The Principals' Office Blog

Yearly Federal Relations Conference Gathers Principals to Talk ESEA, Early Childhood

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.

Start the Year With Professional Development

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!

Fight Harassment, End Name-calling, Create Positive Learning Communities

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.

Turnaround Leadership Featured at NAESP Convention

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

$10,000 for Your Efforts

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

Time Management 101

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.

Teacher Incentive Plans: Good or Bad?

Read the latest Speaking Out article from Principal magazine. In it, Samuel Hardy III admits, “I am about to deviate from the status quo by suggesting that providing incentives for teachers can improve their productivity—and that of their schools.”
Hardy believes that teacher incentive plans work if handled properly, and that we can create an effective system of free or inexpensive rewards for achieving goals set by the principal. “Your investment in a teacher incentive plan will pay off if you can align their goals with yours,” he writes.
Do you believe incentives improve teaching performance? Do you feel incentives would hurt the morale of teachers who choose not to participate? What’s been your experience in using incentives for your teachers?

Launch of National Principal Certification

With leaders from across the nation in a packed room at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., today I witnessed the beginning of a new era for school principals: national principal certification. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) rolled out the first phase of the National Board Certification for Educational Leaders, which includes the development of the National Board Certification for Principals. Watch the webcast.
A committee of devoted educators, including NAESP Past President Rosie Young, worked diligently to develop the standards and an assessment process for principals. This umbrella program will also develop the groundwork for a new certification for teacher leaders. 
In her remarks at the launch, NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly shared the long, rich history NAESP has had in embracing national standards for principals. In addition to raising the awareness of the critical role of the principal and ensuring successful outcomes for all students, this certification will “provide principals a meaningful way to demonstrate they have met, or exceeded, requirements that identify an accomplished, effective, and results-oriented principal,” she said. The certification “provides a new dimension whereby principals can be recognized and rewarded.”
The launch of this initiative is an exciting day for school principals—measuring effectiveness while adding validity and recognition to the role.
Diane Cargile, NAESP President

Lend Me Your Ear

The My Two Cents question for this month addresses education policy: If you had the ear of all education policymakers for one hour, what would be the top messages you would hope to convey?
(Mary) Beth Hand, a social worker at Thomas Paine School in Urbana, Illinois, offered:
1. Education should be highly valued, both for the sake of ensuring a highly educated, diverse, compassionate, democratic society and for the sake of every individual student and family who wants their child to be the best that he/she can be. Funding must be fair, not dependent on politics, sufficient, dependable, and predictable.
2. Education is a complex endeavor. When programs like NCLB are implemented, the intention is good; however, some of the strategies, such as taking funds away from lower performing schools instead of increasing services, are counterproductive. Tying staff salaries to student or school performance is also too simplistic in that this does not reflect many complex issues.
And principal Lisa Hughes of Winneconne, Wisconsin, added:
1. The school funding formula needs to be changed/equilibrated to account for the discrepancies in the amount of money we are permitted to spend per student.  2. Society and education are evolving and we need to change with the times. Our students are growing up in a technological age, and we need to teach them with 21st century skills. With that said, we need resources to improve our technology and the way in which we do business so our students can compete in the global market. 3. Teachers have one of the most important jobs in our country. They deserve the respect that other highly paid professionals have garnered. Teachers spend about eight hours per day with children; 1,440 hours per school year has a huge impact on children. We need to hire the best in the profession and remove those who aren’t effective.
What’s at the top of your list?

Educators Greet Secretary Duncan in Indianapolis

Educators from across the country convened in my home state of Indiana for the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ 37th Annual Conference, which takes place Nov. 18-22. The conference, whose theme was “Education is a Civil Right: Today’s Needs, Today’s Solutions, and Tomorrow’s Promise,” consisted of plenary sessions and workshops around the agenda of closing the achievement gap for all students, especially students of color.
Keynote speakers included U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who addressed the packed ballroom of the convention center. (Check out my picture with him!) During the 20-minute speech, followed by a Q&A session, Duncan was consistent in his message that strong leadership was needed at the building level by highly qualified principals and teachers. He also spoke of the unprecedented amount of funds that his administration has allocated for education. Duncan reiterated that his administration feels strongly about two issues: raising the bar of student achievement for all students and closing the achievement gap with underserved students. Duncan said that if our country is to be the leader in the world, we must reinvent our schools.
Diane Cargile, NAESP President

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