All school year, our Mentor Center principal Jessica Johnson has sought your advice as she progresses through her third year in the principalship. This entry addresses how to implement long-term plans:
In my first year as principal at our school, I often felt stressed and overwhelmed at the amount of work needed to get our school on the right path. I formed a leadership team, created time for grade-level meetings, established professional learning communities, and began educating staff on response to intervention. In February 2009, I attended a statewide RTI summit; however, since our school was so behind on the path to having any sort of RTI plan, I felt out of place and overwhelmed by the summit sessions.
We started small at our school with a voluntary book study over the summer and then formed an RTI team in the fall to attend additional RTI trainings to learn together, present to staff, and begin creating a plan for our school.
Last month, I attended another state conference and attended many sessions on RTI again. This time, I was relieved and reassured as I listened to speakers and saw what other schools in the state are implementing because I could finally identify with what some of the other schools are doing. Even though we still have a lot of work to do, I feel like we are on the right path now and are making some positive changes to impact our students.
The difficult part of this process is remembering that change is a process and it won’t happen overnight. The literature I’ve read says this is a two- to three-year process. This is also a major change in both philosophy and practice for many teachers.
How do you keep the process moving forward with momentum, but not too fast to overwhelm staff?
In the first afternoon session of NAESP’s Federal Relations Conference (FRC) on Monday, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, talked with attendees about the Obama administration’s “Cradle to Career” education strategy and her vision for ESEA reauthorization. A former principal and school superintendent, Meléndez reinforced the administration’s verbal support for principals. She also discussed what it was like to grow up as an English-language learner in Los Angeles and how her experiences as a student inform her current vision for education policy.
Meléndez is the highest ranking official from the Department of Education to ever address the Federal Relations Conference, and while NAESP’s priorities are not always reflected in the Department of Education’s proposals, we appreciate this department’s outreach efforts and willingness to invite organizations such as ours to the discussion table. NAESP’s advocacy team believes it is important to stay in contact with the Department of Education about the concerns and needs of principals because if Congress fails to reauthorize ESEA within the next year, the Department of Education will be the only federal body able to give principals relief from the stringent and sometimes unreasonable sanctions currently mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Policy discussions that take place in Washington, D.C., often neglect to address one of the most important aspects dictated by federal legislation: the flow of money from the federal level down to the building level. At the second panel of NAESP’s Federal Relations Conference, which discussed state perspectives on ESEA’s reauthorization, one attendee summed up the frustration felt by many school principals across the country when he told the panelists that no matter what type of legislation Congress passes, funding never seems to reach the building level where it is needed the most.
“When I go to Capitol Hill, I tell legislators don’t give money to the states or school districts, give it to me, give it directly to schools, because we are the ones who are underfunded,” said the attendee.
Nancy Reder, the deputy executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, argued that federal funding for education is often wasted on endless data collection that rarely improves outcomes for students. She urged principals to tell their congressman to stop funding data collection that has not been proven to catalyze reform. Adam Ezring, the senior advocacy associate for the Council of Chief State School Officers, echoed this sentiment and added that data collecting and reporting efforts should be streamlined at the state and federal levels and that the Department of Education needs to establish a single office where all data collected by states can be sent and processed.
As an organization that maintains a strong presence in Washington and stays in contact with principals across the country on a daily basis, NAESP understands that federal education legislation is useless, unless it gives individual schools the funding and tools needed to improve student outcomes. As ESEA reauthorization moves forward, NAESP’s advocacy team will continue to protect the interests of individual principals who are looking to the federal government for help.
At the Federal Relations Conference’s opening meeting, Executive Director Gail Connelly and Deputy Executive Director Mike Schooley discussed NAESP’s legislative goals for the upcoming year and summed up NAESP’s central tenet in one simple sentence: Principals need the autonomy and the authority to lead strong schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “There are no good schools without good principals.” Keeping the secretary’s position in mind, NAESP believes that it is imperative to include policies in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that support rather than hinder principals’ ability to do their jobs.
NAESP is working in conjunction with other education associations to prevent policies that compromise principals’ autonomy and policies that tie principals’ and teachers’ job security solely to standardized test scores from ever becoming law. During the conference’s opening panel, representatives from the National Education Association, the American Association of School Administrators, and the International Reading Association stressed that the needs of students—and not the goals of politicians—must drive ESEA reauthorization. NAESP is fighting for the inclusion of policies that provide funding for principals’ professional development and policies that meet the needs of the whole child.
Schooley closed the opening remarks by outlining “four M’s” that NAESP and its members will be focusing on in the upcoming months: minimizing the inclusion of bad policy in education bills, maneuvering at the state and local levels, motivating constituents to get involved, and maximizing the pressure on lawmakers to support smart education policy. Reauthorization of ESEA, a bill that affects all principals on a daily basis, is a deliberate process (the first group of panelists predicted ESEA reauthorization would not occur until 2011), but concerted efforts at the federal level can positively influence the development of this legislation.
This Sunday, Jan. 31 marks the start of NAESP’s Federal Relations Conference (FRC), the purpose of which is to bring representatives from all fifty states to Washington to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill and discuss pending legislation.
The focus of this year’s conference is professional development for principals. With reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on the legislative horizon, NAESP wants to ensure that any new legislation will provide funding for programs that will improve principals’ development as education leaders. We know that second only to teaching, the most effective means to improving student academic performance is strong school leadership, and to institute the commitment required to lead learning communities and dramatically improve student achievement, principals require significant training and support.
With the help of NAESP’s advocacy team, FRC attendees will push for professional development opportunities in two specific areas: early childhood development and high-quality mentoring programs. Research has proven that effective pre-kindergarten programs increase students’ chances of graduating from high school and attending college, and now more than ever, elementary school principals are actively engaged in early childhood learning. Unfortunately, many principal preparation programs and school systems currently lack sufficient training to teach principals how to design and lead quality early childhood programs. To reverse this trend, new policies in the ESEA reauthorization must include program strategies to create comprehensive early childhood programs.
Throughout the conference’s duration (Jan. 31 to Feb 2), NAESP will be blogging about pertinent discussions and activities. Follow us on the Principals' Office and Twitter, and learn more about the FRC by visiting our Web site.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals’ Mid-Winter Conference, which began with a rousing rendition of the Oklahoma state song and the pledge of allegiance. Veteran principals Bobby Simma and Gary Webb rallied members with reasons to belong to their state and national associations in their self-composed song on membership. The professional sounding production had the quality of a CD ready for marketing. If you have not heard Simma and Webb sing this song, you may be able to catch them at NAESP’s 89th Convention & Exposition April 8-11 in Houston.
Principals in Oklahoma began the year honing professional development skills. The two-day conference provided opportunities for professional growth for principals in leading professional development communities. Solution Tree’s Tim Brown related his personal experience of turning around a low performing school and issued the challenge for principals to be “engines of hope.” Cathy Williams provided insight into leading teachers to use mapping. She also shared a clip of Dalton Sherman's passionate plea to teachers to “believe in him and other children like him.” This clip would be a great way to begin a school year and to challenge teachers to make a difference for all the children they serve.
Finally, Crystal Kuykendall closed the conference by bringing out the best in everyone. Her motivational presentation brought principals to their feet as she challenged them to be “Merchants of Hope” for the young children we serve. Kuykendall offered real solutions to educators for the future. She was just the inspiration principals needed to return to their buildings and complete the work they have started.
When your superintendent wants to know why you want to attend an association meeting provided by your state or NAESP, you can list real skills, strategies, and tools that you will receive that you cannot get in your building. If we are to be the change agent for our schools, principals much be provided the tools from professional sources. Oklahoma principals are doing just that!
According to the old adage, sticks and stones can break your bones; in the real world, name-calling and verbal harassment can be just as hurtful to young students. With this in mind, NAESP is joining the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in supporting No Name-Calling Week, an annual week of educational activities whose purpose is to end name-calling of all kinds in U.S. schools and communities. This year’s No Name-Calling Week takes place Jan. 25-29.
Principals know more about turning around schools than anyone. That is why NAESP will feature “Transformational Leadership Across America: Turnaround Principals in Action” during NAESP’s annual convention in Houston. On Saturday, April 10, eight talented principals who successfully turned around academically struggling schools will participate in a panel presentation and share the process they used to make significant changes in their schools.
Each of the eight principals will also lead a workshop during the convention to further share unique strategies for change based on the principal’s school location and demographics. These outstanding principals have used their knowledge, expertise, and training to make change in schools and to sustain that transformation to better serve all of their students and communities.
These principals have a proven record and have been recognized for their successes, including raising test scores and narrowing the achievement gap separating students. To learn more about this special event, including panelist bios, visit www.naesp.org/2010.
After the launch of the National Board Certification for Principals program, I traveled to Washington state where I had the opportunity to meet with administrators from the Clover Park School District in Lakewood. The city is still riveting from the recent loss of four of its police officers who served as liaisons in the schools, and school reader boards carry messages of support for the families and police.
In discussing the principal certification launch I recently attended, I asked administrators about their involvement with teacher certification as well as their views on the national certification for principals. Robin Walter, the assistant superintendent for elementary schools, welcomed the certification for principals and envisioned it as having the type of impact on schools and student achievement as the teacher certification program. Certified teachers here are making a difference in Title 1 schools as well as the ELL population. The national certification of principals will be another positive step in closing the achievement gap. As the work continues with the national certification for principals, the successes of the national certification of teachers should be noted and emulated.
Out of approximately 900 teachers in Clover Park, over 100 are National Certified Teachers. In Washington, teachers are given an incentive of $5,000 for receiving their certification and an additional $5,000 if they teach in a schoolwide Title 1 school. In essence, they would receive $10,000 above their counterpart with the same education and experience. Wow, that’s an incentive!
—Diane Cargile, NAESP President
NAESP’s Mentor Center principal, Jessica Johnson, wants your advice! This month she’s looking to tackle time management. Here’s what she has to say:
During my first year as principal, I got into classrooms as much as possible. In my building, there was no previous practice of a principal presence in the classrooms other than the formal teacher observation on a three-year cycle. I made it a priority to get into classrooms to get to know teaching styles and the students, often just leaving a positive message on a Post-it note.
I started this year with the best intentions of not only getting into classrooms more, but leaving more meaningful feedback for teachers to promote further reflection and dialogue to improve student learning. At the start of the year, I met with each teacher to find out what teaching standard he or she would like me to focus on when I come into the classroom so I can tailor my feedback to each teacher’s goals.
To plan for this, my secretary and I came up with a strategy for her to manage my schedule so that both meeting and classroom time are marked on my calendar. I thought the plan was brilliant. However, I also took on additional duties this year as the district assessment coordinator (part of being in a small district). My plan did not account for how much time my new duties require. I am now ashamed to admit that I’m rarely in classrooms, to the point that a few kindergartners have mistaken the recess monitor as the principal.
I’d like to hear any time-management/organization tips that other principals have to make time for the classrooms and not stay in the office until 10 p.m. with paperwork.