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How Rural and Nonrural Principals Differ in High Plains U.S. States

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 90, No. 2

Andrea D. Beesley, IMPAQ International
Tedra F. Clark, McREL International


This article discusses the characteristics of rural versus nonrural principals in the High Plains states. It is based on data from the Schools and Staffing Survey, examining the differences in preparation and experience and the extent to which characteristics of the rural principalship (perceptions of autonomy, workload, etc.) predicted retention. In this study, significant differences were found between rural and nonrural principals on demographic variables. Rural principals reported greater influence over their curriculum, but less influence over the use of the school budget. Overall, rural principals had slightly lower perceptions of autonomy than did nonrural principals, and greater autonomy predicted greater rural principal retention.


Andrea D. Beesley, a senior research associate at IMPAQ International, has 15 years of experience in managing large research projects, proposal development, program evaluation, quantitative research (experimental and quasi-experimental designs), qualitative research, instrument development, and instructional design in education and health. She focuses particularly on teacher quality, motivation, STEM education, classroom assessment, curriculum efficacy, and rural schools. Beesley earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Oklahoma.

Tedra F. Clark, a senior researcher at McREL International, has over 12 years of research experience in both basic cognitive science and applied education fields. Her main areas of interest include classroom assessment, student-centered learning, experimental and quasi-experimental research design, multilevel statistical analysis (HLM), and longitudinal growth modeling of student outcomes. She earned a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Denver.