The Principals' Office Blog

Soar to Seattle

Starbucks! The Space Needle! Pike Place Market! Did we mention Starbucks?

NAESP’s 86th Annual Convention and Exposition is just a few months away and for the first time will be held in Seattle, Washington. Thousands of principals will convene in "Emerald City" from March 29-April 2 for the largest professional development experience created exclusively for elementary and middle-level principals and assistant principals. NAESP's Convention will feature some terrific speakers, including the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman; author and educator, Jonathan Kozol; and educator, Erin Gruwell.
To register, visit

If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands

A happy student doesn’t necessarily translate to a high-achieving student, a report by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy concludes. The report’s author Tom Loveless writes that “Despite the call to make schools more relevant, there is little evidence that relevance increases student engagement…Real student engagement is not about keeping students happy, boosting their self-esteem, or convincing them that what they are learning is relevant; it’s about acquiring new knowledge and skills and pursuing the activities that contribute to that attainment.”

The report—“How Well Are American Students Learning?—is based on national and international testing data and evaluates the role that student happiness and confidence play in achievement. Loveless is quoted in the Boston Globe saying, “The implication is not ‘Let’s go make kids unhappy. It’s ‘Let’s give kids better signals as to how they’re performing, relative to the rest of the world.”

This New Jersey Principal is a Jeopardy Champion—Who is Andrew Espinoza?

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings made a strong showing on last week’s episode of “Celebrity Jeopardy,” coming in second place. But the Secretary wasn’t the only recent educator to appear on Jeopardy. Last month, New Jersey middle school principal Andrew Espinoza appeared on the show. Andrew was a Jeopardy champion the first night after he responded to the clue, “Introduced in a 1981 novel, this big-screen character tops the AFI's 2003 list of all-time great movie villains.” While most of us were thinking Darth Vader, Andrew correctly answered, “Who is Hannibal Lecter? Congrats to Andrew.

Move over Katie Couric

Guest blogger and Oklahoma principal Jan Borelli recently told us that we should keep our eyes open for one of the newer forms of technology—podcasting. Today, Jan joins her colleague and fellow podcaster, Arizona principal Steve Poling, with the debut of “Principal Necessities,” a new feature where key education figures, authors, and specialists discuss issues, trends, and concerns that are facing principals and other members of the education community. The first broadcast features popular author and presenter, Dr. Ruby Payne, who discusses discipline strategies for the classroom. You can hear Jan and Steve’s interview with Dr. Payne by clicking here.

Is ‘Healthy Celebration’ an Oxymoron?

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and we’re certain that many schools soon will be planning classroom or schoolwide holiday celebrations for their students. But as reported in the December issue of NAESP’s Communicator newsletter, some schools have cut back or completely eliminated sweets and other unhealthy foods from their festivities. Instead of cookies and cupcakes, they will be feasting on fruit and veggies, among other healthy spreads—all for the sake of children’s health. Some schools have even banned food altogether from celebrations. Have these schools gone too far? What effect have the mandated wellness policies had on your school?

A Sprint to the Finish

In the midst of all the meetings and paperwork that principals have, there is not always enough time to conduct daily classroom observations. But principals in Charlotte, North Carolina, are finding that informal "Three-Minute Classroom Walk-Throughs" can be a welcome complement to formal teacher observations. While there was some initial skepticism to the technique that has principals dashing through the classroom in three-minute intervals, principals and teachers there agree that it is an effective way to help improve teacher quality and also sends a strong message that "academics are a top priority." Tell us what you think about using this technique or share other techniques that you use for informal classroom observations.

Watch Your Step

According to a study in this month’s issue of Pediatrics Magazine, an average of 17,000 children in the U.S. wind up in hospital emergency rooms each year because of school bus-related injuries. Children, ages 10 to 14, accounted for the greatest number of injuries, which includes slips and falls on buses and getting pushed when buses stop or turn suddenly. The researchers said the results provide a strong argument for requiring safety belts on school buses. The National Coalition for School Bus Safety reports that just a handful of states—California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York—and some districts have implemented safety belt requirements for school buses.

Read how two principals deal with school bus safety:

Montana Principal Pat Hould writes: Because I live in a rural state and because so many of my students ride a bus, often times for good amounts of time each day, bus safety is a big concern for us. Two things have helped to ensure that my students are safer while riding the bus. Our bus drivers have had ongoing training in proper driving procedures/techniques AND camera equipment has been installed on each of our buses. The cameras help monitor student behavior while the bus is in motion and allow the drivers to pay closer attention to the road.

California Principal Dolores Vasquez writes: Administrators can assist with student safety by knowing the bus drivers and talking to them about the students.  We also need to work with our students and parents about appropriate bus behaviors—if not followed, parents become responsible for transportation. The transportation needs in California’s urban and suburban districts generally do not require long drives (except in Los Angeles Unified), so many students can walk or carpool to school.

Will E-books Replace Traditional Textbooks?

The Dallas Morning News reports that more school districts are replacing hardbound textbooks with electronic textbooks, including three districts in Texas. The reason? E-books can be accessed online or downloaded onto a laptop computer and can be updated more frequently than traditional textbooks. But the article doesn’t mention the still prevalent digital divide. What happens if a student doesn’t have access to a computer? Or if the school district doesn’t have enough funding to provide laptops for all of the students? The digital divide may have decreased, but there is still a divide. Check out Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003, the most recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Tell us what you think. Are e-books the wave of the future?

When Did Google Become a Verb?, Part II

Yesterday, they weighed in on whether educators are being left behind when it comes to new technology. Today, principals discuss how they try to stay up-to-date with the latest technology.

Alabama Principal Frank Buck writes: For me, reading has been the key to staying up on trends in technology. Subscriptions to several tech-related magazines, participation in several listservs, and trying to catch a webinar here and there, help me to stay somewhat abreast of where our world is headed. A wise man once told me, "Be not the first the embrace the new or the last to set aside the old," and I try to heed that advice as I read.

Arizona Principal Stephen Poling writes: School districts need strong technology plans that are integrated into the teaching and learning that is taking place in the classrooms. We need to be brave, think big, and plan small steps along the way to keep schools a relevant place for kids.

Missouri Principal Teresa Tulipana writes: Staying up with the latest technology can be challenging. Thankfully, I work in a district that values technology as a tool for learning as well as a tool for making our work more efficient. Every month the district’s technology department provides a 30 minute mini-training for the administrative team. The training is embedded into our regular administrator meetings and ranges from Outlook Tips to How to Effectively Prepare a Power Point Presentation.  Oftentimes there are also topics specific to new technology such as our PDA’s or online benchmark assessments. Another great resource is the free publication Edutopia, which is produced by the George Lucas Education Foundation and focuses on innovative teaching and learning using a variety of media.

Montana Principal Pat Hould writes: I am blessed to have three staff members who are very technology savvy and I seek their counsel often. One of my staff has a designated class period as our technology liaison and her specific job during that daily period is to assist staff directly with their tech questions. Our district has two technology specialists and I utilize their assistance for "help" type support when my staff is unable to assist me. The support I have described is primarily troubleshooting in nature, but it does allow me to stay current with the software programs that are utilized within our district.

Oklahoma Principal Jan Borelli writes: Staying up-to-date with technology is simply a matter of using it. I began writing a blog a couple of years ago. I have met other bloggers, and they have introduced me to things that developed my skills. Using technology is an evolving process. The more you use it, the more you learn to use it. The word to keep an eye out for is Pod casting.

When Did Google Become a Verb?

Remember floppy disks and reel-to-reel projectors and when we called the Internet the “information superhighway?” Changes in technology occur so frequently that if you blink, you might miss them. It can be a challenge for educators to keep pace when their students are often 10 steps ahead of them. We asked some principals whether they feel that educators are being left behind in technology and here’s what they had to say...

Alabama Principal Frank Buck writes: Being on the "cutting edge" is really hard, because the "edge" never stays still. On the other hand, the basics of word processing and spreadsheet management have been around for over 20 years now, and an amazing number of teachers still think "cut and paste" is something you do with scissors and glue. Offer a technology workshop on the basics, and you won't find them there. Who do you find? The teachers who are already pretty good with technology, see it as a friend, and want to take their skills to the next level.

Montana Principal Pat Hould writes: Unless educators are able to participate in meaningful and sustained staff development opportunities, we will be left behind. Technology training, if it is truly going to be meaningful, must be ongoing and not offered as a stand alone or "drive-by" type in-service. Summer institutes and/or weekend type trainings, coupled with ongoing tech support "in house," seem to be the best sources of technology development for my staff.

Missouri Principal Teresa Tulipana writes: Technology is expensive and for educators to not be left behind, school districts must budget with technology in mind. When budgets cannot support the technology needs of a school, grants should be pursued, like the eMINTS program. Having said this, I still see pockets of educators who struggle to turn on a laptop or to effectively search the Internet. Administrators must provide numerous opportunities for teachers to stretch their technological skills; administrators should highlight staff who embed technology into their curriculum and classrooms; and, most importantly, administrators must strive to keep current and model the effective use of technology.

Oklahoma Principal Jan Borelli writes: There must be a sound technology leader in the district who can not only drive innovation, but also make it inviting. I think we will see a change in a lot of things... particularly how we assess students. Our state is now beginning testing some students on the computer... it's easier, cheaper, and is coming... keep an eye out for it.

Arizona Principal Stephen Poling writes: The students are many steps ahead with technology, which is just fine. That should motivate educators to try to catch up so that we can engage students to use technology. Looking at the popularity of sites like You Tube and My Space should give educators ideas as well as incentives to see how we can use those types of mediums for teaching the standards. If educators aren’t careful, we will be too far behind in technology to engage kids in learning.

Do you think educators are being left behind? Let us know your thoughts.

Tomorrow, read how these principals stay abreast of the latest technological changes.

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