Appalachia Regional Lab releases study on superintendent turnover in Kentucky


Alexandria, Va. — REL Appalachia has released a report that explores superintendent turnover trends across Kentucky’s school districts and compares these trends among districts of different sizes, regions and demographic characteristics.

The report, Superintendent Turnover in Kentucky, is the first detailed description of superintendent turnover trends in the state and addresses policymakers’ efforts to sustain, support and build capacity among education leaders, especially in rural areas where recruiting and retaining talented administrators is challenging. Research indicates that the length of superintendent tenure may be associated with district size, poverty rates and level of funding for district operations, and a stable administration may be associated with desirable academic outcomes.

Understanding differences in superintendent turnover between districts with different characteristics can help policymakers effectively allocate professional development and retention resources. Although this report focuses solely on Kentucky, policymakers can use the authors’ methodology to examine turnover in other states.

According to the report’s author, Dr. Jerry Johnson of the Rural School and Community Trust and Ohio University, “Despite common conception that rural status and other factors might make it more difficult to retain administrators, these findings don’t reflect that.”

This study uses data from the Kentucky Department of Education, The U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data, Center for Educational Research in Appalachia and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Comparisons are reported for a number of variables, including rural vs. nonrural, Appalachian vs. non-Appalachian, and other district characteristics, including enrollment and eligibility for free or reduced-price meals

Among the study’s key findings are:

-Kentucky school districts averaged one superintendent turnover during 1998-99-2007-08 school years.
-Average superintendent turnover rates in rural and nonrural school districts during this period were within one-tenth of a point of each other.
-Average superintendent turnover rates in Appalachian school districts and non-Appalachian school districts in that same time frame were within one-tenth of a point of each other.
-Statewide, superintendent turnover varied with school districts’ demographic, fiscal and achievement characteristics. However, such differences did not show patterns strong or consistent enough to suggest associations between these characteristics and superintendent turnover.
-In both rural and nonrural school districts and in both Appalachian and non-Appalachian school districts, superintendent turnover varied with demographic, fiscal, and achievement characteristics. However, these variations did not show patterns strong or consistent enough to suggest systematic differences between rural and nonrural school districts or between Appalachian and non-Appalachian school districts.

To access the study, click hereSuperintendent Turnover in Kentucky.

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