American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study Now Available

Copies of the American Superintendent 2020 Decennial Study, which examines historical and contemporary perspectives of our nation’s school system leaders, are now available through AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and Rowman & Littlefield, the organization’s co-publishing partner.

The latest edition is an extension of national decennial studies of the American school superintendent that began in 1923.

“As the leaders and chief spokespersons of America’s public school systems, superintendents have critical insights and consequently, a responsibility to influence local, state and federal decisions to shape the future of the nation’s public schools and the students they serve,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, in the volume’s foreword. “The 2020 edition of the AASA Decennial Study is a tool to complement this important work by collecting and analyzing the landscape of the American superintendency and marks the first time PDK International has joined us in this endeavor.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

The average superintendent was a married white (91.38%) male, who had prior experience as a principal, with two to eight years of experience being a superintendent.

The percentage of female superintendents increased slightly from 2010, when it was 24.1%, to 26.68% in 2020. The percentage of women in the top leadership position in education is well above the 5.4% of S&P 500 companies led by a woman. Only 5% of the Russell 3000 companies have a woman in the top position.

In terms of political affiliation, superintendents remained a diverse group, with approximately 33% identifying as Republican, 32% independent and 31% Democrat.

Approximately 59% of the respondents said they planned on being a superintendent in the next five years. This represented an increase, compared to 51% of the respondents in 2010.

Almost 34% of superintendents specified they would retire within the next five years, compared to 50% of superintendents in 2010.

As in 2010, about 3% (2.71%) of the respondents in this study were employed in very large districts in 2020, whereas 11.76% were employed in districts with enrollments of 300 or less, representing a slight increase from 9% in 2010.

The racial/ethnic diversity of districts in which superintendents worked increased since 2010. Only 34% of respondents worked in districts in which less than 5% of the students were non-white, compared to almost 50% in 2010. The percentage of respondents employed in districts with high racial diversity (i.e., more than 50% non-white students) remained at 15%.

The research was conducted in late 2019 and early 2020. Just as findings from previous decennial studies suggested, job-related situations of superintendents vary greatly. They can be influenced by a number of factors including district enrollment, demographic characteristics of the superintendents, and characteristics of the students and communities they serve.

The work is a collaboration of the following authors:

Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director, advocacy and governance, AASA;

Chris Rogers, policy analyst, AASA;

Joshua Starr, chief executive officer, PDK International; and

Christopher H. Tienken, associate professor of education leadership, management and policy, Seton Hall University.

AASA and PDK have partnered in a series of podcasts to coincide with the availability of the 2020 published edition. The first episode features Starr, Gregory Hutchings, superintendent of Alexandria (Va.) Public Schools, and Jennifer Cheatham, senior lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a conversation about race and equity in K-12 public schools. The second episode features Starr, Almudena (Almi) G. Abeyta, superintendent, Chelsea (Mass.) Public Schools, Deb Kerr, retired superintendent and AASA immediate past president, and, Carol Kelley, superintendent, Oak Park Elementary (Ill.) School District 97, in a conversation about women in school leadership.

For specific questions or information about ordering copies of the survey, please contact AASA’s Chris Rogers at [email protected]

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