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U.S. School Superintendents: Handling Political Divisions Is Toughest Part of Job

Nearly half of superintendents are considering or planning to leave their jobs in the next two to three years, according to a new EAB survey

February 17, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 17, 2022) – Eighty percent of U.S. school superintendents say that navigating political divides over issues ranging from school closures to mask mandates to teaching about racism in schools is the most difficult part of their job. Nearly half say they are considering or planning to leave their job in the next two to three years.

These are among the findings in a new report, “2022 Voice of the Superintendent Survey,” released today by education company EAB at the School Superintendent Association (AASA) National Conference on Education (#NCE2022).

“Superintendents are tired of mediating disputes fueled in large part by America’s deepening political divide,” said EAB Director of K-12 Research Ben Court. “EAB’s new survey shows that school superintendents have reached a breaking point, and up to half may be looking for a way out.”

According to AASA data, the typical annual turnover rate for school superintendents is 14-16 percent. EAB’s survey shows that nearly half of respondents (46 percent) are considering or planning to leave their role in the next two to three years. More than a third (36 percent) of experienced superintendents (6+ years of tenure) are planning to retire within that time frame. Among more junior superintendents (those with five years of experience or less), 18 percent say they will see how this year goes before deciding on future plans, and 6 percent are already actively looking for other work.

EAB’s new report follows a 2021 EAB survey of 2,200 teachers and nearly 400 district and school leaders that showed teacher morale is at an all-time low.

“Low teacher morale has been well documented recently, but school superintendents are not faring much better,” Court added. “Many seasoned superintendents are looking toward retirement or new ventures. If those with less than five years in seat also leave, we could quickly face a crisis of leadership in school systems across the country.”

However, there is still optimism among superintendents about the path ahead. Regardless of future plans, 67 percent of respondents believe they will feel more successful in their role a year from now than they do today. One change that may help is spending more time with students, as 80 percent say that more time interacting with students in their schools will make them more effective in their role.

“Expressions of optimism from survey respondents suggest that many superintendents could be convinced to stay if given more opportunities to collaborate, support, and learn from one another,” Court concluded. EAB’s new report outlines four important topics for collaboration, such as providing access to mental health care and improving post-secondary preparation.

About the Survey

The online survey, “2022 Voice of the Superintendent Survey,” was completed by 141 U.S. public school superintendents from November 6, 2021, to February 3, 2022. EAB conducted this survey to gather data that will serve as the foundation for a series of national roundtables for district leaders throughout 2022.

About EAB

At EAB, our mission is to make education smarter and our communities stronger. We work with more than 2,500 institutions to drive transformative change through data-driven insights and best-in-class capabilities. From kindergarten to college to career, EAB partners with leaders and practitioners to accelerate progress and drive results across five major areas: enrollment, student success, institutional strategy, data analytics, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We work with each partner differently, tailoring our portfolio of research, technology, and marketing and enrollment solutions to meet the unique needs of every leadership team, as well as the students and employees they serve. Learn more at