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Happy Leader Project

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Happy Leader Project

Happy Leader Project

Educational leaders occupy a distinctive space in the landscape of American education. While they work among many others, they often stand alone at their school sites shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for school success–often with very little peer or supervisor support. They often act simultaneously as a buffer and liaison between the school and the outside world. Within the school, they have myriad responsibilities requiring a wide range of skills. In recent decades, school leaders have also faced increased accountability demands while, more recently, having to negotiate protracted COVID pandemic conditions as well as intensifying political divisions. It is no wonder that school leaders can experience their work as both challenging and stimulating but also overwhelming, demanding, and exhausting. Even before the start of the pandemic, school leaders reported experiencing more stress and less satisfaction in their jobs than in years past. As a result, more than 25% of principals leave their jobs each year, with 50% leaving by year five, and 60-80% leaving by year six. 

If ever there was a time to study educational leader well-being, the time is now. Despite growing interest in student and teacher well-being and working conditions, educational leader well-being and working conditions remain woefully understudied–in particular for early care and education (ECE) leaders. The purpose of the Happy Leader Project is to take a holistic and comprehensive approach to understanding the work of educational leaders serving a wide-range of student age groups–one which examines their working conditions and the effects these have on their physical, psychological, and professional well-being. In their role in shaping school community and culture, Happy Leaders make for Happy Teachers and Happy Students! We see the Happy Leader Project working in concert with the other Happy Together projects to make key improvements to the American education system and to generate better outcomes for present and future generations.

In Summer 2022, we completed our first national survey of ECE and K-12 leaders. A summary of these results are below. Summer 2023, we launched our second national survey. Stay tuned for those results beginning this Fall 2023.

Our Team Members

Our Research

The Happy Teacher Project

2022 Working Conditions and Well-being of Early Childhood and K-12 Leaders

  • 2,347 leaders responded
  • 1,486 K-12 leaders
  • 861 ECE Leaders
  • 42% suburban
  • 32% rural
  • 26% urban
  • Average of 55 hours of work a week
  • 77% say the workload is very high
  • 5 of 7 average autonomy (Over 7 Key Areas of Building Leadership)
  • 2.5 of 7 average self-care report
  • 78% overweight/obese (BMI of 25 or higher-CDC guidlines)
  • 24% high blood pressure (docotor diagnosed at any point in lifetime)
  • 50% fast food (2 or more times/week)
  • 36% moderate-to-vigorous excerise (3 or more times/week)
  • 51% have trouble sleeping (4 or more nights waking up/can't sleep)
  • 38% depression symptoms (at high risk of depression)
  • 26% anxiety (doctor diagnosed at any point in lifetime)
  • 63% are satifised with their job
  • 60% rarely feel isolated in the workplace
  • 29% likely to leave position in the next year

PI: Dr. Tim Ford

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Jeannine Rainbold College of Education



Coming Soon!