Report: More Illinois principals younger, female

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More women are principals at Illinois schools and principals’ average ages have dropped over the last decade because baby boomers are retiring, according to a report released Monday by the Illinois Education Research Council.

CHICAGO (AP) — More women are principals at Illinois schools and principals’ average ages have dropped over the last decade because baby boomers are retiring, according to a report released Monday by the Illinois Education Research Council.

The age drop means more job turnover, with fewer principals keeping their positions for six years or more, the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville-based independent research group’s new report found.

From 2001 to 2008 principals under age 40 doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent. Principals are either nearing retirement age or are just beginning their careers as school leaders, the report found. That turnover means more mobility, with 28 percent of first-time principals remaining in their initial jobs for at least six years — a 10 percent drop from a decade ago.

"Turnover in general is difficult," said Brad White, a senior researcher on the council’s "The Principal Report: The State of School Leadership in Illinois." ”Overall, since experience as a principal does seem to matter, having a whole set of new principals can be a bad thing. But there are ways to cope with that."

The report surveyed one in five public school principals from the 2010-2011 school year. The report analyzed demographic and employment trends among more than 7,000 school principals between 2001 and 2008. Charter school data was excluded.

Some of the report’s recommendations focus on expanding assistant principal positions and mentoring, White said.

"Anything that lets (principals) hit the ground running and lets them be more effective in their careers," he said.

The number of female principals Illinois doubled from 1990 to 2008, the report said, with women holding 26 percent of principal position in 1990 increasing to 52 percent in 2008.

But women are heavily concentrated in Chicago and surrounding suburbs instead of small towns and rural areas, where there are more white male principals.

The report recommended a system-wide change in how the state supports its principals. Teacher evaluation practices should comply with improving student test scores and assistant principal positions should expand to help train future educators, the report said.

Nicole Nash Gales, principal of Springfield Ball Charter School in Springfield, said she’s unsure about the report’s recommendations because she doesn’t think its definition of student achievement is clear. The difference is between success measured through test scores or of student learning through other means.

"How do we marry both of those worlds?" she said of the philosophical disparity. "We’ll get there, but where is the leadership going to come from?"

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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