Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Educational Administration


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Dr. Brian Beabout

Second Advisor

Dr. Lou Paradise

Third Advisor

Dr. Tammie Causey-Konate

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Peggy Kirby



Federal legislation and educational programs such as No Child Left Behind (2001) and Race to the Top (2009) identify school leaders as one of the major catalysts to improving academic achievement. Increasing accountability demands call for replacement of the principal when adequate gains in student achievement are not met, yet research indicates that it takes at least five years to affect change (Fullan, 2006). Why then would any principal remain in an appointment as principal in a chronically low-performing school?

New principals generally stay no more than five to ten years in any one position (Dancy, 2007; NAESP, 1998). In several states, the average tenure rate for a new principal is just 4.5 years (Fuller, 2009). One of the key reasons principals leave is the stress related to the job responsibilities (Groff, 2001; National Association of Elementary School Principals, 2007; Ponder & Crow, 2005). Moreover, principal vacancies are expected to increase vastly within the next three to five years as more than a third of our nation’s teachers and school leaders are ready for retirement(U. S. Department of Education, 2010. With looming principal shortages, regular job turnover, and threat of replacement for current principals, who will lead the nation’s lowest-performing schools and what are the characteristics of those who intentionally seek to do so?

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of four factors associated with Krumboltz’s (1996) social learning theory of career decision making-- (1) personal characteristics, (2) work environment, (3) learning experience, and (4) task skills – on principals’ intent to stay or leave the profession of principalship when employed in a low-performing school.

This study used data from 135 school administrators throughout the state of Louisiana who currently serve in schools considered “failing” by state standards in order to answer the following general questions:

  1. To what extent do the four factors of Krumboltz’s social learning theory of career decision making (personal characteristics, environment, formal learning experiences and task skills) combine to predict principals’ intent to stay in the role of principal in a low-performing school in Louisiana?
  2. What is the relative contribution of each of these factors in predicting principals’ intent to stay?

A quantitative, correlational survey design was used to assess the factors that influence principals’ intent to leave or stay in the position of principal in low-performing schools throughout Louisiana. A modified version of the Principal Shortage Survey utilized in a previous study to analyze the principal shortage in Massachusetts (2006) was used. The surveys were administered electronically. Multiple regression was used to analyze results, using SPSS version 19.0. In general, the study supported Krumboltz’s theory, with district training a significant predictor of principal’s intent to stay. Principals who perceived their professional development as most effective were more likely to indicate a desire to remain in the principalship. Implications for accountability, principal training, and leadership in low-performing schools are discussed.


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