Principals Lead Advocacy With Nation's Lawmakers

Last December saw the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a comprehensive law outlining the federal government’s role in elementary and secondary education. This year, in an effort to ensure principals' voices are heard in the wake of this important legislation, NAESP hosted its annual National Leaders Conference, March 13-15, bringing together nearly 200 principals from around the country to our nation’s capital to discuss education policy. Through innovative advocacy programming and visits to members of Congress, attendees had much to learn from—and share with—each other and our nation’s lawmakers.

The conference kicked off with an address from deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education, Ary Amerikaner, who provided an overview for attendees on what to expect now that ESSA has passed. She discussed some of the central provisions NAESP had pushed to include that would directly impact principals, such as the option for states to provide 3 percent of Title II funds specifically for principal support activities. However, ESSA remains to be implemented, and principals were encouraged to be as involved as possible and communicate their concerns with lawmakers.

Later, a panel and Q&A session shifted to state and local perspectives on implementing ESSA. Jessah Walker of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Jared Billings of the National Governors Association, and Dr. S. Dallas Dance, Baltimore County Public School superintendent, all weighed in on how ESSA will impact principals, and crucially, how principals can impact ESSA implementation at state and local levels.

Arguably the biggest draw for attendees was the chance to meet lawmakers to discuss their unique and critical perspective on education in this country. On Tues., March 15, principals visited their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill, contributing to spirited discussions about the future of ESSA and what it means to them as school leaders. Many were excited to share their experiences on Twitter with the #NAESPNLC hashtag:

Despite the passage of ESSA and the successes that were won, principals’ voices remain important to the implementation process and will continue to be necessary in advocating for the best interests of students and schools. This year’s National Leaders Conference provided a unique opportunity for principals to use their voice, and encourage others to do so during this critical moment for our nation’s education.