Blog: The Educated Reporter

When Good Principals Leave

Credit: Flickr/ecastro

What happens when a top-notch principal gives up on his school district’s efforts to reform its schools? A thoughtful column by the Washington Post’s Jonetta Rose Barras brings up that question – one that reporters ought to ask more often.

Should effective principals move from school to school or stay at one for several years and build its success? What happens to a school if the principal leaves after only a short time? A study by RAND showed that principals who stay for only one or two years can have a negative effect

Patrick Pope, the principal in Barras’s column, turned around three schools and was on his fourth when he decided he’d had enough and notified the district he was leaving.

The question came up during EWA’s webinar, “Principal Ideas: Stories on School Leaders,” last September. A documentary on principals featured in the webinar profiled a veteran principal who successfully turned around a struggling school and built a loyal faculty. The new schools superintendent decided to move her to another struggling school. The principal decided to quit instead.

It’s a story we haven’t seen covered too often, and one we’d like to see more journalists examine. We offer a Storify linking to compelling stories about principals, and it includes one such example.

Here are some EWA resources to help you better cover principals – and their morale, quality and turnover.



Have a question, comment or concern for the Educated Reporter? Contact Emily Richmond. Follow her on Twitter @EWAEmily.

Read other Educated Reporter articles.