IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Learning about Schools from Teachers and Principals

In the 2015-16 school year, there were approximately 90,400 principals and 3,827,100 teachers in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Knowledge about the characteristics and experiences of these key school staff can help inform decisions about education.  The National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) supports these decisions by providing data on a variety of topics from the perspective of teachers, principals and other school staff. Results from these questionnaires provide information such as:

  • Principals’ education. Among public schools, a majority of principals held a master’s degree (61 percent) as their highest degree, compared to an education specialist/professional diploma at least one year beyond the master’s level (27 percent), a doctorate/first professional degree (10 percent), or a bachelor’s degree or less (2 percent).
  • Hours worked by teachers. On average, regular full-time teachers in public schools spent 53 hours per week on all school-related activities. That includes 27 hours that they were paid to deliver instruction to students during a typical full week. Public school teachers were required to work an average of 38 hours per week to receive their base pay.
  • Online courses. Nationwide, about 21 percent of public schools offered at least one course entirely online. This was more common among public charter schools (29 percent) than it was among traditional public schools (20 percent). A greater percentage of high (58 percent) and combined (64 percent) schools offered one or more courses entirely online than all public schools. It was also more common for schools with fewer than 100 students (45 percent) and schools with 1,000 or more students (44 percent). Among schools offering online courses, relatively more public charter schools offered all of their classes online (14 percent) than traditional public schools (5 percent).

More examples of the type of information collected in the 2015-16 NTPS can be seen in the video below:

More information is available in the NTPS online table library. In addition, analysts can access the data using DataLab or obtain a restricted-use license to conduct their own analyses of NTPS restricted-use data files.

 

By Maura Spiegelman

Principals as Instructional Leaders and Managers—Not an “Either-Or”

Recently Morgaen Donaldson (University of Connecticut) and Madeline Mavrogordato (Michigan State), Peter Youngs (University of Virginia), and Shaun Dougherty (University of Connecticut) presented early results from their IES-funded study on principal evaluation policies at the AERA national conference. We asked the team to share their preliminary findings.

What is the purpose of your study?

There is widespread agreement among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners that principals play a critical role in providing high-quality education to students. The role of principals may grow even larger under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which grants districts and states more flexibility regarding how to promote effective principal leadership. However, we know remarkably little about what school districts can do to improve principals’ leadership practices.

Given the importance of principals and the relative dearth of research on how to improve their leadership, we have been studying the extent to which principal evaluation systems focus on learning-centered leadership, one promising conception of leadership, in 22 districts in Connecticut, Michigan, and Tennessee. We are examining associations between the types of leadership emphasized in principal evaluation policies, the leadership practices that principals implement in their schools, and student performance.  

What is the major focus of principal evaluation policies?

To date, through document analysis we have found that district principal evaluation policies heavily emphasize instructional leadership, which focuses on teaching and learning issues, and de-emphasize managerial leadership, which concentrates on administrative tasks such as budgeting and overseeing school facilities. Similarly, in interviews and surveys superintendents and principals report that their evaluation systems focus on instructional leadership. For example, one Michigan superintendent said, “the emphasis on education right now [is] to take the principals away from being a manager to being an instructional leader.”

How are administrators actually interpreting the policies?

Further investigation revealed a more nuanced relationship between written district policies and administrators’ interpretations of these policies, however. We found no relationship between written policies’ emphasis on instructional leadership and principals’ survey responses regarding whether their district focused on this type of leadership. Principals’ perceptions of their district’s focus on managerial leadership was related to the emphasis of this type of leadership in the policies, however. Thus, when districts placed a higher emphasis on managerial leadership in their written evaluation policies, principals reported that they perceived a stronger emphasis on this type of leadership.

Moreover, we found that holding constant the written policy’s emphasis on managerial leadership, there was an inverse relationship between the written policies’ emphasis on instructional leadership and the principals’ perceived policy emphasis on managerial leadership. Thus, the greater the written emphasis on instruction, the less principals perceived that their policy emphasized management.

In addition, interview data reveal that although superintendents state that they emphasize instructional leadership they in fact weigh managerial leadership quite heavily. In superintendents’ framing, a principal’s competence in managerial leadership enabled him or her to practice instructional leadership. Superintendents asserted that when principals addressed managerial concerns, they could progress to exercising instructional leadership. If principals were unable to address managerial issues, superintendents reported that they moved rapidly to intervene and potentially remove principals.

What are the next steps for your IES research project?

These preliminary findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting a complex interplay between managerial and instructional leadership. They also reflect a longstanding tension between the two dominant conceptions of principal leadership among practitioners.  We plan to further examine the multifaceted relationship between instructional and managerial leadership as we continue our work on this project. We are currently surveying teachers about the types of leadership principals exercise in their schools and conducting a second round of interviews with superintendents to understand their perspectives in greater depth. In the next stage of the project, we will examine associations between the types of leadership emphasized in principal evaluation policies, the leadership practices that principals implement in their schools, and student performance in grades 3-8. 

Katina Stapleton, NCER Program Officer, oversees the project described in this blog post, and provided a framework for their responses.

Announcing the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS): Redesigning a key data collection effort

By Amy Ho and Chelsea Owens

Teachers and principals form the foundation of the educational process, but there are not a lot of nationally representative, federal data on the characteristics and experiences of these key staff. The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) has historically been one of the few federal data collections in this area. Since 1987, SASS has provided important data to researchers, policymakers, and leaders in education to help answer critical questions about schools, teachers, principals, and students, including:

  • How well prepared and supported are new teachers?
  • What do principals consider as their most important goal?
  • Have the characteristics of the principal and teacher workforces changed over time?

As one of the few large scale data collection efforts that directly surveys teachers and principals about their own experiences, SASS has historically served as the nation’s primary data source for information on topics such as teachers’ and principals’ demographic characteristics, teachers’ attitudes about teaching and school conditions, teachers’ qualifications, and teachers’ experiences with intimidation or violence in schools.

While the information obtained from SASS has been an important contribution to our knowledge of the experiences of teachers and principals, changes to the structure of teaching and the desire to better align multiple data collection efforts led NCES to revise the existing SASS instrument. Therefore, NCES launched a redesign of this data collection effort. The new survey, the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) includes updated features such as revised questions that can address pressing topics in the field (e.g., use of technology in the classroom, teacher and principal evaluations, etc.).

The NTPS will be administered for the first time this coming school year (2015-16) and will be conducted every two years in order to provide timely data. There are four main components of the NTPS: School Questionnaire, Principal Questionnaire, Teacher Listing Form, and Teacher Questionnaire. In late August, NCES sent out the first questionnaires to a sample of American schools. A school selected to participate in the NTPS will represent thousands of other schools in the nation.

The School Questionnaire asks about length of the school day, how difficult it is to fill vacancies at the school, and community-service graduation requirements. The Principal Questionnaire asks questions on parent/guardian involvement, how often problems such as bullying and gang activities occur, how teachers and principals are evaluated, and principals’ top goals. The Teacher Questionnaire includes questions involving teacher satisfaction, use of instructional software in the classroom, teacher perceptions of autonomy, and experiences during teachers’ first year of teaching.

The participation of teachers, principals, and other staff in the 2015-16 NTPS will greatly help policymakers and leaders in education improve schools for our students, teachers, and principals by looking at the current status of these issues.  In the United States, the needs and challenges facing each school are sometimes vastly different, but the NTPS data can provide information for meeting these needs.

For more information on NTPS, please visit: http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ntps/overview.asp.