Jan 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

School principals are not OK

Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) stands outside Yung Wing School P.S. 124 and a vax van.
Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) of New York's Yung Wing School P.S. 124 near a vaccination van in November. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of secondary school principals experienced frequent stress last school year, according to a RAND Corporation report out Wednesday.

The big picture: The stress levels among female principals and principals of color were especially stark, with nearly 40% in these groups reporting constant job-related stress, compared to about 24% of male principals and 26% of white principals.

  • Principals whose schools provided solely remote instruction were also more likely to experience constant stress than principals whose schools offered hybrid or in-person instruction, according to the data that was gathered in March and April 2021.
  • 36% of principals in high-poverty schools experienced constant job-related stress, compared to 26% of principals in low-poverty schools.
  • Twice as many principals experienced frequent job-related stress as employees in other sectors did.

Driving the news: The pandemic likely exacerbated feelings of stress among principals that were already present before the virus, the researchers write.

  • The top sources of stress felt by secondary principals were supporting the well-being of teachers and students, managing pandemic-related teaching conditions, and administrative duties, such as managing staffing.
  • "Our results suggest that principals reported experiencing more stress when they perceived that their teachers were experiencing more stress," per the report.

What they're saying: "This has been one of the toughest years for educators ever," one principal said in response to the survey.

  • Principals cited "frequent changes with little lead time that require a lot of communication to parents and staff," and "balancing all of the different responsibilities" with "not enough time" as some of the stressors.

Be smart: Principals were stressed before the pandemic, and a 2019 survey of secondary school principals found that 42% of those surveyed were considering leaving their jobs, per the report.

The bottom line: "Frequent job-related stress was prevalent among all the principal subgroups that we examined," including principals with different degrees of experience, and principals of different races and in different types of schools, among other categories.

  • "Regardless of how we categorized principals, about 75% to almost 90% of principals in each of these subgroups reported that they experienced frequent job-related stress," according to the report.

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