Principal Effectiveness and Principal Turnover Academic Article uri icon


  • Research demonstrates the importance of principal effectiveness for school performance and the potentially negative effects of principal turnover. However, we have limited understanding of the factors that lead principals to leave their schools or about the relative effectiveness of those who stay and those who turn over. We investigate the association between principal effectiveness and principal turnover using longitudinal data from Tennessee, a state that has invested in multiple measures of principal performance through its educator evaluation system. Using three measures of principal performance, we show that less-effective principals are more likely to turn over, on average, though we find some evidence that the most effective principals have elevated turnover rates as well. Moreover, we demonstrate the importance of differentiating pathways out of the principalship, which vary substantially by effectiveness. Low performers are more likely to exit the education system and to be demoted to other school-level positions, whereas high performers are more likely to exit and to be promoted to central office positions. The link between performance and turnover suggests that prioritizing hiring or placing effective principals in schools with large numbers of low-income or low-achieving students can serve to lower principal turnover rates in high-needs environments.

altmetric score

  • 28.65

author list (cited authors)

  • Grissom, J. A., & Bartanen, B.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • July 2019