district superintendents

Superintendents grapple with finding stellar teachers


Poll reveals superintendents' biggest challenges, priorities for student success.

Concerns around finding highly-qualified teachers and principals plague today’s district superintendents, according to a new Gallup poll.

Two-thirds of district superintendents in a new survey said the quantity of new teacher candidates is decreasing, and 43 percent said new principal candidates are decreasing.

Participating district superintendents tended to rate their districts as less effective at recruiting talented teachers and principals than they are at selecting, developing and retaining them, according to the poll.

Forty-two percent of superintendents report that they are engaged with their job–higher than U.S. workers nationally. District superintendents in city, suburban and larger districts tend to display higher levels of job engagement, according to the study.

(Next page: What are superintendents’ greatest challenges?)

Concerns over teacher and principal recruitment extend to superintendents’ thoughts about how their schools are preparing students for post-graduation success. Superintendents are most likely to rate having teachers who create excitement for the future as extremely important to students’ success after graduation.

Superintendents who tend to be engaged with their work are those who strongly believe their district is very effective in recruiting high-quality teachers and principals and if they are very positive about their relationship with the school board and about their board members’ knowledge of K-12 education.

Superintendents said their greatest challenges include: improving academic performance of underprepared students (81 percent), battling the effects of poverty on student learning (74 percent), and budget shortfalls (73 percent).

Sixty-six percent of superintendents said they strongly agree or agree that improving academic rigor, along with the rising federal and state assessment demands (64 percent) will challenge their district. Only about half of superintendents said they believe reworking curriculum or preparing students for engaged citizenship will be challenges.

Overall, superintendents said most young students in their state don’t truly start preparation to be successful in school and beyond until they enter kindergarten. The poll revealed that superintendents said early childhood education programs are lacking in their state, although they can have a substantial impact on student learning outcomes.

Superintendents acknowledge that federal education policy affects their district, but they remain negative about the job the federal government has done in this area in the last five years, and a majority of superintendents say they have no confidence at all in the Trump administration’s ability to handle K-12 education policy.

In a pessimistic development, 32 percent of superintendents said they strongly agree or agree they are excited about the future of K-12 education in the U.S.–down from 44 percent in 2015. The vast majority of superintendents said they remain excited about the future of their own district.

Laura Ascione

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