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As School Principals Continue to Leave, UConn Beefs Up Training Program

Oct 17, 2016

According to the Connecticut Association of Schools, principal turnover has gotten worse over the last five years.

Being a principal today is a lot different from 20 years ago. Or even ten years ago.

"The demands of accountability have shortened the timeline and increased the expectations for showing improvement outcomes," said Richard Gonzales, director of educational leadership preparation programs at UConn's Neag School of Education. 

Gonzales said in an era of high-stakes testing, principals are expected to make improvements in two or three years, when in reality it takes three to five years to turn a school around.

Principals are also taking on other, non-traditional roles, as schools are now more than just places to learn -- they're community hubs, and sometimes food pantries and health centers.

Leonard Epps, principal at the Journalism and Media Academy magnet school in Hartford, said principals need to be committed to the work, and not consider it a stepping stone to something else.

"I think that people enter the profession and they think, 'Oh all I have to do is this this and this,' and then you're faced with a lot of different challenges, and a lot of things that may not be what you expected,"
Epps said. "Or you may think it's easier somewhere else, and you'll say, 'Oh wow, I'll just go and work in this district because I don't have to deal with x, y and z.' But I think, yeah, at the end of the day, everyone is not cut out for this."

To the meet the changing demands, UConn is getting a $5.45 million dollar grant over the next four years to strengthen its principal training program -- which is already widely considered to be one of the best around. A portion of that money will be going to school districts in Hartford, Meriden, and New Haven, which are partnering with UConn.

According to the Connecticut Association of Schools, principal turnover has gotten worse over the last five years, and turnover among assistant principals is even higher. UConn will also be developing a data tracking system to follow graduates through their careers as principals.