A new survey of more than 600 school principals finds California’s school leaders in a difficult position.

Historic budget cutbacks present significant challenges to classroom teachers, thereby increasing the importance of the role principals as a source of instructional leadership and support.

However, California’s disinvestment in its schools is also expanding school management responsibilities for principals. Facing growing demands and declining resources, school principals increasingly struggle to find the time, resources and capacity to meet the dual challenges of effective school management and ensuring quality instruction for students.

These findings and others can be found in The Status of the Teaching Profession 2011, the annual report on California’s educator workforce by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd with research by SRI International.

Research shows that second only to classroom teachers, school principals play a key role in improving student achievement.” – Holly Jacobson Director Center Future of Teaching and Learning

Budget cuts and increasing accountability pressures are clearly making the job harder. Just as teachers most need their support, principals have more to do, and less time, resources and support to do it,” Jacobson said.

In addition to its findings on school principals, the report provides new information on key issues impacting the teaching workforce, including more than $ 100 million in cutbacks to teacher professional development, a dramatic decline of more than 50% in the enrollment of prospective teachers in training programs, a 40% drop in the production of newly credentialed teachers, and escalating retirements. The report also makes clear that California does not have the data system it needs to inform and guide future education policy decisions.

California has increased its educational expectations, embracing the new Common Core State Standards and more meaningful systems of assessment, but historic budget cuts are impacting the abilities of teachers and principals to do their jobs.” –  Patrick Shields  SRI International

Amid an increasing state and national focus on teaching quality, the report also examines the capacity of principals to conduct teacher evaluations. While the majority of principals have prior experience in key areas of evaluation, more than one-third of principals say they had no or minimal experience in formally evaluating teachers prior to becoming a principal.

When it comes to using the information to strengthen teaching, just over one half of principals strongly agree that their administrative team has the expertise needed to conduct classroom observations to identify teachers’ areas of need.

California’s principals face significant challenges in meeting their dual responsibilities as school managers and instructional leaders and they are frustrated by the time consuming chore of removing unsatisfactory teachers, no matter how few those may be,” says Jacobson.

The report also includes recommendations for strengthening teaching and leadership in California’s schools. The recommendations are focused on improving the state’s system of teacher development and evaluation in ways that strengthen the quality of classroom practice and address the challenge of preparing for the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards.

The recommendations also encourage the development of data systems capable of providing policymakers and educators with the information needed to promote student learning, strengthen the teacher and principal workforce and address educational equity issues.