Andrea Cooper

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Dr. Jacqueline Waggoner

Second Advisor

Dr. Randy Hetherington

Third Advisor

Dr. Katie Danielson

LC Subjects

Educational administration; Educational leadership; School principals; Work conditions


Although a growing body of research on principal turnover and retention exists in the United States, researchers have conducted very few studies in Canada (Pollock & Hauseman, 2016). Therefore, the purpose of this single embedded case study is to investigate principal turnover and retention in socially vulnerable elementary schools in one large school division in urban Alberta. The final response rate from the Principal Turnover and Retention Survey was 51.5% (N = 85). The author also accessed school division data that included 10-years of data on enrollment, student demographics, and principal tenure. The seven findings from both the survey and the organizational data analysis include the following: (a) Less-experienced principals lead smaller, socially vulnerable schools; (b) principals in socially vulnerable schools believe that they do not have the support and resources that they need; (c) working conditions impact job satisfaction for all principals; however, principals in socially vulnerable schools indicate that the workload related to poverty is what impacts their job satisfaction; (d) principals believe that they are not compensated for the work that they do; (e) principals are generally satisfied with serving as school administrators but have difficulty balancing instructional leadership with all the other duties of a principal; (f) principals want to focus on leadership behaviors that predict more positive outcomes for students and schools; and (g) the organizational data show that less-experienced principals lead smaller, socially vulnerable schools with greater student diversity.

Understanding that job satisfaction, effectiveness, and self-efficacy are connected, the author made four recommendations: (a) experienced principals must be encouraged to work in the most socially vulnerable schools, (b) that division leaders ensure new leaders are ready for the challenges of working in socially vulnerable schools, (c) that the workload of principals is supported through system-level processes, and (d) that an organizational culture be developed that focuses on collective action; leveraging what the research has stated about effective leadership.


Copyright is retained by the author.

Included in

Education Commons