5 Legislative Asks to Influence Education Policy

Use this messaging—and tailor it to tell your school’s story—as you meaningfully engage with policymakers on the decisions they need to make to ensure the future of education and the principal profession grow.

The single most influential person to effect change in education policy is the principal. As trusted leaders of school communities, you experience firsthand what students and teachers need to thrive and what you need to support them. You advocate for your students and staff every day; increase your influence by taking your school’s story to policymakers at the district, local, and state levels.

If you don’t know where to start, in Principals’ Perspectives on Policy, the third brief in the Leaders We Need Now research series—researchers identified five themes after conducting in-depth interviews with principals that affect the future of the principal profession—and why policymakers need to prioritize them now. Use this messaging—and tailor it to tell your school’s story—as you meaningfully engage with policymakers the decisions they need to make to ensure the future of education and the principal profession grow.

1. Improve Principal Pipelines and Workforce Incentives: Principals voiced their concerns about sustaining the principal pipeline and succession planning, and the need for policymakers to improve financial incentives to help recruit and retain the best educators.
Message to Policymakers: Bolster investments in the educator pipeline by strengthening pre-service preparation, expanding financial incentives, and enhancing support structures to attract new principals into the field and retain those currently leading schools.

2. Rethink Testing and Accountability: Principals want policymakers to consider a broader range of factors for school performance, beyond testing, and minimize testing requirements, noting that they believe standardized tests are overemphasized.
Message to Policymakers: Reduce emphasis on standardized tests as the only way to determine student success and explore other measures such as the social and emotional needs of students.

3. Consult Administrators on Principal and Teacher Preparation and Professional Development: Noting a disconnect between their academic coursework and their actual practices, principals emphasized the need for on-the-job coaching and professional development for principals and that they should be consulted when determining topics for professional development. Principals identified a particular need to better understand how to leverage student teachers and support new teachers in the first few years after their preparation.
Message to Policymakers: Boost pre-service clinical-based practice opportunities, increase investments in professional development focused on job-embedded and cohort-based learning, and help principals maximize their impact as instructional leaders.

4. Honor, Recognize, and Listen to Principals: Principals want policymakers to better recognize them for the hard work through increased efforts like school visits to understand what school leaders go through on a daily basis before they make policy decisions and enact new legislation.
Message to Policymakers: Develop communication channels with principals to create “feedback loops” with principals to know and understand their needs.

5. Boost Funding and Resources: Though grateful for recent increases in federal funding, principals report feeling anxious because the manner in which the funding was released doesn’t support long-term reform to address many challenges, including recruiting and retaining school-based mental health professionals.
Message to Policymakers: Provide funding that is sustained, targeted, and flexible that addresses needs identified by principals—the individuals who know best their school’s needs.

Go to naesp.org/LWNN to download all three briefs in the Leaders We Need Now research series NAESP conducted with the American Institutes for Research to determine how crises and events of 2020-2021 affected the principal profession and how new demands on school leaders will change the future of education. Download “The Principal’s Role in Changing Education Advocacy” for more tips on turning your advocacy into action. Visit naesp.org/advocacy to learn more about how you can tell your school’s story to influence education policy.