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Volume 16, Number 5
September/October 2000

Portrait of the 'Super Principal'


According to a 1998 report published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the typical elementary school principal a decade ago was a 45-year-old white male who worked 40 hours a week with most of the summer off, had authority for 17 percent of his budget, and belonged to a principal's association or union. He spent little time in the classroom, functioning more as a manager, and aspired to ascend the career ladder.

Today's principal works longer hours, is less appreciated, has greater accountability, and has little time to learn or think about how to manage competing demands and constituencies, according to the NAESP report. While still white and male, the typical principal is now 50 years old, with an annual salary of $61,000. He works ten hours a day at school and another eight hours on weekends or evenings. He controls 26 percent of the school's budget. Most of his time is spent in three areas: staff supervision, interaction with students, and discipline/student management. This principal can retire at age 57 and—eager to be relieved of work that was once rewarding—probably will.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    J.L. Doud and E.P. Keller. A Ten-Year Study: The K-8 Principal in 1998. Alexandria, VA: National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1998.

    Educational Research Service
    (ERS), 1001 North Fairfax Street, Suite 500 • Alexandria, VA 22314-1587.

    M. Fullan. "Leadership for the 21st Century: Breaking the Bonds of Dependency." Educational Leadership 55, no. 7 (April 1998): 6-10.

    A. Hargreaves and M. Fullan. What's Worth Fighting for Out There? New York: Teachers College Press, 1998.

    National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), 1615 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314-3483; tel: 800-38-NAESP [800-386-2377].

    National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), 1904 Association Dr., Reston, VA 20191-1537.

    The Principal Keystone of a High-Achieving School: Attracting and Keeping the Leaders We Need. Arlington, VA: ERS, 2000.