Just the Facts, Please

A relatively recent national survey conducted by MetLife Inc. by Harris Interactive based on telephone interviews with 1,000 K-12 public school teachers and 500 principals found that three out of four K-12 public school principals, seem to believe the job has become “too complex.”

Nearly a third of them assert that it’s likely they will seek new occupation within next five years.

The survey paints a disturbing picture of declining morale among both school leaders and teachers compounded by enduring budget problems in schools. According to the survey, over half of the principals say that their responsibilities have changed significantly over the last five years, adding difficulty to their job.

Almost half of those surveyed responded that they “feel under great stress several days a week.” And job satisfaction among principals has taken a significant dive from 68 percent indicating they were “very satisfied” as recently as 2008 to 59 percent feeling very satisfied when asked in the recent survey.

Lack of Control

While better than three-fourths of principals acknowledged that they exert control over teacher hiring and schedules, many of those same respondents felt that key challenges facing their schools are beyond their control. Less than a quarter of the principals say they have “lots of control in making decisions about finances.” And only 43 percent stated that they have control when it comes to removing teachers.

Despite lacking control over key factors, these same principals feel tremendous responsibility for what happens on a daily basis in their buildings: 90 percent indicated that “the principal should be held accountable for everything that happens to the children in his or her school.”  They see themselves a the captain of their ship.

Interestingly, notwithstanding their many challenges, 75 percent of the principals surveyed felt that their training prepared them well for the job. However, one expert who analyzed the survey had felt that a more accurate indicator would be to ask them how difficult do they find the essential demands of their job, and how well they feel they are executing them.

Hurdles, Obstacles, and Solutions

When queried regarding the main hurdles and obstacles they face, only 53 percent of the principals responded that evaluating teacher effectiveness was a significant challenge. Somewhat more challenging were adherence to Common Core Standards and engaging parents to get involved in their children’s’ education.

But predictably over three-quarters found that managing resources and the budget very challenging. Over 50 percent of the principals reported that that that there was a decline in their school’s budget as compared to the previous year. Just over a third responded that the budget remained flat.

But what may come as a surprise is that the most severe obstacle faced by the principals was related to the students themselves.  A whopping 83 percent rated addressing and responding to individual students needs as either challenging or difficult. Simply put, it is the students who weigh most heavily on the hearts of their principals.

And while these concerns encompass a broad range of problems including bullying, addiction, violence to name but a few, students who are needed in therapy cannot be discounted. The mention of therapy for most brings to mind mental health counseling.

But what isn’t so apparent is that children who have speech and language deficits pose a hefty challenge to principals as well. Because aside from fixing the obvious problem, speech and language problems left unattended can morph into academic, social and developmental problems as well.

With the increasing shortage of speech and language therapists, new solutions need to be found.  Fortunately, teletherapy provides a comparable clinical experience with many benefits such as convenience, scheduling, and cost. Perhaps an increase in principals embracing teletherapy will be accompanied by a decrease in the number of frustrated principals.