While school reform literature calls attention to incentives for teachers, little research or policy making has focused on school administrators′ incentives. Career incentives perceived by a sample of elementary school principals and the influence of career background on those incentives are examined. It was found, using both qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, that principals perceive their career as having economic, ancillary and task‐related rewards. However, principals varied in the kinds of incentives they preferred and the nature of their future goals. Principals who have moved among several school districts in their administrative careers are more likely to be satisfied and to emphasise incentives, such as contact with school constituencies, which come from staying in the principalship. In contrast, principals who have remained in the same district throughout their administrative careers are more likely to prefer those incentives which advancement to central office can offer.
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