Researchers studying longitudinal data in US schools reported that high levels of ‘churn’ was having a significant impact on their research (AND student learning!).
After only one year, 42% of the teachers in the 92 schools involved in their research project has changed schools or roles within their current school. The researchers describe churn as “a remarkable instability among school personnel that makes it nearly impossible to build a professional community or develop long-term relationships with students. It happens when teachers are treated like interchangeable parts who can be moved around cavalierly to plug a hole in a school schedule”.
I’d argue that the churn of Principals is also a significant issue that is adding to instability in some schools and contributing to teacher stress. At any given time a number of school leadership positions are filled with acting leaders. Whilst this situation is unavoidable, every effort should be made to minimise the length of these acting positions.
Whilst the person acting in the role can gain valuable experience, ‘actors’ are less likely to make decisions and are often seen as ‘holding the fort’ or ‘warming the seat’ whilst awaiting a permanent appointment. This can destabilise the staff as they await clarity, decisiveness and direction.
Whilst teacher churn will impact on student achievement, principal churn will impact on staff stress AND student achievement!