NAESP President Meets with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,
Discusses Future of Public Schools

Nancy DavenportNAESP President Nancy Davenport represented pre-K-8 principals in the well-documented flurry of activity at the U.S. Department of Education on Monday Feb. 2. First Lady Michelle Obama's energizing address to Department of Education staff has been well publicized. Less known, however, is that prior to Obama's speech, Davenport was part of an exclusive, invited group of association leaders who met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the federal education agenda.

Duncan extended the invitation to this group in order to foster working relationships and to "look, listen, and learn" about what is presently going on in schools across the nation as he makes plans for his new team. Davenport represented the interests and positions of pre-K-8 principals, ensuring that NAESP is at the table to impact important education policy in a way that will help provide the best-possible education for the nation's children. "We are pleased that the Duncan team invited NAESP leadership to weigh in on pressing education matters because principals are poised to help the administration make gains in teaching and learning," said NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly.

Davenport said that she found Duncan to be "serious about improving education and he was a very good listener." She expressed her excitement that principals' perspectives on federal education policy are being not only heard, but sought. "Principals can offer our nation's leaders a unique perspective of what works and what doesn't, and I applaud the new Secretary of Education for recognizing that it will take a variety of perspectives to improve our nation's schools," said Davenport.

The group discussed the impact of the economic stimulus bill on education, specifically focusing on accountability of spending for greatest impact. When asked about making sure that schools and districts receive stimulus funding in a timely manner, Duncan responded that there will be accountability, but engaging the public will be an important way to ensure that stimulus money trickles down to impact the programs and initiatives for which it was intended.

Duncan expressed strong support for some of the very initiatives that NAESP has long advocated for, including strengthened quality early childhood education and additional professional development for teachers and principals. Duncan also indicated that the following policy issues would be high on the federal agenda:

  • Aligning pre-K-12 assessments and standards among states and examining at how accountability is measured;
  • Transparency with the public about standards, providing parents with more information about their children's performance;
  • Highlighting successful school programs and sharing that information with other districts; and
  • Aligning the continuum of education so that pre-K-12 education produces students who are college or career ready.

Duncan also indicated that he would spend the next six months traveling the nation, visiting with parents, teachers, and principals in preparation for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also declared his interest in further collaboration with NAESP and other leaders at the meeting.

Throughout this year, NAESP will focus on helping the U.S. Department of Education fully understand the crucial role of principals in leading our nation's schools. The Association is eager to work with policymakers to enact and implement sound federal education policies that will provide real help to schools and the children they serve.

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