Pennsylvania Principal Melissa Patschke is attending NAESP’s Federal Relations Conference this week and will be sharing her experience in the Principals’ Office.
What we, as school principals, do each day to support schools, children, and families is valuable information for those influencing critical legislative decisions that promise to, and historically have, impacted our schools. Each principal’s story, whether it is related to progress, boundaries, or celebrations, deserves to be shared.
In September, the Department of Education proposed definitions of "effective" and "highly effective" principals—a scant 200 words that, if enacted, could be used to determine which districts and schools are eligible for federal discretionary education grants. NAESP strongly opposes the definitions, which represent another attempt to hold principals accountable for outcomes far behind their control.
More important, our members oppose them as well. In a survey the Association conducted in September, 70 percent of NAESP members say it is inappropriate to define principal effectiveness in significant measure as "at least one grade level in an academic year" of student growth. NAESP heard you loud and clear, and we expressed your opposition in a formal letter to the Department of Education focused on four concerns:
- The definitions diminish state and local authority to set criteria for evaluating principals;
- The fail to address the intricate nature of a principal's job;
- They do not adequately account for school circumstances; and
- They still rely too heavily on student standardized test scores.
“Education reform” is a concept educators are well familiar with and not ashamed to take on. In schools across the country, educators are continually assessing. They assess student progress. They assess curriculum and educational materials. They assess the validity and usefulness of data and tests. And, yes, they even assess their own successes and failures.
President Obama is hardly the first to make the argument that the education of America’s youth is of vital economic importance. Since coming to office, Obama has made education reform—centered on innovation and competitiveness—a cornerstone of his administration’s focus.
Let’s hear it for principals! The U.S. Senate passed S. Res 607, a resolution drafted by NAESP and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to designate October 2010 as National Principals Month. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, introduced the resolution, which honors elementary, middle, and high school principals for their passion and dedication to students across the country.
In a recent interview on NBC's "Today" show, President Barack Obama said the United States is falling behind other developed nations in math and science education and that is hurting U.S. economic competitiveness. Obama suggested that the U.S. schools need to get rid of the worst performing teachers and expand the school year (Read more).
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced a bill yesterday that creates a grant program to provide principals with professional development and mentoring programs to strengthen their knowledge of early childhood education. The purpose of the bill is to help principals create a seamless continuum of learning experiences from pre-K through grade 3 by providing a delivery system to train principals how to provide appropriate early learning environments.
This week marks the final congressional session before the Independence Day recess. When Congress returns to Washington the week of July 12, there will be less than 50 legislative days remaining in the calendar year. There continues to be a growing belief in education policy circles that neither the ESEA reauthorization nor the fiscal year 2011 education appropriations bill (Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education) will be completed before the end of 2010.
Secretary Arne Duncan estimates that as many as 300,000 educators could lose their jobs before the start of the next school year due to drastic deficits in state and local school budgets across the country. Join thousands of your colleagues in calling for Congress to save education jobs!
Susan E. Bridges, principal of A.G. Richardson Elementary School in Culpeper, Virginia, testified on May 19 before the House Committee on Education & Labor about the tools principals need to successfully turn schools around. Bridges recounted her personal experience in using data and developing a sense of community to overcome the challenges of redistricting.
“I firmly believe that I have been successful in leading change in my school because of my hard-working and dedicated staff and because of the support and flexibility in decision-making that I have been given by the school district’s administration,” Bridges said. “To be effective, all principals require the authority and autonomy to make necessary changes in their school buildings. This means principals must be able to arrange building staff and resources to address the needs of students, and to work collaboratively with colleagues both inside and outside of the school to identify the tools needed to sustain change and growth.”
Watch the live feed of the hearing and let us know your thoughts about turnaround leadership.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to turn around 5,000 low-performing schools in the next five years, and he is looking to principals for help.
Duncan recently addressed attendees of NAESP’s Annual Convention and Exposition via video, and he challenged them to help him turn around low-performing schools. “Principals are always the catalyst for change in schools and fundamental to the implementation of sustainable school reforms,” he said. “Consider being a turnaround principal. Think about moving to a struggling school in your district.”
According to Duncan, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing $4 billion for school turnaround programs through Title I School Improvement Grants, and the department has asked Congress for an additional $900 million for a reauthorized school turnaround grants program.
Duncan made it clear that he believes strong school leadership is a critical component of school improvement, and he discussed some of the steps the Department of Education is taking to support principals. “For the first time, we are dedicating resources specifically for school leader professional development,” Duncan said. “Historically our department has underinvested in that area, and we want to do much, much better.”
NAESP’s advocacy team is currently pushing for the inclusion of two policy proposals in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, both of which would strengthen professional development programs for principals. Read about these policy proposals on NAESP’s Advocacy Web page and watch Duncan’s speech online.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving your comments below.
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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?
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.