Are Today’s School Leaders Getting the Support They Need?

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by Beverly Carbaugh and Robert Marzano, coauthors of School Leadership for Results: A Focused Model

There is tremendous turnover and attrition of principals and assistant principals in K–12 schools. 25,000 principals leave the profession each year, fully a quarter of the country’s school leaders. Half of principals quit their jobs by their third year. And those who do stay eventually tend to leave high-poverty schools for more affluent schools, a further contribution to our stubborn achievement gap. We need the best leaders in the highest needs schools.

Our work in the field with school leaders indicates that too many school leaders, from first-time principals to seasoned leaders, lack the ongoing support and development they need to retain their focus and commitment. We have to do more to help our school leaders than simply tell them to “sink or swim.”


It costs approximately $75,000 to recruit and train each replacement for a departing principal, and when an effective leader leaves, math and English achievement scores tend to plummet. Furthermore, effective leaders attract and retain effective teachers. Twenty-four out of twenty-five teachers say that the number-one factor in whether or not they stay at a school is their principal.

24 out of 25 teachers say that the #1 factor in whether or not they stay at a school is their principal. Click To Tweet

Clearly, we need to stop the churn and turn around these disturbing trends. But how do we do it?

Aligning Expectations for Effective School Leadership

The solution to this challenge is to provide adequate support in the form of professional development and mentoring opportunities and to emphasize continuous improvement. We must also continue to clearly define and align expectations for the role of an effective school leader throughout our educational systems. Too often, school leaders enter the profession with one idea about the job, only to find a daily reality that seems to bear no resemblance to the work they’d hoped to do. Nationally, structures are now fully in place to help align a unified vision of effective school leadership, most notably with the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards (ISLLC) of 2008 and the updated PSEL standards of 2015.

Evidence continues to accrue that school leaders must be instructional leaders—they must set and maintain an instructional vision that is coherent and consistent from classroom to classroom. School leaders must also devote a significant percentage of their energies to organizational leadership, maintaining the necessary and delicate balance between instruction, organizational processes, and vision.

One solution to these many challenges is to develop leader evaluation systems that support ongoing development and accountability for school leadership, and provide leaders with the focus and tools they need to improve their instructional and organizational capacity. In this sense, evaluation becomes a partnership between supervisors and leaders with the common goal of improving leadership capacity and retaining quality school leaders, as well as building a solid pipeline for aspiring leaders.

We developed our new Marzano Focused School Leader Evaluation Model with these goals in mind. The revised edition of School Leadership for Results: A Focused Model delves deeply in these into these issues and provides school leaders and their supervisors with a roadmap for success.