principals reported similar perceptions of hours spent working during the school day, after school, and on weekends. However, because nonrural principals also reported more required work days in their contracts than rural principals, researchers noted that rural principals were likely working on days not required by their contracts. While rural and nonrural principals reported similar perceptions of overall autonomy, a logistic regression analysis showed that rural principals' perception of autonomy was a significant predictor of retention.
This study highlights important differences and surprising similarities between rural and nonrural principals in High Plains states, bringing new understandings to the conversation on principal retention in the United States