The Effectiveness of Principals and How They See Their Roles

In a recent survey completed by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, 95% of principals reported being satisfied in their current roles. This is excellent news because happy principals are more likely to positively influence teachers, staff, and students in local school districts.

As humans, the happier and more satisfied we are with our jobs, the more successful we will be at them.

The question remains, do these 95% of satisfied principals actually feel effective in their role as instructional leaders in their districts? To answer this question, it’s important to look at what principals themselves have to say about what makes them feel both effective and ineffective in their current positions.

What makes principals feel effective:

  • Building relationships with students and working with them individually during disciplinary conferences
  • Supporting all teachers, students, and staff members in the building
  • Learning new skills and procedures in professional development courses and sharing that information with others
  • Building strong relationships with parents and other community members

 What makes principals feel ineffective:

  • Struggling to find balance with so many administrative tasks such as budgeting, the hiring process, training new employees, and completing teacher evaluations
  • Understanding that the mandatory paperwork they complete only offers a snapshot of what teachers and staff members actually know and do on a daily basis
  • Dealing with students and parents who continue to be disrespectful and abusive to teachers and staff

In essence, principals feel most effective when their roles center around building human relationships and helping people develop their talents. They feel least effective completing the never-ending administrative tasks required and communicating with individuals who don’t support and respect their staff.

It’s safe to say the more time principals are able to spend as instructional leaders in their buildings, the happier they’ll be.

So now let’s look at testing mandates and how those affect the job satisfaction of principals around the country.

With so many standardized tests now taking place in schools each year, principals are busier than ever trying to keep up with all the government mandates, paperwork, and administrative tasks that surround standardized tests.  These additional mandates and tasks are beginning to wreak havoc on their physical and mental health.  Similar to teachers, government regulations, standardized testing and other mandates are preventing them from doing what they should be doing….working with our children, teachers and parents. 

In a recent report, 75% of principals said that their roles are too complex so burnout and stress-induced illnesses are on the rise.  These principals aren’t in a position to eliminate or delegate most of these senseless tasks to others so they are bound to keep up the endless paperwork and reporting.

Principals are beholden to upper administration, the government, and school boards. So while it may seem like principals have autonomy, they actually lack the decision-making authority necessary to become truly effective leaders in our schools.  Principals and teachers are the ones on the front line, with hands on experience in the changing needs of our families, students and communities yet when it comes to making policy and procedures to best manage situations and education, their voices are rarely heard.  These policies are made in what is seemingly a vacuum by those who have not stepped into a classroom in years. 

We are currently dealing with a teacher shortage and hopefully we will not see the same trend in the role of school principals.