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AASA’s Decennial Study Defines Current State of the Superintendency

AASA’s latest 10-year state of the superintendency study captures trends that are defining the way school system leaders in America today approach their day-to-day work.

Preliminary findings of the 2020 “AASA Decennial Study of the Superintendent” are being released at the AASA national conference in San Diego with the full study being published and distributed in the spring. The project was overseen by Christopher H. Tienken, an associate professor of education leadership, management and policy at Seton Hall University, who served as editor.

The study provides statistical data and analysis about characteristics of superintendents and their employing districts; career pathways of superintendents; the current work of the superintendent; professional learning of the superintendent; and community relationships.

The 2020 study’s findings, based on survey answers from 1,218 superintendents across the country, included these:

  • The typical superintendent is a married white male, who had prior experience as a principal, with 2-8 years of experience as a superintendent.
  • The percentage of female superintendents increased slightly from 2010 when it was 24.1 percent to 26.7 percent in 2020.
  • Superintendents reported that they were satisfied (43 percent) or very satisfied (49 percent) with their job.
  • Superintendents identified the four most time-consuming issues they address are school finance (45 percent), personnel management (41 percent), conflict management (37 percent) and superintendent/board member relations (35 percent) consumed most of their time.
  • Almost all superintendents (96 percent) held membership in state superintendent associations and 71 percent said they were members of AASA.

The new decennial study of the American school superintendent is an extension of 10-year national surveys that began under AASA management in 1923. The research for the new report was conducted in late 2019 and early 2020. The results are presented in various ways throughout the study, ranging from aggregate findings to two- and three-level crosstabs that disaggregate data by eight enrollment categories.

Similar to previous decennial studies, the various job-related happenings of superintendents are not always homogeneous. The findings can be influenced by a multitude of factors such as district enrollment, demographic characteristics of the superintendents and characteristics of the students and communities they serve.

In his foreword in the report, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech said: “The work is difficult, the hours are long, and the job comes with unique challenges and difficulties. Still, superintendents come back to work, reporting high levels of job satisfaction.”

The 2020 study, likes its 2010 predecessor “The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study,is published in book format by Rowman and Littlefield. To obtain a copy, contact Chris Rogers of the AASA public policy department at

Rogers, a policy analyst, will offer a deep dive into the results of the decennial report at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.

(Jay P. Goldman is editor of AASA’s Conference Daily Online and School Administrator magazine.)

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