Salary, Performance, and Superintendent Turnover

Jason A. Grissom, Hajime Mitani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose: Superintendent retention is an important goal for many school districts, yet the factors contributing to superintendent turnover are poorly understood. Most prior quantitative studies of superintendent turnover have relied on small, cross-sectional samples, limiting the evidence base. Utilizing longitudinal administrative records from Missouri, we employ panel methods to investigate factors that predict turnover, including superintendent salary and district performance. Research Methods: We model turnover probability as a function of superintendent and district characteristics. Further investigation differentiates types of turnover, including movement to other superintendent positions and exits from the system. A series of binary and multinomial regression models with district, labor market, and/or superintendent fixed effects are estimated. Findings: Like prior cross-sectional work, we find that district characteristics such as size and student race/ethnicity predict superintendent turnover, but only before district fixed effects are included. Districts with lower test scores also have higher rates of turnover, though we also find surprising evidence of nonlinearities, with lower turnover in the lowest performing districts. Superintendent salary is an especially strong turnover predictor; even with district and superintendent fixed effects, higher paid superintendents are substantially more likely to stay, an association that is even stronger in high-performing districts. Moreover, moves to new superintendent positions are associated with substantial salary gains and systematic changes in district characteristics, such as increases in district size and achievement level, with rural districts losing superintendents to urban and suburban districts. Implications: Increasing superintendent salary may be a worthwhile strategy for retaining superintendents, and may be especially important in smaller and rural districts and districts with lower student achievement whose superintendents are more likely to move to higher paying positions in larger, higher performing districts in more urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-391
Number of pages41
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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