Research Papers

AASA Research:

2015 AASA Economic Impact Survey
This survey is the 16th in a series conducted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, on the impact of the economic recession and related fiscal policies (like sequestration) on the nation's schools. The series was launched in 2008 in response to state budget shortfalls, federal aid and interventions and a series of additional events characterizing a slowing, stagnant economy. The survey's key findings included:

  • 83 percent of respondents described their district's current economic situation as 'inadequately funded.'
  • More than one‐third (39 percent) of respondents reported an increase in enrollment between the 2007‐08 and 2015‐16 school years, compared to 49 percent reporting a decrease and 12 percent reporting no change.
  • By a large number, respondents indicated growth in free/reduced price lunch (FRPL) eligibility rates.
  • One quarter (22 percent) of respondents indicated they had eliminated positions in each of the school years between 2007‐08 and 2014‐15. Only nine percent indicated they had not many any layoffs in a similar timeframe.
  • One‐fifth (19 percent) increased class size (student/teacher ratio) in 2015‐16, compared to 51 percent doing so prior to 2015‐16 and 54 percent in 2011‐12.
  • Only 14 percent of respondents indicated that their district has the ability within its budget to soften the impact of federal education funding cuts.


2014 Superintendent Salary and Benefits Study
This study, the third edition AASA has published, was released in February, 2015. The survey’s key findings included:


  • Base salaries ranged from $36,000 to $315,000, with an average salary of $122,000 and a median salary of $113,000. 
  • Respondents are predominately male (79 percent), White (94 percent) and from intermediate-sized districts (300-2,499 students) regardless of their gender. 
  • Female respondents were, on average, older than male respondents (53.1 to 51.7 percent respectively). 
  • A three-year trend of improving economic conditions continues. Slightly more than half of the respondents (53 percent) reported their districts’ economic conditions as stable (50 percent in 2013; 45 percent in 2012). 


 Common Core and Other State Standards
This study, released in June 2014, report follows a survey of superintendents nationwide which received more than 500 responses from 48 states. The report’s findings echoed the position AASA has taken on Common Core: we need to slow down to get it right.

The survey’s key findings included:

  • Superintendents overwhelmingly (92.5 percent) see the new standards as more rigorous than previous standards.
  • More than three quarters (78.3 percent) agree that the education community supports the standards, but that support drops to 51.4 percent among the general public.
  • Nearly three quarters of the respondents (73.3 percent) agree that the political debate has gotten in the way of the implementation of the new standards.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) say their input was never requested in the decision to adopt or develop new standards or in planning the implementation.
  • More than half (60.3 percent) of the respondents who had begun testing say they are facing problems with the tests.
  • Just under half (41.9 percent) say schools in their states are not ready to implement the online assessment, while 35.9 percent say they lack the infrastructure to support online assessments.

The results from the survey demonstrate that districts are working with limited resources to implement the new, more rigorous standards, despite technology deficits, a dearth of quality professional development materials for school personnel and a challenging national debate. These results reinforce the AASA position that the standards will be a positive change, if districts are given the necessary time and funding to properly implement the new standards and assessments. 

 2013 Superintendents Salary and Benefits Study
The 2013 Superintendents Salary and Benefits Study is the second of AASA's studies on superintendent salaries and compensation. The survey was distributed to more than 9,000 superintendents and generated a response rate of more than 25 percent—more than double the rate of the previous year’s study. Some of the report’s key findings included:

  • Nearly half of the participating superintendents described their districts’ economic conditions as stable while more than 40 percent described their districts’ economic conditions as “declining.
  • Median salaries grew with increasing district enrollment.
  • In most cases, median salaries for female superintendents were slightly higher than those for male superintendents.
  • Base median salaries increased by 1-2 percent from the 2012-13 to the 2013-14 school years.
  • The 2013 study showed a nearly 10 percent increase in superintendents who are subject to an annual evaluation.
  • The study also observed that 40 percent of superintendents indicated student performance data are included in their evaluations.

To access a copy of the public version of the 2013 Superintendents Salary and Benefits Study, click here. The full version, available to AASA members only, can be accessed here [pdf] This study is available to AASA members only.If you are not a member, become a member today. If you forgot your password click here.

2012 Superintendents Salary and Benefits Study
Until recently, most school superintendents have had to rely on the annual salary study sponsored by Education Research Service (ERS) to benchmark their compensation and benefits. With the recent closure of ERS, a void was created for such data. The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) responded to this need by creating a comprehensive study of the salary and benefits of school superintendents. AASA is particularly well-suited for this task because it represents vast majority of school superintendents in the country and has been most active in collecting and disseminating to its members critical data needed to inform decision making. In the absence of the ERS data collection efforts, this study represents the first such effort of its kind undertaken by the AASA in more than a decade. AASA is committed refined this work over time thus maximizing the benefit to superintendents. This work complements The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study (Kowalski et al. 2010) also sponsored by AASA and available from Roman & Littlefield Publishers (

AASA Members Detail Draconian Impact of Sequester's Cuts
School superintendents across the nation are bracing for the deep cuts of sequestration, the federal policy consequence for continued Congressional inaction. In a report released in February 2013 by AASA, hundreds of districts across the nation provided details describing what the cuts would look like in their district, reporting jobs cut, programs eliminated, and other negative impacts.

Cut Deep: How the Sequester Will Impact Our Nation’s Schools
This study, released in July 2012, is the thirteenth in a series of studies by AASA looking at the impact of the economic recession on the nation’s schools. Unlike earlier surveys in the series, though, this survey focused on one particular aspect of the recession: sequestration. This fiscal policy of across-the-board cuts to federal spending would cripple education funding, which has already taken disproportionate cuts at the federal, state and local levels. Survey respondents deliver a clear message to Congress about the need for clear action to avoid the drastic cuts, weigh in on the importance of making information about the sequester available, and detail how the cuts—expected to be eight or nine percent reductions—would impact their school districts.

Weathering the Storm: How the Economic Recession Continues to Impact Schools
This study, released in March 2012, is the twelfth in a series of studies by AASA examining the impact of the economic downturn on schools. Schools anticipate continued budget cuts, and this study shows little relief in current or upcoming school years. The nation’s school districts, already operating in their fourth consecutive year of budget cuts, do not anticipate returning to prerecession funding levels for several years, and survey respondents illustrate how the recession continues to impact their schools and operating budgets. The survey also asked about sequestration, and school administrators demonstrate a pragmatic understanding and anticipation of the potentially deep cuts that sequestration would cause and support a call to Congress to take action to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts.

Surviving a Thousand Cuts: America's Public Schools and the Recession
This study, released in December 2010, is the tenth in a series of studies by AASA examining the impact of the economic downturn on schools. This study finds that school districts report continued erosion of fiscal resources available to school districts, an erosion compounded by the ending of federal stimulus dollars. School budget cuts across the country continue and are expected to continue into the 2012-13 school year. School administrators also weigh in on the specific legislative and policy issues they think Congress should focus on as the 112th Congress starts in January.

Impact of Preventing Projected Educator Layoffs for 2010-11 School Year
This new analysis looks at state-by-state data on maximum and average unemployment benefits as well as state-by-state data on beginning and average teacher salary to benchmark not only the stimulative benefits of Congressional action and additional funding, but also the economic ramifications of failure to act and the resulting sudden uptick in unemployment across the nation.

Projection of National Education Job Cuts for the 2010-11 School Year
This survey of superintendents, released in May 2010, documents the prospect of personnel cuts for the coming 2010-11 school year. Based on these survey results, AASA estimates that the national total for education jobs cuts will be 275,000 in 2010-11.

Video: Highlights from the Job Cuts Survey


Cliff Hanger: How America’s Public Schools Continue to Feel the Impact of the Economic Downturn
This study, released in April 2010, is the seventh in a series of studies by AASA examining the impact of the economic downturn on schools. Compounding an already tough budget environment, schools are facing the harsh reality that stimulus funds will soon run out and the Obama Administration’s proposal to shift additional education dollars away from long-time formula grant programs to competitive grant programs.

Video: Highlights from the "Cliff Hanger" survey:


One Year Later: How the Economic Downturn Continues to Impact School Districts
This study, released in October 2009, reports that districts in every part of the nation are being forced to make cuts that directly impact student learning and achievement. The data also suggest some states played a “shell game” with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

 Schools and the Stimulus: How America’s Public School Districts Are Using ARRA Funds
This survey of AASA members, released in August 2009, finds that federal stimulus funds for education are flowing to states and local school districts, but many of the dollars are simply backfilling budget holes, limiting the ability of districts to implement innovative reforms.

AASA Survey on H1N1/Swine Flu Guidance
This snapshot AASA survey, released in August 2009, finds school leaders anticipating potential H1N1 issues. 

 2009 AASA Summer Survey Series: Common Standards & Pay for Performance
This study, released in July 2009, found AASA members have a diversity of opinions about pay-for-performance programs
and an overall support for common standards.

Pay-for-Performance Survey(PDF)
This study, released in July 2009, explores the possibility and potential for performance pay in schools.

2009 RTI Survey Report
This survey, released in June 2009  by Spectrum K12, CASE, NASDSE, AASA and State Title 1 Directors, indicate strong and rapid support for Response to Intervention. See survey press release.

Looking Back, Looking Forward: How the Economic Downturn Continues to Impact School Districts
This study, released in March 2009, reports that school administrators are being forced to make significant cuts in 2009-10 school budgets.

 AASA Impact of the Economic Downturn on School Jobs Snapshot Survey
This study, released in January 2009, reveals that school districts across the nation plan to eliminate jobs in the 2009-2010 school year, including classroom instructors in all subject areas.

AASA Opportunity for Federal Education Funding Survey
This study, released in December 2008, identifies public school projects that would stimulate the economy and improve schools.

AASA Study of the Impact of the Economic Downturn on Schools
This study, released in November 2008, reports that districts in every region of the country are feeling the impact of the economic downturn.

AASA Fuel and Energy Snapshot Survey
This study, released in July 2008, asked school superintendents about the effect of rising fuel and energy costs on their school districts.

2007 State of the Superintendency Survey: Aspiring to the Superintendency
This study, released in June 2008, offers a snapshot of the state of the pipeline to the superintendency.

The State of the American School Superintendency: A Mid-Decade Study
This study, released in September 2007, provides the largest and most comprehensive look at the men and women leading the nation's public schools.

AASA National Superintendent of the Year Forum Papers:

  • 2008 - The transformation of public schools
  • 2007 - Improving learning outcomes for all students
  • 2006 - Leadership and student achievement; public schools and the global economy; innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to public education
  • 2005 - Challenges superintendents face; the future of public education