The Principals' Office Blog

On Globalization and Public Education

In an interview on NAESP Radio, Yong Zhao, distinguished professor at Michigan State University and founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, says America’s public education system is well-positioned to produce students with the skills needed to compete in an era of increased technology and globalization. Zhao suggests that current reform efforts, such as calls for increased standardization and accountability, misinterpret the strengths of America’s public schools and fail to address the needs of students living in an era of globalization.
Zhao also says that to achieve meaningful school reforms, America needs a law or a political environment that will encourage education leaders to innovate rather than increase standardization, and elementary school principals play a critical role in ensuring that reform efforts meet the needs of America's students.
Research validates Zhao’s comments by indicating that elementary principals are catalysts for learning and for shaping the long-term impact of school reform, and it is imperative that principals’ voices and perspectives are included in the discussions about America’s public education system that are currently taking place at the federal level.
Listen to the full interview with Zhao on NAESP Radio. We invite you to leave any comments about the interview or education reform in general right here.

Mentor Center: Preparing for a Leave of Absence

NAESP’s Mentor Center principal continues to chronicle her year and needs your advice. Here’s her latest entry:
This has been quite an interesting and fast-paced year. I am excited to share that we will be adding to our family, with my due date in early May. While this is exciting, it is also very overwhelming, because planning for my maternity leave is not the same as when I was a classroom teacher.
Due to the small size of our district and the timing of my expected arrival, we will not be hiring anyone to fill my shoes. Instead, we are being creative with the people and resources we currently have. One benefit of having grades K-12 in one large building is that the middle/high school administrators and superintendent will be able to assist in the elementary division if a serious discipline or other incident should occur. I am also fortunate to have a teacher who is working on her administrative degree and completing her internship hours under my supervision this spring and summer. She has assisted me this past month with planning for summer school and end-of-year events. I will also be relying on her to check my phone messages each day during my absence and either return the phone calls or pass them on to an administrator.
There will be some tasks that I plan to complete by coming into the office on evenings or weekends during my maternity leave. I only live a mile from the school, so it will be easy for me to pop in and out as needed. I also hope to attend the end-of-year events for staff and students. I am only planning to take off five weeks for this maternity leave and then return during summer school.
Have any other administrators taken a maternity leave or other short-term leave of absence? What tips/advice can you offer?

Lessons Learned

The May/June My Two Cents question asks: What do you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal?
As a new principal I thought leading schools/being the school leader was similar to reaching to top of a hill and the end to a lifelong goal. I quickly realized it wasn’t the end but the beginning of an ever-changing process that I work on each day. Being the leader of a school today just helps you get started on leading the school for tomorrow.
Andy Cox, PrincipalAbingdon Elementary SchoolAbingdon, Virginia
Never compromise on hiring the best people. Hire the best teachers, assistants, secretaries, custodians, instructional aides, etc. for your building. The best are always striving for improvement, and are exactly what you want and need for students in your building.
Carol Grace, Director of Elementary Schools Wise County SchoolsWise, Virginia
Think back to your first years as a principal and let us know what you wish you had known about leading schools when you were a new principal.

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.

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