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The Principals' Office Blog

Hindsight is 20/20, Vision is 2021

What will schools look like in 2021? Will they exist as we know them today or will students be engaged in a new schooling environment of self-learning? And given the fact that the job of principals has changed tremendously within the last decade, what will the profession look like in 15 years? These are some of the questions that NAESP's Vision 2021 initiative is examining. NAESP, in partnership with the Institute for Alternative Futures and state affiliate organizations, is working toward engaging members, nonmembers, NAESP staff, and diverse stakeholder groups to understand how the future is changing for pre-K-8 principals; and envision strategies, models, structures, and relationships that will realign NAESP with the future. We invite you to engage in compelling conversations that will take us all on a journey into the leadership future. Some of the conversations will take place later this month during NAESP’s Annual Convention (March 29-April 2) in Seattle. In the upcoming months, we will also feature conversations about Vision 2021 and the future of the principalship right here on the Principals’ Office. Stay Tuned.Until then, be sure to visit http://www.vision2021.org/ to learn more about this exciting initiative.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Interesting program at San Francisco's Jean Parker Elementary School where fifth graders are enrolled in a course that teaches them the fundamentals of business. In the class, the students learn how to create a global marketing plan, learn words like "revenue" and "prototype," and meet with venture capitalists and executives. Advocates say programs like this help children think about entrepreneurship and finance, but critics call them "kiddie MBA" programs and say they are thinly veiled advertisements that undercut the nonprofit motive of public education.

AMBER Alert on MySpace.com

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is collaborating with the social-networking site, MySpace.com, to help locate missing children. The new partnership means that AMBER Alerts—which NCMEC established in 2001 for child abduction cases—will now be distributed to localized MySpace.com users. When a local law enforcement agency issues an AMBER Alert, that message will be sent to all MySpace users within the zip code of the missing child. Users who have information about the missing child can contact authorities.

NAESP supported last year’s passing of the Virginia Missing Child Bill, which also helps NCMEC locate missing children. The two part procedure requires that 1). Local law enforcement notify the principal of the school where the missing child most recently attended so that that child’s records can me marked; and 2). If the marked child’s record is requested, the matter will be investigated by the Superintendent of State Police. The U.S. Justice Department says that an average of 2,185 children are reported missing each day, making it even more important for principals and schools to know their state and local procedures to assist in the missing children's recovery. NCMEC reports there are currently 27 states with statutes requiring public schools to flag records of missing children, although these policies are not always implemented.

Not Your Mother’s PTA

In Friday’s New York Times, reporter Winnie Hu writes that traditional PTAs/PTOs “have evolved into sophisticated multitiered organizations bearing little resemblance to the mom-and-pop groups that ran bake sales a generation ago.” (“Spreadsheets and Power Plays: PTAs Go Way Beyond Cookies”). Hu says that PTAs/PTOs have become more high-powered because the membership is increasingly made up of former executives who are now stay-at-home parents and who sometimes have their own agenda, which she argues can cause a power struggle between them and the school principal.

Gail Connelly, NAESP’s chief operating officer, emphasizes principals’ support of PTAs, noting that school leaders rely more than ever on parent groups. “Many principals may view it as a mixed blessing,” said Connelly. “But the reality is they are willing to assume the added pressure because the PTA provides a wonderful forum for parent-principal partnerships to flourish—and that partnership brings tremendous resources to support the goals of the school community.”

What do you think about Hu’s take on the changing PTA? Have you experienced this in your school?

Why We Need Public Schools

Yes, we know it’s a no-brainer, but you may find some interesting tidbits in the report “Why We Still Need Public Schools” that you can share with your staff and community members. The report highlights the history and importance of public education and examines six core missions of public schools, including the goal of providing an equal opportunity for millions of children. The Center on Education Policy’s report is a great way to share what’s right with our public schools and can be accessed at http://www.cep-dc.org/PublicSchoolFacts/why/.

Louisiana Principal Reflects on Integration

Terrific article in yesterday’s Shreveport Times about Principal Cathleen Johnson’s reflections on her tumultuous entry into the field of education. Johnson integrated Bossier Elementary in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1970 as the first African-American teacher and 37 years later she’s still there—but now she’s the principal. We can all find great inspiration in her story.

School Finds Million-Dollar Painting in Auditorium

A large painting of an Afghan tribesman has hung for decades in the auditorium of a Massachusetts elementary school. The school system’s superintendent recently asked Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, to appraise the work, “Afghans,” by the Russian artist Alexandre Iacovlef. The school guessed the painting was worth about $1,000, but boy were they in for a big surprise. The painting is actually worth between $1 million to $2 million.

While the much higher price tag was good news, it also created a dilemma—how to insure the painting and protect it from thieves. The school says it cannot afford to keep the painting, even though that’s what the donor wanted when he gave it to the school.

Now that spring is fast approaching, it might be time to do some spring cleaning and a schoolwide inventory. You never know, you might have an old Picasso lying around.

Number of Nationally Board Certified Teachers Reaches All-Time High

Speaking of NCLB and "highly qualified", there are now 55,000 nationally board certified teachers, three times the amount there were five years ago. While there is no direct correlation between national board teacher certification and improved student achievement, principals welcome teachers who seek additional certification that can help them move towards becoming a “highly qualified teacher.”

For example, when Principal Jan Borelli took the helm of her school three years ago, the school had been on the state’s low performing list for five years and had one nationally board certified teacher (NBCT) at the time. The school is now off of that list and has two NBCT's and four candidates who will know their results next fall. Borelli says the school also has three more teachers who have already applied for next year. 

“I am not sure if there is a correlation between test scores and NBCT,” says Borelli. “I do know, however, that they are excellent teachers who are constantly striving to improve.”

Does your school have any NBCT's? If so, what impact has it had on teacher quality or student achievement?

NAESP’s Response to the NCLB Commission Report

The Commission on No Child Left Behind, a bi-partisan group led by former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes, released a report this week with 75 recommendations for Congress as it prepares to reauthorize ESEA. The report, which some are calling an ambitious plan, provides recommendations that include the creation of a Highly Effective Principal category (which NAESP is opposed to); sanctions for teachers with poorly performing students; and the creation of new national standards and tests.

Click here to read NAESP’s response to the Commission report.

Public School Principals Report on Their School Facilities

Principals discuss the conditions of their school buildings in a new report by the Ed Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. The report looks at nine environmental factors in school buildings (including physical condition, air quality, air conditioning, and lighting) and the extent to which principals believe those factors are interfering with the ability to deliver instruction to students. The report also looks at approaches for coping with overcrowding and the ways in which schools use portable buildings.

The bottom line? Between 63 percent and 92 percent of principals are satisfied with their permanent buildings (depending on the environmental factors). Although close to half of the principals also indicated that at least one or more of the environmental factors interfered with instruction to some extent.

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