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Principal turnover and student achievement


  • Miller, Ashley


Principals have important management roles, including responsibilities for teachers, curricula and budgets. Schools change principals frequently; about 20% of public school principals in the United States leave their positions each year. Despite the significance of principals and the regularity of principal departures, little is known about how turnover affects schools. Using twelve years of administrative data from North Carolina public schools, this paper explores the relationship between principal turnover and student achievement. Principal departures follow a downturn in student performance. Achievement continues to fall in the two years following the installation of a new principal and then rises over the next three years. Five years after a new principal is installed, average academic performance is no different than it was five years before the new principal took over. Increases in student achievement following a principal transition may reflect mean reversion rather than a positive effect of principal turnover.

Suggested Citation

  • Miller, Ashley, 2013. "Principal turnover and student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 60-72.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:36:y:2013:i:c:p:60-72 DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2013.05.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Figlio, D. & Karbownik, K. & Salvanes, K.G., 2016. "Education Research and Administrative Data," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    2. Gabrielle Wills, 2016. "Principal leadership changes in South Africa: Investigating their consequences for school performance," Working Papers 01/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Dhuey, Elizabeth & Smith, Justin, 2014. "How School Principals Influence Student Learning," IZA Discussion Papers 7949, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Derek Laing & Steven G. Rivkin & Jeffrey C. Schiman & Jason Ward, 2016. "Decentralized Governance and the Quality of School Leadership," NBER Working Papers 22061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Gabrielle Wills, 2015. "A profile of the labour market for school principals in South Africa: Evidence to inform policy," Working Papers 12/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    6. Wills, Gabrielle, 2016. "Principal leadership changes and their consequences for school performance in South Africa," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 108-124.
    7. Elias Walsh & Dallas Dotter, 2014. "The Impact of Replacing Principals on Student Achievement in DC Public Schools," Mathematica Policy Research Reports c84ecd86d13e4c82922c246d4, Mathematica Policy Research.
    8. Tavares, Priscilla Albuquerque, 2015. "The impact of school management practices on educational performance: Evidence from public schools in São Paulo," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 1-15.

    More about this item


    Student achievement; School leadership; Managerial turnover;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs


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