Who are our school principals? A study out Monday tells us. Illinois has 3,600 public school principals, and they’re younger than they used to be, according to The Principal Report: The State of School Leadership in Illinois, compiled by the Illinois Education Research Council at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
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The report tracks principals at public schools (not counting charter schools) from 2001-08, during which time there were 7,200 individuals who served as school principals. The percentage of principals under age 40 rose from 15 percent to 30 percent during the study period. Researcher Brad White says the average age is declining because Baby Boom principals are reaching retirement age, and that’s causing a shakeup up and down the system, as principals shift from one school to another to replace those who retire.
Year-to-year principal retention in the 1990s was 86 percent, but it declined to 79 percent during the study period. White says being a new principal, or new at a particular school, is tough, and mentoring from experienced principals helps, though with so many older principals retiring, there are fewer around to serve as mentors. Principal preparation programs, internships and residencies also help, but White says the biggest help is for a new principal to have served as an assistant principal, particularly at that same school.