The Principals' Office Blog

Bring on the Competition!

Here’s a question for you: Win or lose, it’s how you play the game—right? 
The authors of “It’s Time We Teach Competition” cite research that concludes, “Put groups in competition and you create tension, anger, and hostility.” However, this article’s authors say the “most profound” purpose of teaching competition to students “is to cultivate an appreciation for the positive role of contests in promoting excellence and enjoyment.”
Read this month’s Speaking Out article, then think about the spelling bees, baseball games, and science fairs at your school. Do you agree with the authors, who believe that competition should become a vital part of our educational mission? How have your students reacted to participating in your school’s various contests?

Calling All Writers!

The editors of Principal magazine, NAESP’s flagship publication, have finalized themes for the 2010-2011 editorial year and are seeking writers interested in submitting articles for publication:
Sept./Oct. 2010: School ManagementNov./Dec. 2010: MathJan./Feb. 2011: Building RelationshipsMarch/April 2011: Turnaround SchoolsMay/June 2011: Early Childhood
Our submission guidelines provide descriptions of each theme as well as deadlines and information on how to submit an article for consideration. Take this opportunity to share what you know about education and the principalship with our 25,000 readers.

2010 Census Under Way

Questionnaires for the 2010 census should reach every U.S. household in the coming days—and with billions of dollars of federal and local funding at stake, it’s important for principals and other educators to recognize the significance of this endeavor.
Now is the time to engage your students, staff, and parents in census-related activities to boost participation in your community. The Census Bureau’s Census in Schools program provides a wealth of free information, including student activity sheets in both English and Spanish, teaching guides, and take-home materials, to help students, teachers, and families to learn more about the census.

Federal Update: Weigh in on ESEA Blueprint

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released its blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the U.S. Congress. This document serves as the Obama administration’s formal request for changes to the federal education law currently known as No Child Left Behind.
We encourage all principals to review this 35-page document. Congress is ultimately responsible for crafting and reauthorizing the ESEA, however the administration's blueprint serves as their formal request for substantive changes to the law and is therefore an important first step in what will likely be a lengthy reauthorization.
NAESP wants to hear from you! Please submit your comments either by e-mailing or leaving your comments below.

Unleashing the Extraordinary

NAESP and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) are united on two major issues that resonated throughout the NASSP convention, which was held March 12-14 in Phoenix:

  1. Principals’ voices must be heard as new policies are being formulated in Washington, D.C.  Principals must make a difference by being actively engaged in the wording of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Principals should contact their congressional representatives to let their voices be heard.
  2. Principals are innovative and creative in raising student achievement and keeping their communities actively engaged in the learning process. NASSP’s convention speakers highlighted numerous examples of principals who are making a difference against incredible odds. For example, Pedro Noguera talked about P.S. #28 in New York City, which is a highly effective school in which more than 50 percent of the student population is homeless. Innovations that this school’s principal has tried include making available parent rooms and programs for parents to receive their GED and emphasizing the need to keep parents engaged in their children’s education. 

Dr. Benjamin Carson, a renowned surgeon, challenged principals to speak up for their rights, telling a story about a young man who had purchased expensive, exotic birds that could sing and talk. The young man sent two of the expensive birds to his mother and asked her what she thought of them. She proudly announced that they were good, as she had eaten them for dinner! The young man was astounded that she had eaten the birds. But his mother retorted, “If the birds were so smart and could talk, they should have said something.” His story made us laugh, but it also made us think. Unless we want to end up in a stew, we had better say something! Let your voice be heard!
    —Diane Cargile, NAESP President

Educate Girls, Change Society

Over the past two decades, renowned philanthropist Greg Mortenson has built schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan and promoted community based education and literacy, especially for girls. Mortenson will be a keynote speaker at NAESP’s 89th Annual Convention and Exposition (April 8-11 in Houston), and he recently sat down with NAESP’s Executive Director Gail Connelly to discuss his work and the two women who inspired him to undertake it.
After his sister Christa died from epilepsy in 1992, Greg decided to honor her memory by climbing Pakistan’s K2 mountain. He failed to reach the mountain’s peak and stumbled into the remote village of Korphe, where he was surprised to discover that the village lacked a school. “I saw 84 children writing with sticks in the sand and there was no teacher there, which really struck me … And so I made a rash promise to help them build a school,” said Mortenson.
Back in the United States, Greg struggled to raise the $12,000 he needed to undertake the project. He wrote 580 letters to celebrities explaining the project and his need for money but only received one check. He began working double shifts as a nurse to try and generate the needed revenue when his mother, Dr. Jerene Mortenson, invited him to speak at the elementary school where she served as a principal.
“It was the first time I had spoken to anybody [about the project], and heaven forbid you go to an elementary school to raise money,” said Mortenson. “But what happened was a fourth grader named Jeffrey came up to me and he said ‘I have a penny back at home and I’m going to help you.’ And I didn’t think much about it but then they [the students] raised 62,345 pennies.”
The money the students raised helped Greg reach $12,000, and he constructed the school for Korphe. Inspired by the philanthropic potential of students, Greg established “Pennies for Peace,” a service-learning program that is currently in place at over 4,000 schools. The program comes with lesson plans and study guides that are designed to help students broaden their cultural horizons as they give to those in need.
As he continues to promote community-based education in some of the most remote regions of the world, Greg is adamant about the importance of giving children, especially girls, the opportunity to learn. “In Africa, as a child, I learned a proverb: If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you can educate a girl, you educate a community,” he said. “If we don’t educate girls, nothing will change as a society.”
You can listen go Greg and Gail’s entire conversation on NAESP Radio.

Federal Update: Draft Common Standards Released

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, established to develop rigorous standards to identify what children across our nation should know and be able to do, has released its draft standards for K-12 education for public review and comment.
We seek your feedback as we prepare to submit comments on the draft K-12 Common Standards. We strongly encourage principals to review the standards and post comments below. You may also submit your comments by e-mail to Please submit your comments to NAESP by Friday, March 26 to help inform our formal response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. (Should you wish to submit your own comments, they are due to Common Core by April 2, 2010).
The Common Core initiative was established by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers as a means of enabling states and regions to voluntarily adopt rigorous academic standards that would be used to benchmark students from across the country on their college and career readiness. NAESP has supported this initiative since its inception and now eagerly looks forward to reviewing the proposed standards.

Federal Update: Race to the Top Finalists Announced

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced 15 states and Washington, D.C., as the first-round finalists for the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant award. The finalists are: Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The finalists will be invited to the Education Department later this month to give a presentation on their plans for school reform efforts.
RTTT was created in the stimulus bill last year and funded with $5 billion to address school reform efforts across the country. Final awardees will be announced in April.
Here are excerpts from the comments about RTTT that NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly submitted on behalf of more than 60,000 elementary principals nationwide:
NAESP supports the use of student achievement data to inform and improve instructional practices. However, an over-reliance on student standardized test scores for evaluating teacher and principal performance does not take into account improved student progress in light of challenging circumstances that confront students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The research is clear that a quality education must meet the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic needs of the whole child and involves much more than student performance on a single test once a year.
Our nation's reform agenda certainly depends on a comprehensive plan that will support and empower effective principals and ultimately result in student success. However, NAESP cannot support the department’s recommendation to judge principal effectiveness “in significant measure” on student achievement data that relies primarily on standardized test scores. 
NAESP strongly encourages the department to require that states supplement student standardized assessment data with additional measures of student growth. Principal effectiveness should also be judged on multiple measures that include a variety of academic and non-academic indicators of student growth as well as demonstrated competencies of effective leadership.

Power of the Principal

Principals have the power to help change lives—and NAESP wants to call attention to the diverse and influential roles that principals play in their schools and communities. In the March/April issue of Principal, we published an article titled “Leadership Matters” that reveals what some principals believe are the most powerful aspects of their jobs.
“The power of the principal is part of the foundation of our position and, when used well, it has no boundaries to the positive effects it can bring to children,” wrote Oregon principal Barbara Chester.
Added Kansas principal Deborah Ayers-Geist: “I have the power to be the voice for our children at the state and national level. It is important that our legislators hear what our children have to say.  I hope that by being a powerful advocate for our children that one day they can be the voice and power for many more young people.”
What are your views about a principal’s power? How have you seen principals use their power to better the lives of children?

What’s Your Reason?

Engaging professional development. Interacting with colleagues from around the country. Numerous relevant resources. Networking.  Top-notch keynote speakers.
These are just a few of the reasons why principals say they choose to attend NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition year after year. We called on convention attendees to respond to this month’s My Two Cents question, which asked: What’s the No. 1 reason why you’ve chosen to attend NAESP’s convention over the years?
In addition to the responses published in the March/April issue of Principal, here’s a sample of what your colleagues are saying:
I attend the NAESP conference because it gives me the best opportunity to learn from my colleagues and to have time to reflect on how this learning can influence my practice. Formal sessions, informal conversations and professional reading are the perfect mix for my continued growth as the lead learner of my building.Jason Bednar, PrincipalOwen ElementaryNaperville, IL
Having attended the past several NAESP conventions over the years has been very beneficial to me professionally. The #1 reason that I attend is to learn new ways to motivate myself, which in turn gives me fresh new ideas on how to motivate my students and staff. Motivation results in hard work. This generates success.Barry Goolsby, Elementary PrincipalMyrtle Attendance CenterMyrtle, MS
Read more responses and offer your own thoughts below on what you’ve most benefited from by attending NAESP’s annual convention.

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