The Principals' Office Blog

Cheers to the New Year!

The Principals’ Office will be taking a break for the next two weeks. Check back in with us in January for continued discussions of the complexities of the principalship and engaging posts that connect you with your colleagues.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season and all the best for the new year!

Should Zeros Be Permitted?

The January/February 2008 Speaking Out article addresses whether or not to give students a zero grade for an incomplete or missing assignment. The author of the current article believes that students should never receive zeros because it results in loss of learning, lower motivation, and, ultimately, failure. As such, she helped implement a school program in which students are given after-school opportunities to complete missing assignments, requiring them to earn a grade on all their schoolwork.

Do you agree that zeros should be eliminated from grading scales? What methods have you found effective in decreasing student failure while maintaining integrity of student grades and learning? Speak out and let us know what you think!

NAESP’s Position on “Highly Qualified” Principals

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of articles published on the issue of “highly qualified” or “highly effective” principals, including a December 12 article (“Policy Focus Turning to Principal Quality”) in Education Week. NAESP opposes the establishment of a federal definition of a “highly qualified” or “highly effective” principal (or any similar definition). Listing criteria in federal law would, we believe, lead to judging principal quality fully or in large part on the basis of test scores. The best way for the federal government to help create and maintain excellent principals is to require states and districts to provide principals with high-quality ongoing professional development, beginning with mentoring in the early years and lasting throughout a principal’s career, and to provide funds to help states in that work.

NAESP supports the authorization of funds for an independently designed and implemented program of voluntary national certification for principals. We believe the model of the board certification program for teachers established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is an excellent one, and would like for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to create and implement it.

NAESP’s ESEA reauthorization recommendations detail what the Association believes should be changed to make ESEA more effective and less punitive on the nation’s schools, including ensuring that schools are well-staffed by well-qualified professionals.

Practice Vocabulary; Help Combat World Hunger

FreeRice.com donates 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program every time a player selects the right definition for a particular word. This vocabulary quiz site, which debuted in October, has generated interest from children and adults alike, to the tune of more than 8.2 billion grains of rice to date. The rice is paid for by advertiser income.

The site was created by a computer programmer seeking to help his son prepare for the SAT’s verbal section. Teachers of all grade levels have encouraged their students to take a stab at this “game,” which includes words ranging from “solve” and “quickly” to “ebullient” and “spelunker.”

States Allowed to Use Growth Model for NCLB

On Friday, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that all eligible states are welcome to adopt the “growth model” for assessing student progress under NCLB. Educators have complained that the current method of measuring progress unfairly lumps the scores of students together, without taking into account gains by individual students. The growth model allows states to track the progress of individual students over a period of time, and requires states to have a system to track students’ scores and to protect their privacy.

North Carolina, Tennessee, Delaware, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Alaska, and Arizona are using the growth model, but the Department of Education will have to approve additional states that want to use it.

Wonderful and Wacky Gifts

It’s that time of year again, when parents and students present school staff with holiday gifts as a “thank you” for the work you’ve done during the school year. Over the years, we’re sure you’ve received wonderful, unique, tasty, and even odd gifts, both homemade and store-bought, from your students—some that have become quite sentimental and others that you’re not quite sure what to do with.

What are some of your favorite gifts you received from your students? What’s the most amusing gift you’ve received? And what’s the one gift you’ll never forget—whether good or bad?

Ten-year-old Raises Awareness of Homeless Children

As most of us were recovering from our Thanksgiving weekends on Monday morning, Zach Bonner completed his 280 mile journey from Tampa to Tallahassee to raise awareness and support for the estimated 20,000-40,000 homeless children in Florida.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time. Every state is required to have a state coordinator for homeless education, who ensures the understanding of and compliance with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in public schools throughout the state. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the federal law that entitles children who are homeless to a free, appropriate public education and requires schools to remove barriers to their enrollment, attendance, and success in school. 

The National Center for Homeless Education, which provides research, resources, and information enabling communities to address the educational needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness, also offers best practices and model programs for after-school programs, community collaboration, early childhood, identification, and unaccompanied youth.

Bringing Ideas to Life

Every year, NAESP publishes the latest edition of Ideas that Work, a collection of ideas that shares some of the best practices and tips from the current year’s National Distinguished Principals. Their ideas for staff motivation, student recognition, curriculum innovations, school climate, and parent involvement will help you set up new programs in your school without having to reinvent the wheel. 

In the December 2007 issue of Communicator, NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly writes, “As leaders we have to sift, sort, coach, and create a process to determine which ideas get the time, attention, and funding needed to bring them to full life and make them fly.” What are some of your own ideas that that have proved successful over the years? Which ideas from the Ideas that Work series stand out the most for you?

Reading Gains at the Elementary Level

Reading scores among elementary-level students have been increasing while scores for middle school and high school students have stayed the same or declined, according to a new study released by the National Endowment for the Arts. “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence” finds that Americans are spending less time reading; reading comprehension skills are eroding; and these declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications. The study also finds that reading for pleasure, which is increasing at the elementary level, decreases in late adolescence.

Read “Best Practices for Achieving High, Rapid Reading Gains” from the November/December issue of Principal magazine to learn about how to increase the percentage of proficient readers at your school.

Principals Promote Reading

What do a wide-mouthed frog, a friendly fish, a kid who loves sweets, Farmer Brown, and Dogzilla have in common? They are characters in the five books that are finalists for the 2008 NAESP Principal’s Read Aloud Award.

Read the five nominated books out loud to your students and vote for the one you think should be honored with the award. The National Principals Resource Center offers all five titles at reasonable rates—buy them for your school library if you don’t already have them. 

Once you’ve read each book, go to http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/4282g2d84e to vote. There will be a presentation to the winning author in April 2008 during NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition in Nashville.

NAESP is also taking nominations for the 2009 award. If you have a book you have enjoyed reading to children, submit your name and the title, author/illustrator, and publisher of a book currently in print and readily available to childrensbookaward@naesp.org.

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