“A great teacher can create and sustain a great classroom, but only a principal can create and sustain a great school,” said NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly, summing up NAESP’s reaction to a recent event in which President Barack Obama discussed his administration’s priorities for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, still formally called No Child Left Behind).

Connelly, who attended the invitation-only event at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA, said she was encouraged by President Obama’s call for investing in education as the key to our nation’s future as he called upon Congress to address our country’s serious deficit without cutting funding to education.

“We cannot cut education. We can’t cut the things that will make America more competitive,” Obama said. “A budget that sacrifices our commitment to education would be a budget that’s sacrificing our country’s future,” he added. “That would be a budget that sacrifices our children’s future.” (Watch a video of the event and read the transcript here.)

NAESP agrees there is an urgency to reauthorize ESEA to address serious flaws in NCLB, Connelly said, adding that the Association continues to support some of the administration’s education proposals and policies and “respectfully disagrees” with others.

“One fundamental area of agreement,” she noted, “is the shared commitment between NAESP and the Obama administration to providing our nation’s children with access to high-quality education. NAESP believes that doing so requires lawmakers to transform ESEA so it strengthens the federal investment in the professional development of principals, who serve as the ‘first responders’ of school improvement.” (See NAESP’s recommendations for improving ESEA.)

Connelly advised policymakers and educators alike to stay focused on the right priority—funding and supporting research-based strategies that are proven to strengthen schools. “Let’s be clear,” she said. “If we want to strengthen schools, we must invest in strengthening principals.”

NAESP calls on Congress to strengthen ESEA by enacting two proposals:

  1. Support Novice Principals to Enhance their Effectiveness

Increase the federal support for professional development programs targeted for novice principals (those with three or fewer years of service) that provide high-quality, standards-based mentoring.

Mentoring and coaching programs close the gaps in principal preparation and provide novice principals with the support and tools they needed to meet the complex challenges of school leadership. Developing the professional capacity of novice principals to effectively lead learning communities provides our best opportunity for improved student learning for all children

  1. Strengthen Early Childhood Education

Increase federal support for professional development programs that provide principals with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively align early childhood education and the primary grades.

Research irrefutably supports the correlation between a child’s access to robust early learning experiences and his or her subsequent academic and lifelong success. Providing resources to elementary principals, in particular, is essential in the successful alignment between early childhood education and primary grades so all children—especially those at risk—can succeed in school and in life.

NAESP supports elementary and middle-level principals as primary catalysts for creating a lasting foundation for learning, driving school and student performance, and shaping the long-term impact of school improvements.

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