Eighty percent of U.S. school superintendents say that navigating political divides over issues ranging from school closures to mask mandates to teaching about racism in schools is the most difficult part of their job. Nearly half say they are considering or planning to leave their job in the next two to three years.
These are among the findings in a new report, “2022 Voice of the Superintendent Survey,” released by education company EAB at the School Superintendent Association (AASA) National Conference on Education (#NCE2022).
The results offer an important look at how education leaders are navigating an ongoing pandemic that is taxing administrators, classroom teachers, support staff, and stakeholders.
“Superintendents are tired of mediating disputes fueled in large part by America’s deepening political divide,” said EAB Director of K-12 Research Ben Court. “EAB’s new survey shows that school superintendents have reached a breaking point, and up to half may be looking for a way out.”
According to AASA data, the typical annual turnover rate for school superintendents is 14-16 percent. EAB’s survey shows that nearly half of respondents (46 percent) are considering or planning to leave their role in the next two to three years. More than a third (36 percent) of experienced superintendents (6+ years of tenure) are planning to retire within that time frame. Among more junior superintendents (those with five years of experience or less), 18 percent say they will see how this year goes before deciding on future plans, and 6 percent are already actively looking for other work.
EAB’s new report follows a 2021 EAB survey of 2,200 teachers and nearly 400 district and school leaders that showed teacher morale is at an all-time low.
“Low teacher morale has been well documented recently, but school superintendents are not faring much better,” Court added. “Many seasoned superintendents are looking toward retirement or new ventures. If those with less than five years in seat also leave, we could quickly face a crisis of leadership in school systems across the country.”
However, there is still optimism among superintendents about the path ahead. Regardless of future plans, 67 percent of respondents believe they will feel more successful in their role a year from now than they do today. One change that may help is spending more time with students, as 80 percent say that more time interacting with students in their schools will make them more effective in their role.
“EAB is working with superintendents and other district leaders across the country to share data-informed best practices and other resources to help them build and sustain rewarding careers in education,” said EAB’s Court.
“Expressions of optimism from survey respondents suggest that many superintendents could be convinced to stay if given more opportunities to collaborate, support, and learn from one another,” Court concluded. EAB’s new report outlines four important topics for collaboration, such as providing access to mental health care and improving post-secondary preparation.
Material from a press release was used in this report.