Principals have been in American schools for more than a century, in fact there are more principals than any other administrative office in education. The principal serves as a sort of middle person. He/she serves as a liason between central administration and the teachers. The education field was not always organized this way. Originally, students were taught in one room schools with every age group, ability level, and subject taught by one teacher. As population increased and schools started to provide more services it was clear that there was a need for more teachers to help carry out the teaching and clerical duties.

These changes came along in the middle of the 19th century. The original principal was actually called a principal teacher. A principal teacher was required to fulfill many roles in the community. They were the teachers, town clerks, grave diggers, church choristers, court messengers, and sometimes even the church bell ringers. The concept of a principal teacher started at the high school level and eventually caught on at the primary level of education. Eventually, the teaching and other duties that were required became too time consuming and they strictly concentrated on managing the schools. This is when they dropped the 'teacher' in their role as principal teacher. Today, the role of principal is much like it was at the time they stopped teaching. Their main focus is on leadership and the managing of the school as well as serving as a liason between the teachers and central administration.


Goldman, THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, The Center for Applied Research, 1966

Prepared by Lisa S. Schroeder