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Public and Private School Principals in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1987-88 to 1993-94 / Chapter 2

Chapter 2. Demographics of the Principalship

The demographic characteristics of principals may be especially important because some research has suggested that factors such as sex predict both the types of activities in which school administrators engage and their career paths and ultimate accomplishments in the field. For example, Andrews and Basom (1990) noted that female principals spend more time observing teachers in their classrooms, are more concerned with student accomplishments, and value teacher productivity more than their male counterparts. Women administrators are more likely to be seen as instructional leaders in their schools (Smith & Andrews, 1989) by virtue of their greater years of experience as teachers and the different administrative and supervisory strategies they bring to the job.

School desegregation contributed to decreases in the number of African-American principals (Weinberg, 1977), and some researchers (e.g., Miklos, 1988) contend that subsequent school and district practices have meant that minority principals are more likely to be placed in schools with high proportions of students of similar ethnic or cultural groups and perhaps to have been appointed through application of special criteria. Both factors may affect opportunities for further advancement. In any case, minority principals may differ from nonminority administrators in important characteristics. These differences may include years of prior classroom teaching experience, the nature of their previous positions in the field, the nature of their current appointment, salaries and benefits, perceived control over the educational process, and age at hiring (see Miklos, 1988).

Principal age may have important implications especially for career opportunities and accomplishments for both women and minorities (Miklos, 1988). Administrators assigned early in their careers (i.e., in their middle to late 30s) may be more likely to later serve in larger schools (e.g., as high school principals) and to hold district-level positions. Previous studies have shown, however, that women and minority administrators both teach longer and enter administration later than white males (Andrews & Basom, 1990; Miklos, 1988). These patterns may limit both the length and type of administrative careers because they conflict with career norms that favor youthful career entry.

Following an overview of the demographics of the principalship, the sections below address in turn issues of sex, race-ethnicity, and age. These demographic characteristics affect other issues as well. Thus, sex, race-ethnicity, and age will be examined further as other topics are addressed in subsequent chapters of the report.

Demographic Overview

Table 1 shows the total number of public and private school principals by region for the 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94 school years./1 As the table indicates, the total number of public school principals grew between 1987-88 and 1993-94 (up 2.2 percent), reflecting a change in the number of public schools during that period. The growth occurred mainly in the west (up 6.5 percent). The number of private school principals showed no change across the six-year period.

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Table 1.-Number of public and private school principals by region: 1987-88,
         1990-91, 1993-94
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                      Public                     Private
             -------------------------  ------------------------------------                         
Region       1987-88   1990-91 1993-94  1987-88  1990-91  1993-94
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TOTAL         77,890   78,890   79,618   25,401   23,881   25,015
Northeast     13,854   13,705   13,469    6,299    5,272    5,966
South         25,890   25,838   26,308    6,995    6,115    6,777
Midwest       22,465   23,124   23,144    7,644    7,462    7,302
West          15,680   16,223   16,698    4,463    5,031    4,971
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NOTE: Details may not add up to totals due to rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey: 1987-88 (Administrator
Questionnaire), 1990-91 (Administrator Questionnaires), 1993-94 (Principal
Questionnaires).
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Table 2 provides an overview of important characteristics of the public and private principal population for 1993-94. Elementary principals outnumbered secondary principals by a ratio of almost three to one in public schools and nearly six to one in private schools. Thirty percent of private school principals, however, served in schools that combine elementary and secondary levels, compared to 4 percent of public school principals. In 1993-94, 65 percent of public school principals were men, compared to 46 percent of private school principals. Most public and private principals were white non-Hispanic, and they were, on average, in their late 40s.

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Table 2.-Overview of characteristics of public and private school
         principals: 1993-94
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Principal characteristic          Public  Private
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School level
  Elementary                        71.9%    59.5%
  Secondary                         24.4%    10.3%
  Combined                           3.7%    30.2%
Sex
  Male                              65.4%    46.4%
  Female                            34.5%    53.6%
Race-ethnicity
  American Indian/Alaska Native      0.8%     0.5%
  Asian/Pacific Islander             0.8%     0.7%
  Black non-Hispanic                10.1%     4.2%
  White non-Hispanic                84.2%    92.5%
  Hispanic                           4.1%     2.1%
  Total minority                    15.7%     7.5%
Average age                          47.7     47.1
Average salary                    $54,857  $32,075
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NOTE: Details may not add to 100 percent due to rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey: 1993-94 (Principal
Questionnaires).
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The sections that follow examine specific demographic characteristics (sex, race-ethnicity, and age) of public and private school principals in relation to a variety of school and community characteristics and in relation to salaries and benefits. Comparisons among estimates from the 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94 school years highlight trends.

Sex

As figure 1 illustrates, the majority of public school principals during the 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94 school years were men. During the 1993-94 school year, 59 percent in urban fringe/large town public schools were male, and 75 percent of principals in rural/small town public schools were male, although in central city schools there were no sex differences (table A4). Similarly, for public schools in 1993-94, 63 percent of principals in districts with 5,000 to 9,999 students were male, 74 percent in districts with 1,000 to 4,000, and 79 percent in districts with less than 1,000 students (table A3). In public schools where 50 percent or more of the students were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch, 60 percent of the principals in 1993-94 were male; in schools where 20 to 40 percent were free-lunch eligible, 68 percent of principals were male; and in schools where less than 20 percent of the students were eligible, 69 percent of the principals were male (table A5). Additionally, as figure 1 shows, in 1993-94 principals were more likely to be male in public secondary schools (86 percent) than they were in public elementary schools (59 percent).

In contrast to the continuing male majority in the principalship, the proportion of female principals in public schools increased between the 1987-88 and 1993-94 school years. Thirty-four percent of principals were women in 1993-94, up from 25 percent in 1987-88 (table A1). The increase is prominent in public elementary schools, where women occupied 30 percent of the principalships in 1987-88 and 41 percent in 1993-94 (table A6), but also can be seen in secondary schools (9 percent in 1987-88 to 14 percent in 1993-94). No change is found in public combined schools. The trend is also strong in larger districts, where the proportion of female principals rose from 22 percent in 1987-88 to 37 percent in 1993-94 in districts with 5,000 to 9,999 students, and from 35 percent to 47 percent in districts with 10,000 or more students (table A3).

Both attrition and hiring can contribute to changes in principal demographics. Examining characteristics of principals with less than three years of experience highlights hiring patterns. For each of the school years 1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94, the proportion of new public school principals who were women was greater than the overall proportion of female principals (table A7). Additionally, as figure 2 illustrates, the percentage of new public school principals who were female rose from 41 percent in 1987-88 to 48 percent in 1993-94. These data suggest that changing hiring patterns, not simply a higher attrition rate for men, have contributed to the increase in the proportion of public school principals who are women.

The picture is different for private schools. As figure 3 shows, for the 1993-94 school year, women constituted a majority of private school principals. Comparable percentages of female principals existed in both 1987-88 and 1990-91. Nearly two-thirds of elementary principals were women in each year, while, as with public schools, a greater percentage of private secondary principals were men. In contrast to public schools, the proportion of men to women principals in private schools remained relatively constant in elementary and secondary schools for the three school years. Additionally, as figure 2 illustrates, the proportion of new private school principals who were female (52 percent for 1987-88, 50 percent for 1990-91, and 57 percent for 1993-94) was comparable for each of the years to the overall percentages of private school principals who were female. The data suggest little change in hiring patterns among private schools.

The increasing ratio of female to male principals in public schools is one indication of greater equity in school leadership. Another indication is the comparability of the salaries and benefits these principals received. For the 1993-94 school year, average salaries for male and female principals in public schools were quite similar ($54,922 for males, $54,736 for females). Moreover, salaries for male and female principals were comparable at all education levels (table 3). For public schools during the 1993-94 school year, there was also little difference between men and women principals with regard to the employment benefits they received, including medical and life insurance and retirement plans (table A10).

For private schools, differences between male and female principals in salaries and benefits were apparent. For example, as table 3 shows, in 1993-94 private male principals earned an average of $35,597 while female principals earned an average of $29,185. For 1993-94, private principals overall were less likely to receive benefits than were public school principals, with the exception of inkind benefits, which were more frequently available to private school principals (table A10). As with public schools, however, no sex-related differences were found in regard to benefits in 1993-94.

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Table 3.Public and private school principals' average salary by sex and
         highest degree earned: 1993-94
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                                      Sex
                             -----------------------------------------------
      Highest degree            Male       Female
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Public
  All degrees                  $54,922     $54,736
  Bachelor's                    44,907      38,112
  Master's                      53,820      54,241
  Ed. specialist/prof. dip      55,424      55,313
  Doctorate                     62,694      59,535
Private
  All degrees                   35,597      29,185
  Less than bachelor's          14,428      23,197
  Bachelor's                    26,180      22,982
  Master's                      39,029      31,432
  Ed. specialist/prof. dip      40,947      31,449
  Doctorate                     52,729      47,239
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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey: 1993-94 (Principal
Questionnaires).
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Race-Ethnicity

Figure 4 illustrates that, in 1993-94, the great majority of public and private school principals were white non-Hispanic (84 percent for public schools, 92 percent for private schools). The white majority was found in all regions of the country (table A2). The percentage of minority principals in public schools did increase, however, between 1987-88 and 1993-94 from 13 to 16 percent (table A1).

For public schools, the proportion of minority principals was low in all types of communities, although the proportion varied considerably among the community types. Specifically, for 1993-94, 35 percent of principals in central city schools were minorities, 15 percent in urban fringe/large town schools were minorities, and in rural/small town schools 7 percent were minorities (table A4). For that same year, the percentage of minority public principals was low for elementary (17 percent) and secondary schools (12 percent)(table A6).

Relatively few minority principals served in public schools in districts with less than 1,000 students (4 percent in 1993-94) (table A3). The percentage of minority principals increased, however, as district size increased; and in districts with 10,000 or more students, 29 percent of principals were minorities. Additionally, for 1993-94, in public schools with less than 20 percent of students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch, 7 percent of the principals were minorities; and in schools where 50 percent or more students were eligible, 32 percent of principals were minorities (table A5).

Overall, private schools employed a smaller proportion of minority principals than did public schools, as figure 4 illustrates. For 1993-94, approximately 8 percent of private school principals were minorities. This percentage changed little between the 1987-88 and 1993-94 school years (table A1). Eight percent of new private school principals (those with less than three years as principals) were minorities in 1993-94, which does not signal any meaningful change (table A7).

As is the case with sex, comparing salaries and benefits of principals by race-ethnicity provides an indication of the extent to which equity exists. Table 4 shows that, for public schools in 1993-94, average salaries for minority principals ($56,956) were higher than those for white principals ($54,466)./2 For private schools, salary differences between white and minority principals were not significant (table A8). In 1993-94, for both public and private schools, white and minority principals did not differ in regard to receiving medical insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, or retirement plans (table A10). This finding regarding benefits changed for public schools since 1987-88, when white principals were more likely than minority principals to receive medical insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans.

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Table 4.-Public school principals' average salary by race-ethnicity and highest
         degree earned: 1993-94
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                                          Race-Ethnicity
                  -----------------------------------------------------------------
                      Am.      Asian/      Black      White
Highest             Ind./AK   Pac. Isl.    non-       non-                  Total
degree               Nat.                Hispanic   Hispanic   Hispanic   minority
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All degrees         $51,117    $59,446    $57,699    $54,466    $55,862    $56,956
Masters              49,035     60,041     56,870     53,488     55,990     56,342
Ed.                  57,390     55,952     56,765     55,242     54,458     56,284
specialist/prof.
diploma
Doctorate              -          -        63,725     61,270     61,413     62,854     
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-Too few cases for a reliable estimate.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, ,
Schools and Staffing Survey: 1993-94 (Principal Questionnaire).
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Age

The average age of public school principals rose slightly from school years 1987-88 (46.8 years) to 1993-94 (47.7 years), as did the average age of private school principals (45.4 years to 47.1 years) (table A1). For 1993-94, the average age of private school principals did not differ from public principals. Figure 5 highlights the age distribution by showing the proportion of oldest and youngest public and private principals for each school year. In public schools, the percentage of principals in the 55-and-over group changed little between 1987-88 (18 percent) and 1993-94 (15 percent). Across those years, however, the percentage of principals in the under-40 group dropped from 19 percent to 10 percent. In private schools between 1987-88 and 1993-94, the under-40 group also decreased from 30 percent to 22 percent, while the 55-and-over group showed no significant change.

An examination of public school principals' average age in 1993-94 in relation to school and community variables finds few noteworthy differences. The average age of principals, however, did increase as district size increased. Thus for 1993-94, principals' average age was 46.3 years in districts of less than 1,000 students and 48.8 years in districts of 10,000 or more (table A3).

Not surprising, new public and private school principals (those with fewer than three years as principals) were younger than the average principal (table A7). For 1993-94, new public principals' average age was 44.1 years, compared to 47.6 years for all public principals. The average age for new public principals, however, rose across the six-year period, from 41.6 years in 1987-88 to 44.1 years in 1993-94. Looking at new public school principals across age groups shows that the percentage of new principals under age 35 dropped significantly between 1987-88 (13 percent) and 1993-94 (7 percent), as did the percentage in the 35-39 group (from 27 percent to 15 percent). On the other hand, an increase occurred in the 45-49 age group, which rose from 18 percent to 32 percent.


Footnotes:

[1] Text tables and figures highlight important variables. All numbers and percentages are drawn from tables of estimates in appendix A (referenced in the text with the prefix A).

[2] Higher average salaries for minority principals in public schools are likely to be associated with higher salaries in central city schools (table A9), where the relative proportion of minority principals is highest (table A4).



Chapter 1. IntroductionPrev Contents NextChapter 3. Training and Educational Experiences of Principals

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