Perceived barriers limiting ascension to the principalship: identifying perceptions of assistant principals, principals, and district supervisors

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Charles W. Perkins (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kimberly Kappler Hewitt

Abstract: This qualitative research study examined the perceptions of current and/or former assistant principals, principals and district leaders as to why certain assistant principals who aim or had aimed to become K-12 public school principals have been unable to achieve the goal of attaining the principalship. Educators who choose to pursue K-12 public school administrative positions often envision themselves becoming principals. However, there are some individuals who have been unable to achieve that goal. This study investigated perceived obstacles to promotion from the assistant principalship to the principalship. The study examined the shared experiences of assistant principals to determine if exposure and experience with certain types of activities and responsibilities better prepare assistant principals for the principalship. The study also explored the concept of being stuck in the role of assistant principal. The findings of the research support that being stuck as an assistant principal is largely a self-imposed barrier, in which assistant principals have found themselves stuck due to their own actions. These actions suggest and include damaged relationships with the principal (which could be caused by actions of the AP and/or the principal); poor decision making; patterns of mistakes made; assistant principals failing to seek additional experiences and opportunities. Although there were two study participants who felt stuck in the role of AP as a result of race and/or gender bias, these two individuals did achieve promotion to the district level, bypassing the principalship. Stuckness is hard to admit; however, the ability to become unstuck is dependent on the individual assistant principal seeking avenues for feedback and forgiveness if they have been involved in previous incidents or mistakes. In addition, school districts bare responsibility for creating opportunities for assistant principal growth and development through mentoring programs, professional development and a willingness to provide authentic feedback and support to assistant principals who seek help in getting unstuck.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Assistant Principals, Barriers, Principalship, Stuck
Assistant school principals $x Promotions
School principals $x Selection and appointment
Career plateaus
Self-defeating behavior
Educational leadership

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