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Middle School Principal

A middle school principal is the lead school administrator in a school that is referred to as a middle school or junior high and is placed between a primary or elementary school and a senior high school. The article describes training to become a middle school principal and focuses on the responsibilities of the job.

The National Center for Education Statistics defines a middle school as fitting within the parameters of 4 as the lowest grade and 9 as the highest. The following grade-level arrangements are found in United States public schools in the 2008-2009 school year:

Lowest Grade  4

Lowest Grade  5

Lowest Grade  6

Lowest Grade  7

Lowest Grade  8





















There are also schools with only grade 9.

Although the popular idea of a middle school may be a school for children who are going through puberty, with a little reflection you can see from this list that a middle school principal could be dealing with pre-adolescents, primarily adolescents, or a mix, depending on the particular school configuration. This article explores the role of a middle school principal.        

Middle Schools

Since the work environment does much to shape the middle school principal’s job, let’s examine the nature of middle schools for a moment. Except in districts with a single school K-12 or two schools, the second of which is joined to the high school, middle school is generally a transition school between elementary school and high school.

Middle school students have - unless they come in from a home school - usually had a number of years of experience of a school and how it runs. They are familiar with the routines of classroom works and projects and homework.

Crucially, middle school students are likely to be approaching and going through puberty. So, in addition to preparing for the greater academic demands of high school, they are adjusting to the differences in their bodies, emotions, and psychology that comes with the onset of adolescence. Understanding child development and the adolescent experience is thus a crucial element of the middle school principal’s qualifications.

Training to be a Middle School Principal

Middle school principals generally must have at least a Master’s Degree and a minimum of five years of experience. Experience in lesser administrative roles, such as assistant principal or similar role may also be looked on favorably.

Responsibilities of a Middle School Principal

The responsibilities of a middle school principal, as with all school administrators, are dependent on the school’s administrative team. The presence or absence of an assistant principal is an important element in shaping the scope of work falling to the middle school principal.

The roles of the principal’s employers, i.e., the school board and or district administrators, such as a Directory of Secondary Education or a Superintendent will also play a role. If, however, there is no one else sharing the role, the middle school’s principles responsibilities include the following:

  • School Vision   The middle school principal provides the leadership and the vision that guide the direction of the school both in developing goals for teaching and learning and in setting its curriculum. Besides setting the tone for the workplace, the principal must bring a critical eye to present practice without disheartening the staff, and engage them in the approaches that will lead to the desired results. This requires an  up-to-date knowledge of educational research and practice.
  • School as Business The middle school principal may be responsible for building management, financial management, and all the record-keeping that accompanies both. This includes purchasing and maintenance of school equipment and supplies, the physical plant, school safety, school budget and finances, scheduling of school facilities for internal and community use, and planning.
  • Staff  The middle school principal may be responsible for hiring and evaluating the school’s teachers and other employees and maintaining employee records. He or she takes on the role of supervisor for this staff and is responsible for overseeing their professional development as well as disciplinary issues. As the school leader, the middle school principal assists, supports, and cooperates with staff efforts in curriculum and instruction, and keeps them abreast of any mandates or other requirements from local, state, or federal authorities.
  • Students  The middle school principal generally needs to be highly visible to students in order to maintain order and discipline and to instill a sense of community and making a welcoming school environment. The principal has a role both in overseeing students activities, both in and out of the classroom, including intramurals, athletics, and other extracurricular clubs, sports, and activities, and in finding ways to acknowledge student achievement.
  • Assessment  The principal is in charge of assessment including assessment of students who may qualify for special education and meeting local, state, and federal mandates, such as the testing required for No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The principal maintains his or her understanding of special education and other law in order to carry out this role, and is responsible for reporting results to the various interested parties, including students and their parents, in ways that are meaningful and easy to understand.
  • Parents and Community  The middle school principal represents the school to the outside world, including to parents and the neighboring community. The principal is ultimately responsible to speak to parents concerns about their child’s schooling and for good relations between the school and its neighbors. In this capacity, the principal may address questions such as educational placement, assessment results, disciplinary matters, when dealing with parents and noise, school building availability, and joint recreational efforts, when dealing with the larger community.
  • Supervisor/Boss  The middle school principle has the responsibility to report to the school board and/or the district on the results of educational efforts, assessments, budgetary, and personnel matters. The principal will also maintain cordial relationships with the principals of feeder schools and of the high school that the middle school graduates attend, taking care of incoming and outgoing records as students move through the system.


National Center for Education Statistics: The Condition of Education: Glossary -

National Center for Education Statistics: Numbers and Types of Public Elementary and Secondary Schools From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2006-07 - First Look -

Vermont Department of Education: Principal Endorsement - Informational Interviews: Elementary Principal -