2008-09 PFS Methods and Procedures

Questionnaire Design

The 2008–09 PFS included two questionnaires: the Principal Status Form for Public Schools (form SASS-30A) and the School Head/Principal Status Form for Private Schools (form SASS-30B). Each form consisted of two questions. Question 1 asked about the current occupational status of the principal who had been the principal during the previous school year, when the SASS data were collected (i.e., 2007–08). Question 2 collected the name of the previous year’s principal. (Principals’ names were collected for internal use only and are not disclosed or part of the dataset.) The response options for the current occupational status divide the principals into four main categories: stayers, movers, leavers, and other. "Stayers" are principals who were principals in the same school in 2008–09 as in 2007–08. "Movers" are principals who were principals in a different school in 2008–09 than in 2007–08. "Leavers" are principals who were no longer principals in 2008–09. "Other" includes principals who had left their 2007–08 school, but for whom the responding school was unable to provide sufficient information to determine a mover or leaver status in 2008–09.

Sampling Frames

The target population for the 2008–09 PFS includes principals in public, public charter, private, and BIE-funded schools, with students in any of grades 1-12 or in comparable ungraded levels, which were in operation in school year 2007–08. All public, private, and BIE school principals who replied to a 2007-08 SASS principal questionnaire were included in the PFS sample. Therefore, any discussion of PFS methodology builds upon the preceding SASS methodology. Please see the 2007–08 SASS Methods and Procedures for more information.

Sample Design

In the 2007–08 SASS, the principal of each sampled school was automatically selected. Altogether, 12,910 school principals were sampled (9,800 public, 180 BIE, and 2,940 private) (Detail may not sum to total due to rounding). The 2008–09 PFS sample included all principals who completed SASS interviews in eligible schools. A total of 9,480 schools were contacted for this survey (7,460 public, 130 BIE, and 1,890 private); 2,700 eligible schools were not included because the principal did not respond to the Principal Questionnaire during the 2007–08 SASS; and 730 schools were deemed ineligible for 2007–08 SASS and not included in 2008–09 PFS.

The 2007–08 SASS was designed to produce national, regional, and state estimates for public elementary and secondary school principals; national and regional estimates for BIE school principals; and national, regional, and affiliation estimates for private school principals. The PFS allows for similar types of estimates as SASS.

Data Collection

The 2008–09 Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS) utilized a primarily mail-based collection methodology, with telephone follow-up for nonrespondents.

In March 2009, an introductory letter and the Principal Status Form (i.e., the survey questionnaire), were mailed to sampled schools. The letter was addressed to the principal, or if the principal’s name had not been provided during the 2007–08 SASS data collection it was addressed to the "School Principal/Administrator" for public schools and the "School Head/Principal" for private schools.

In mid-March 2009, a reminder letter and a second copy of the Principal Status Form were mailed to all sampled schools. Schools that had already returned a completed questionnaire were thanked and instructed to disregard the second copy. Telephone nonresponse follow-up of schools was conducted from March to April 2009. Although all follow-up was completed prior to May, mailed questionnaires were accepted through early June 2009. Data collection officially ended in June 2009.

Data Editing

Respondents to the 2008-09 Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS) were encouraged to complete and mail back the questionnaire (i.e., the Principal Status Form) sent to the school. Questionnaires were immediately checked into the Automatic Tracking and Control (ATAC) system by clerical staff. Questionnaires received an outcome code of "complete" if question 1 was answered. Additional outcome codes included refusals, blanks, duplicates, and Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA).


The general purpose of weighting is to scale up the sample estimates to represent the target survey population. Since all responding SASS principals were included in the PFS and 99 percent of public school principals, 97 percent of private school principals, and 99 percent of BIE principals in the PFS sample responded to the survey, the 2007–08 SASS weights could be used to represent the target sample population. All units, respondents and nonrespondents to the PFS, are included in the file and no adjustments were made for nonresponse. Therefore, new weights were not calculated for the PFS, and data users should employ the 2007–08 SASS public, private, and BIE principal weights when analyzing the public, private, and BIE principal status data files, respectively. For more information on the 2007–08 SASS weighting procedure please see 2007–08 SASS Methods and Procedures.

Response Rates

Weighted response rates are defined as the number of in–scope responding questionnaires divided by the number of in–scope sampled cases, using the base weight (inverse of the probability of selection) of the record. The overall response rate represents the response rate to the PFS taking into consideration each stage of data collection. To be eligible for the PFS, it was necessary for the principal to have responded to the SASS principal questionnaire. Thus, the overall unit response rate is the product of the sampled SASS unit response rate by the PFS unit response rate. The product of these gives the cumulative nonresponse. The overall unit response rate was calculated using base-weights.

Survey population Sample size Unit response rate Overall response rate
Public school principals 7,460 99.4 78.9
Private school principals 1,890 97.1 70.1
BIE school principals 130 99.2 78.6
NOTE: Response rates were weighted using the inverse of the probability of selection, including all sampling, the inverse of the initial probability of selection (termed the initial basic weight), or adjustments to the probability of selection due to schools determined to be splits or mergers during data collection operations. BIE school refers to schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) that are operated by the BIE, a tribe, or a private contractor and not by a regular school district.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), "Public School Principal Status, BIE School Principal Status, and Private School Principal Status Documentation Data Files," 2008–09.

Manuals and Technical Reports

NCES 2010337: Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2008–09 Principal Follow-up Survey

NCES 2010340: Documentation for the 2008–09 Principal Follow-up Survey (Forthcoming – Restricted-use only)

Data Availability

The 2008–09 Principal Status Documentation files are only available to restricted-use licensees. These files contain both the Principal Status Form responses, as well as all of the data from the 2007–08 SASS Principal Survey. Application for the restricted-use license is available through an online form. The data files are in ASCII, SAS (both formatted and unformatted), SPSS, and Stata. The restricted-use version of the documentation report is included with the data files.