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What Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals Do

Elementary, middle, and high school principals lead teachers and other members of school staff. They manage the day-to-day operations of elementary, middle, and high schools. They set goals and objectives and evaluate the school’s progress toward meeting them.


Elementary, middle, and high school principals typically do the following:

Elementary, middle, and high school principals manage the overall operation of schools, including building maintenance and cafeteria services. In addition, they set and oversee academic standards and ensure that teachers have the tools and resources, such as training, necessary to meet these standards. Principals establish the school as a resource to students and their families, by ensuring schools have strong counseling, a special education program, and before- and after-school child care programs.

Principals serve as the public face of their school. They meet with superintendents, legislators, and members of the community to ensure the school has the resources it needs to serve its students. They are also responsible for responding to the concerns of parents and members of the community.

The job duties of principals vary by the size of the school and the school district. In larger schools and districts, principals have more resources and staff to help them achieve goals and meet standards. For example, large school districts may have instructional coordinators who help with data analysis and with teachers' professional development. However, principals in large districts may have less flexibility and may need to follow rules and guidelines set at the district level. Those in small school districts need to do all of these duties themselves and may have more flexibility to try new ideas.

Many schools have assistant principals that help principals with school administration. Assistant principals often take the lead on student safety and discipline. They may interact with the students more than the principal does. In addition, assistant principals may administer student activities, help coordinate buses, and supervise building and grounds maintenance. Larger schools may have several assistant principals.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition