The Principals' Office Blog

History 101

Although fourth- and eighth-grade history scores have improved overall, neither grade saw an increase in students grasping more than a basic comprehension of the subject. A recent government report reveals that the best results were in fourth grade, where 70 percent of students attained the basic level of achievement or better. The report also indicates that the progress in history in general was made by students working at the lowest levels.There are mixed feelings about what these results imply. On the one hand, some argue that this shows that NCLB’s focus on reading and math instruction is taking away from other subjects such as history. But on the other hand, the focus on reading may be what is helping the lower-level students to increase their scores in other subjects.

Equity Evolving as a Public Promise for Education

Education leaders are moving to a different conception of what it means to preserve the promise of equity in public schools, according to Claus von Zastrow, executive director of Learning First Alliance (LFA). A 2021 vision of equity would be that all students have the widest view of choices before them. “Someone’s socioeconomic background should not determine education level or career choice or life enrichment,” von Zastrow said.

Preserving the promise of equity is emerging as a top strategic issue for the Vision 2021 project. NAESP is one of 17 national education organizations in LFA, which recently reviewed the key policy documents of its member organizations to prepare for a March 2007 summit on the future of public education. Equity is a common thread among the leading education organizations.

LFA has advocated for staffing high poverty schools with high performance leaders. “The poorest kids and children of color are more likely to get leaders and teachers who are less experienced and paid less,” von Zastrow said.

LFA has also found through its public opinion research that equal opportunity is fundamental. “The public really believes that equal opportunity is one of the primary goals of public education. It is one of the reasons why we need public education,” he said.

“Equity is an evolving conversation. Equity does not necessarily mean that we give everyone equal resources. It does mean we make sure that all students get resources adequate to their educational needs,” von Zastrow said.

Vision 2021: Creating New Dialogues on the Future of School Leaders

The Vision 2021 initiative is allowing NAESP members to lead the way in strengthening the foundation and creating a new strategic framework for the association. During the association's annual convention in Seattle this year, more than 200 NAESP members and staff met to exchange ideas about Vision 2021. Participants identified five strategic issues that reflect the association’s enduring values and emerging opportunities for leadership.

1. NAESP should work to realize equity in public schools by championing the opportunity for all children to have learning experiences that help them achieve their full potential;

2. Schools should prepare students to be global citizens for an interconnected and collaborative world and to work in a global community on common issues such as peace, environment, and economic development;

3. Principals will act as chief learning officers to facilitate learning around student, staff, and school goals. NAESP should continue to lead the charge on redefining the principalship—building on its success with the Leading Learning Communities project;

4. NAESP should continue to press for early childhood education and networks of support to give young children a strong start. NAESP should shape the public debate on early childhood education by gathering research on its effectiveness and pressing for good early intervention programs with certified teachers; and

5. Principals must develop cultural competency to lead the nation’s increasing diverse schools. Principals should be prepared to create a positive educational culture that draws on the strengths of diverse cultures and languages. 

In 2021, NAESP will celebrate 100 years of representing school principals. Within the next several months, we hope that NAESP members will weigh in on the issues that are raised through the Vision 2021 initiative. Also, we’d like you to let us know if there are other strategic issues you feel NAESP should consider as it sets goals for Vision 2021.  Where would you like to see NAESP exercise its leadership over the next 15 years?

Tomorrow, Claus von Zastrow, executive director of the Learning First Alliance, will provide some insight on Question 1.

Whole Child, Whole Family

The level of parent involvement with their children’s education—reading with them or helping with homework, for example—depends on the parent’s own level of literacy, according to a newly released study by the National Center for Education Statistics,  “Literacy in Everyday Life: Results From the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy”. The study assessed adult literacy patterns and found that the higher the level of literacy, the more likely parents were to be involved in school, participate in literacy-related activities, and have educational resources in the home.

Read “Family Literacy: Sharing Classrooms with Parents,” from the Principal archives for an example of an effective family literacy program.

What Does It Take to Retain Teachers?

What made you remain in the teaching profession, despite the challenges you encountered? And now that you’re a principal, what are you doing to ensure that you retain your good teachers? According to a recent study by the California State University Center for Teacher Quality, California teachers cited having meaningful input in the decision-making process at their schools and strong, collaborative relationships with their colleagues as reasons they remain in the profession. They also mentioned the importance of effective system supports such as adequate time planning, and resources for classroom learning materials. No one will argue that teaching is not a difficult job, but what do you as principals do to keep teachers motivated and wanting to come to work day after day?

“ED in '08” Premieres

Excited about the future of education policy? You’re not alone. The campaign funded by education philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates, “ED in '08,” launched last week with print and radio ads in select cities.  “ED in '08” is a nonpartisan public awareness and action campaign that aims to ensure “the nation engages in a rigorous debate and to make education a top priority in the 2008 presidential election.” It’s inspiring to see the future of our children’s education weighing in as a serious issue so early in the campaign season.

Here at NAESP, we have also been talking about the future of education leadership with Vision 2021, a dialogue on what principals need to do today to prepare for tomorrow. Stay tuned for opportunities to exchange ideas about NAESP’s vision for the future.

And the Winner is . . . .

At a White House ceremony yesterday, Andrea Peterson was named the 2007 National Teacher of the Year. Peterson is a music teacher at Monte Cristo Elementary School in Granite Falls, Washington, and received the award for her “community focus, teamwork with other teachers, and a desire to see all students succeed.” Though it is rare for a specialist to be bestowed the award, Peterson’s superintendent said “in the case of Andrea Peterson it only makes sense” because her “music program is not a complement to our basic education program; it is an integral part of it.” Among Peterson’s accomplishments are: revitalizing the music program in her district with the addition of auditioned choirs, performances, and bands, and introducing a cross-curriculum music program.  The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

New York City Principals Offered $25,000 Bonus

The latest development in the Bloomberg administration’s overhaul of New York City public schools is a tentative deal with principals and assistant principals that would provide $25,000 bonuses for those who elected to serve three years in underperforming schools, The New York Times reported yesterday. In addition to financial incentives, deal highlights include increasing principals’ workdays by 15 minutes, a more nuanced review system, and an end to seniority rights. Mayor Bloomberg’s reform initiative launched in 2003, Children First, affects the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren and 1,200 schools. Education Week’s blog, Bridging Differences, provides an analytic history of the reform of New York City public schools. How would such policies affect principals in your district?

How Much Do Principals Earn?

How do salaries of elementary and middle school principals compare with those of other administrators and classroom teachers? Are increases in salaries of principals keeping pace with increases in salaries of classroom teachers? The National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools—conducted by the Educational Research Service—answers all these questions and more. The survey reflects data collected from 550 sample school systems representing all district sizes, all per-pupil expenditure levels, and all geographical regions across the United States.

The complete survey of school principals is published in the May/June issue of Principal magazine and can be accessed at

Kids Think Green

How does the discussion about global warming and climate change affect school-aged children? Climate change scenarios are defining a generation in the same way that the Depression and the Cold War defined the lives of previous generations, according to a recent article in The Washington Post. As a result, school-aged children are the drivers of a host of green activities. For example, a student in Herkimer Elementary School in Herkimer, NY was inspired to initiate a program promoting energy efficiency by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Other schools around the nation are preparing for this year’s Earth Day, April 22, with activities like nature walks, recycling projects, and tree planting.

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