The steppingstone to the principalship: Assessing the job satisfaction and upward mobility of assistant principals




Oleszewski, Ashley M.

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Assistant principals (APs) are critical members of leadership teams. Unfortunately, this position has been underutilized in schools (Austin & Brown, 1970; Glanz, 1994; Harvey, 1994) and under-researched (Glanz, 1994; Kaplan & Owings, 1999; Marshall & Hooley, 2006; Ribbins, 1997). As a growing number of principals leave the position (Fink & Brayman, 2004; Frankel & Hayot, 2001; Maddern, 2009; Shoho & Barnett, 2010), the most likely replacements are assistant principals (Daresh & Voss, 2001; Denmark & Davis, 2001).

The purpose of this study was to identify the characteristics of career and upwardly mobile APs, compare the characteristics of upwardly mobile and career APs, and construct a predictive model of which APs become upwardly mobile. The results revealed that when compared to career APs, upwardly mobile APs spend more time on evaluation and development of curriculum and instruction, community relations, internal affairs, and personal professional development. There is a significant gap in time and importance for community relations between upwardly mobile and career APs. Similarly, upwardly mobile APs have fewer years in their current position than career APs. They are more likely to be a member of and participate in professional organizations and apply for and receive promotion. Upwardly mobile APs are associated with higher levels of job satisfaction in the area of leadership abilities. Finally, the personal professional development job dimension factor and personal challenge and leadership abilities job satisfaction factors significantly predicted upwardly mobile APs. From these results, it is recommended that further research focus on professional development and leadership abilities.


The author has granted permission for their work to be available to the general public.


Assistant Principals, Educational Leadership



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies