The Principals' Office Blog

Rewriting the Book on Science Instruction

The University of Rhode Island School of Education—with a grant from the National Science Foundation—recently launched a five-year study to examine what prospective and current elementary teachers need to develop their teaching skills using exploratory and inquiry-based science lessons. Researchers will ask student education majors and mid-career teachers to discuss the current teaching of science in elementary schools, their content knowledge, and their readiness to change teaching practices.

More Students Receiving Free Breakfast

The Food Research and Action Center released a report yesterday indicating that a record number of students from low-income families—7.7 million to be exact—are receiving free- and reduced-price breakfast at school. While 40 states increased participation, the federal breakfast program still only feeds two in five children who need it. “Reaching a lot more children with breakfast in schools is probably the most cost-effective and fastest way to improve children’s learning and health, improve attendance and, of course, reduce hunger,” says James Weill, the Center's president.

Principal Overcomes Loss of Son

Check out an uplifting article in the Sacramento Bee about one of our 2006 National Distinguished Principals, Noel Hesser. The article explains how Hesser dealt with the loss of his son by increasing his efforts to help troubled students while he was principal of Gloria Dei Lutheran School. We applaud Noel and we're always happy to share stories about principals making a positive difference in the lives of students.

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.

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