The Stories Behind the Data: Principal Perceptions Regarding Turnover
ABSTRACT Background: Principals play an essential role in the success of their schools. Despite the impact principals have, they are prone to turnover. The average annual turnover rate of principals in Texas and nationwide is approximately one in five. Background analysis of Texas Education Agency data reveals that over the past five years, one very large school district in southeastern Texas (“District A”) has a much lower principal turnover rate than that of the state and surrounding districts. For example, during the 2016-17 school year, District A’s turnover rate was 8.33%, less than half the turnover rate in Texas. Additionally, in the 2017-18 school year, the turnover rate was approximately 7%, while the state of Texas was at nearly 20%. Given the substantial financial and academic costs associated with principal turnover, it is vital to delve deeper into the organizational contexts of District A. Purpose/Research Questions: The purpose of this study was to directly interact with District A principals to gain a better understanding of the district’s lower principal turnover rate. The following research questions guided this study: 1) In what ways, if any, do District A principals perceive the district to influence their decisions to remain in or leave their positions? 2) In what ways, if any, do the participants' perspectives provide evidence of progression through the stages of organizational socialization theory as adapted to education administration? Methods: This qualitative study began with a participant screening questionnaire administered to current District A principals to determine eligibility for inclusion, and to ensure diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, school level (elementary, middle, high), overall years of experience, and years of experience as a principal in District A. The study involved interviewing current principals to reveal their perspectives regarding the school district's role in influencing their decision to stay in a job. Additionally, through these structured interviews, I attempted to process the principals' experiences as they settled into their positions. Precisely, I strove to identify the principals' progression through the stages of organizational socialization theory. Research participants included twelve current principals from District A. I recorded, transcribed, and evaluated the information shared to analyze the interview results. I also utilized a coding journal to identify trends and emerging themes. In so doing, I used a priori codes tied to my theoretical framework (organizational socialization) and emergent coding to examine the transcripts for the themes connecting to District A’s principal turnover and retention. Conclusion: In conclusion, the interviewees shared common themes surrounding their reasons for staying in the district, including support, autonomy, and opportunities to continue learning and growing. Additionally, the principals shared several specific programs designed to ease their transitions through the stages of organizational socialization theory, including the New Principal institute, the three-year mentoring program, and their principal cluster meetings.