U of M principal survey reveals challenges, optimism and need for support among public school leaders


Results of the Minnesota Principals Survey (MnPS), a comprehensive 70-question survey developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) in collaboration with a diverse group of educators and partners and generously funded by the Minneapolis Foundation and Joyce Foundation, were released. The survey, which is the first of its kind in Minnesota in scope and response, aims to raise the voices of principals, vice-principals and chartered school leaders across the state.

“School principals certainly highlighted the challenges in the survey, although they also reported optimism with 90% saying they believe they can succeed as a leader in their school,” said Dr. Katie Pekel, project leader and director-in-residence at the University of Minnesota.

The MnPS sought to determine what the leaders thought of their work, not to assess how well they were doing their job. Questions covered a wide range of topics, including working conditions, professional development experiences and needs, areas of leadership and responsibility, culturally appropriate school leadership practices, school policies and supports. state and district, as well as the impact and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings from each area are summarized below.

The full MnPS report (including executive summary) is available at z.umn.edu/mnps22, the executive summary alone is available at z.umn.edu/mnps22es, and all current and future MnPS-related products are available at carei .umn.edu/mnps.

Every principal, vice-principal, and principal at a public school or charter school in Minnesota (2,323 total) was invited to complete the survey between Nov. 11 and Dec. 6, 2021. 779 principals K-12 school responded (34%) with a relatively equal percentage. Distribution: 46% of respondents were from greater Minnesota and 54% from the Twin Cities Seven Counties metropolitan area, with a nearly even split between those representing elementary schools and those representing high schools.

Tom Brenner, President of MASSP and Principal of Cloquet Middle School, said, “This survey not only reflects what principals think, but it provides state and local leaders with valuable data when considering policy and future supports for schools and their leaders.

Work conditions
Respondents were asked about their workload and sustainability, compensation and benefits, time allocation, influence and job satisfaction.

  • Leaders reported working an average of 58.6 hours per week.
  • More than 50% indicated that this workload is not viable.
  • While 79% somewhat agreed or agreed that their main role as an administrator is to be an instructional leader, 62% said they spend a lot less or a little less time on tasks educational than they would like.
  • Conversely, 61% of respondents indicated that they spend a little more or a lot more time than they would like on internal administrative tasks.

Encouragingly, school leaders reported high overall job satisfaction: 83% of respondents somewhat agreed or agreed that they were generally satisfied with being a leader in their school. The main contributors to this satisfaction are
relationships with students and staff, and seeing students grow – socially, emotionally and academically. 93% of leaders said they felt their work was valued by staff at their school.

Experiences and professional development needs
Somewhat surprisingly, the professional development that respondents said they engage in most often, presentations at scheduled school or district meetings, received the lowest usefulness rating. School leaders in the metropolitan area were 17 percentage points more likely than those in greater Minnesota to select promoting racial equity (39% vs. 22%) as an area of ​​professional development they could benefit from.

Areas of leadership and responsibility
To get a holistic view of competence, the survey asked 49 questions in four areas of school leadership and accountability. Overall, respondents reported having the most confidence in management and decision-making tasks and the least confidence in instructional leadership tasks. Examples of tasks for which leaders rated their level of confidence the highest include hiring new teachers, establishing disciplinary practices, and evaluating teachers. Respondents felt the least confident in tasks such as facilitating difficult conversations with staff about gender identity, supporting culturally appropriate pedagogy, and addressing staff mental health issues.

Culturally Sensitive School Leadership
Participants were asked how often they engage in behaviors associated with Culturally Responsive School Leadership (CRSL), a research-based framework to help educators at all levels humanize students and communities in schools. Respondents most frequently reported engaging in critical self-reflection about their own identity, frame of reference, and biases, and least frequently reported including families of marginalized students in school-level decisions. school. Across all questions in this section, there were significant differences between respondents in greater Minnesota and schools in the metropolitan area, with principals in the metropolitan area engaging in these tasks more frequently.

State and District Policies and Supports
Respondents would like to have more influence on state and district policy. The most commonly reported barriers in this regard include lack of knowledge about the policy-making process and the time required to engage.

Impact of COVID-19 and lessons learned
Similar to other survey results in the state of Minnesota (for example, the statewide Safe Learning Survey), mental health was a top concern among respondents. Staff mental health and student mental health were reported as the most significant pandemic-related challenge, as well as the areas where leaders most often expressed a need for resources. More than half of respondents indicated that the disruption brought about by COVID-19 has already changed their school somewhat in a positive way. Areas of anticipated positive change between the pre- and post-pandemic period include use of technology, alternative learning modalities, communication with families, provision of non-academic services, and building relationships with caregivers. students.

“The results of this survey indicate that while principals remain optimistic about their roles, there are some specific areas, such as race and equity, instructional leadership and mental health, where they may need support. additional and professional learning,” Pekel noted.

Next steps
MnPS results provide the state with a wealth of information. In the coming months, we will conduct focus
groups to better understand the data from the perspective of state managers. Moreover, during the next
year, we will publish policy and practice notes on topics that polls suggest may need further study
guidance and support. Finally, we intend to administer the next iteration of this survey in the fall of 2023.


About the College of Education and Human Development
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) strives to teach, advance research, and engage with the community to increase opportunity for all individuals. As the third-largest college on the Twin Cities campus, CEHD’s research and specialties focus on a range of challenges, including: educational equity, innovations in teaching and learning, child mental health and development, family resilience and healthy aging. Learn more at cehd.umn.edu.


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