Administrative bloat in secondary education

At a time when teacher pay is stagnant, administrator pay has skyrocketed in secondary schools (“Growth in Administrative Staff, Assistant Principals Far Outpaces Teacher Hiring,” Education Next, Oct. 1).  Half the states now have more non-instructional personnel than teachers.

One of the reasons for the growth is the ever-increasing demand for equity.  For example, when the media reported that Black students are suspended more often than white students for the same misbehavior, districts responded by hiring administrators whose sole responsibility was to erase the disparity.

The real need is for more classroom teachers who can engage students from diverse backgrounds.  Yet we do too little to recruit and retain them, instead focusing on hiring more administrators.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “Administrative bloat in secondary education”

  1. Not clear who counts as “staff” as opposed to “teacher”. What about teacher aides? Guidance counselors? Nurses? Bus drivers? Tech support? Athletic coaches who are not also phys ed teachers? Human resources personnel?

    Agree that school systems are wasting $ on “diversity” and ineffective discipline programs, but think that $ is relatively minor compared to non-classroom-teacher spending on IEP/special needs issues (although school systems would no doubt argue that diversity, discipline and special needs have a lot of overlap).

    Seems likely that the NCLB/Race-to-the-Top/high-stakes-testing/Common Core reforms triggered a lot of administrative spending over the past 15 years + that diversity/discipline were only very marginally related to those reforms.

    I’d be happy to see school systems spending $ to reduce the minor but endemic misbehavior that renders many/most inner-city classrooms chaotic disasters. My sense is that, to the extent those school systems are even admitting there are endemic misbehavior problems, the school systems are spending $ on “reforms” that exacerbate the problems.


  2. Labor Lawyer: The bloat refers to principals and vice principals. Other support employees are not included because they, like classroom teachers, have seen their pay stagnate over the years.


  3. Perhaps the increase in number of vice principals is driven largely by the discharge-ineffective-teacher “reforms”?

    Under NCLB/Race-to-the-Top, school systems were strongly encouraged to identify/remove “ineffective” teachers. Obviously, school systems used student test scores to identify/remove these “ineffective” teachers. But, my sense is that school systems — particularly those with effective teachers unions — did not/could not rely exclusively on the test scores to identify the “ineffective” teachers but also ramped up the “observation/evaluation” component of teacher ratings. In order to do more observations, the school systems needed more observers — hence, more assistant principals. Certainly, the additional assistant principals would also lend a hand with discipline issues, but the main trigger for their hiring was — I’m guessing — to generate sufficient teacher observations to legitimize the retain/discharge decisions that the school systems needed to make to comply with NCLB/RTTT. (As we’ve discussed previously, using a “senior teacher/supervisor teacher” model — like PAR, the Montgomery County, MD school system idea — rather than the assistant-principal model for this purpose would be much fairer/less expensive/more efficient.


  4. Labor Lawyer: Allowing administrators who are not certified in the subject they are observing being taught to evaluate teachers is a travesty. Yet it persists. For example, how does an administrator know if a teacher is correctly teaching the subjunctive in Spanish unless the administrator is certified in Spanish? Teachers should be evaluated by their peers.


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