Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Kathryn Swetnam


AbstractPrincipal turnover has a negative influence on the stability of a school’s culture and climate and on student achievement. Many U.S. principals leave their positions by the end of their 2nd year, and this number is disproportionately higher for low-income school districts. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to investigate middle and high school principals’ perceptions of factors influencing administrator turnover at Title I schools across a southeastern U.S. state. Herzberg’s two-factor theory of motivation grounded this study. The research questions were focused on principals’ perceptions of motivation and hygiene factors. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 purposively selected middle and high school Title I principals who had a minimum of 2 years as principals in their schools. Content analysis using a priori, open, and pattern coding revealed six themes. The findings indicate that opportunities to influence the school environment, a personal connection to work, and a purpose or calling motivated participants. The principals wanted to support students whose backgrounds were similar to their own and to help their staff members grow. Participants perceived demanding work requirements (meeting community needs and keeping good staff), lack of district leaders’ engagement and support, and bureaucratic district and state policies as factors that decreased job satisfaction. District and state educational leaders may use the findings of this study to identify opportunities, strategies, and policy improvements to mitigate hygiene factors and increase motivation factors to attract and retain high-quality principals. School leaders may be able to shape local, state, and national policies to increase the academic achievement of students attending Title I schools, thus effecting positive social change for students, urban campuses, and communities.