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The Biggest Issues Facing K-12 Superintendents in 2017

Professional Growth

The job of superintendent is one of the most challenging in a school district. Meeting school board and community expectations while ensuring high academic performance is no easy task — especially with tightening budgets and evolving federal mandates.

So what are the biggest issues superintendents are facing in 2017? How has this affected their outlook on their job — and on the future of education?

A recent Gallup survey took a look. Here are a few key insights:

What Challenges Are School Districts Facing?

the issues superintendents are facing in 2017
Compared to the 2013 survey, superintendents are less concerned about assessment demands and revamping curriculum — but are more concerned about the performance of underprepared students.

How Effective Are School Districts at Recruiting and Retaining Talent?

The teacher shortage is certainly top of mind for school district superintendents. Only 29% say their district is “very effective” at recruiting talented teachers.

Their outlook on the teacher talent pipeline isn’t great, either — regarding quantity or quality. Over two-thirds (67%) say the overall number of candidates is going down — that’s not a surprise — but 39% also believe the quality of candidates is decreasing (and only 17% think it’s increasing).

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Teacher Shortages: The New Normal (2016 Report)

On the plus side, over half (51%) believe their district is very effective at selecting talented teachers, and nearly half (47%) say they’re effective at retaining talented teachers.

What are the Key Factors in Teacher Evaluation?

Four key factors were most frequently selected by superintendents as being “very important” in teacher evaluation:

Key Factors in Teacher Evaluation
These were also the strongest factors selected in a 2014 Gallup survey. However, in this year’s survey, superintendents place more emphasis on the learning growth of students, feedback from fellow educators, student test scores and years in the classroom.

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What’s the Future of K-12 Education?

The survey uncovered fairly negative reactions to the federal policies on education of the last five years as well as low confidence in the current administration. It’s not surprising, then, that only about a third (32%) of superintendents expressed excitement about the future of K-12 public education in the U.S.

And yet, in contrast, the vast majority — 84% —  of superintendents are excited about the future of their own school district.

Are Superintendents Engaged?

With so many ongoing challenges, you have to ask: are superintendents still engaged? Well, compared to all U.S. workers nationally, they are actually quite engaged — 42% compared to 33% of all employees nationwide.

Importantly, 7 out of 10 superintendents say “the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important” (compared to 4 out of 10 across all U.S. workers).

This is good news, as the work of superintendents is, of course, critical and impacts both students and the personnel who support them.

Allison Wert

Allison (Ali) Wert is the Content Marketing Manager of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She has been writing about education topics for nearly 10 years and specializes in best practices for K-12 strategic human capital management. Under her leadership, the team at Frontline was recognized as the Winner of CMA's 2017 Project of the Year and Best Content Marketing Program. Ali also helps to manage marketing for the Frontline Research & Learning Institute and The Line.