This article, excerpted from Dr. Blane Covert's doctoral dissertation, is the second in a series about the effects of head of school turnover.
There are several factors that make finding a good match for schools more difficult than it has ever been. Cosca (2010) reports that the nation’s population of men and women who have both the credentials and the skills to be successful school leaders is aging, with many close to retirement. Glass and Franceschini (2007) noted that the average age of chief administrators was between 54 and 55, which represented “the oldest group of any 10-year [AASA] study” (p. 15). In a similar study of school leadership, NAIS suggested the following: "This aging population issue could be exacerbated by the fact that around 37 percent of headmasters stated that they were planning to change jobs or retire in the next five years, and another 32 percent expressed similar plans for the next six to ten years" (p. 6).
In related research, Cooper, Fusarelli, and Carella (2000) reported that 88% of the superintendents who responded to their study believed that lower numbers of applicants for these jobs is “a serious crisis in American education” (p. 10). Cooper et al. (2000) also found a decrease in the number of applicants for head of school positions. This decrease stemmed in part from the fact that most administrators who could potentially become heads of school do not want the responsibility. In fact, 78% of school leaders expressed no interest in attaining a head of school post (NAIS, 2010).
In addition to impending retirements and dwindling applicant pools for head of school positions, there is also evidence that the candidates who comprise these smaller pools are less qualified than their predecessors. Cunningham and Burdick (1999) reported that a 1996 survey of 18 superintendents and seven search consultants found that nearly 70% of respondents thought that the candidates for school leadership positions were not as well qualified as candidates had been in the past. In similar research, Glass (2001) also found that one-third of the search consultants who responded to his survey on headmaster applicants reported that candidate pools were “decreasing in quality” (p. 4).
A final concern related to school leadership was the relatively high turnover rate, which stems from strained board relations, increased competition for students, budgeting concerns, and political pressure from multiple constituencies.
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