NAESP Releases New Competencies for Leading Pre-K-3

NAESP Releases New Competencies for Leading Pre-K-3

This standards document defines new competencies for principals, and outlines a practical approach to high-quality early childhood education that is critical to laying a strong foundation for learning for young children from age three to grade three.

Contact: Kaylen Tucker, NAESP,, 703-518-6257

ALEXANDRIA, VA–October 16, 2014–Today, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) released its updated, practical guide, Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, to support principals in creating school conditions that support early learners’ needs. The resource sets forth the skills that principals leading schools that serve children from age 3 to age 8—typically Pre-K-3—must have to ensure success for all young children. A digital download of both the executive summary and full document are available at

Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities represents a new, child-centered vision for school leadership that applies the latest research and knowledge about child development and early childhood education to set expectations for effective principal practice. “As the leading advocacy organization representing the nation’s principals and working to highlight the importance of early childhood education in both policy and practice, NAESP supports policies and practices that help principals forge connections between the early childhood community and K-3 or K-12 systems,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of NAESP. “Such an approach addresses the readiness gap before it becomes an achievement gap.”          

The standards were launched at an event featuring leading researchers and principals successfully supporting a Pre-K-3 continuum at the National Press Club on Thurs., Oct. 16. Speakers included:

  • Libby Doggett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education;
  • Kristie Kauerz, University of Washington;
  • Steve Tozer, University of Illinois at Chicago;
  • Kimbrelle Lewis, Principal, Cordova Elementary School, Memphis, Tennessee; and
  • Jessica Johnson, Principal, Dodgeland Elementary School, Juneau, Wisconsin, and 2014 National Distinguished Principal.

“The Pre-K-3 continuum outlined in Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities encompasses the tenets that principals believe about early education, most importantly that investments made early—from age three to grade three—pay enormous dividends over a child’s lifetime,” said NAESP President Mark White, who also served as co-chair of NAESP’s Pre-K-3 Committee.

Among the Key Findings:
To build the capacity of principals to help more children grow and learn early on, NAESP has developed a set of competencies for what principals need and specific strategies for obtaining them. Principals working in the Pre-K-3 continuum essentially straddle two entirely separate universes—birth to five, and K-12. Each has had its own history and infrastructure, such as policy and funding streams, as well as preparation systems. To successfully navigate these two worlds, we must recognize that success in Pre-K-3 is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each school and each community is different. NAESP puts forward a set of principles that can guide principals in creating and supporting connections between the worlds of birth to five and K-12 in order to build a successful Pre-K-3 school continuum.

By bringing Pre-K practices in line with those in kindergarten and the early school years, principals provide a coherent, related set of experiences for children during the first critical years of schooling. Policy and systems must shift to support a Pre-K-3 learning system by identifying important areas of focus, and to think about leadership practices that are developmentally-appropriate, including how to:

  • Identify quality indicators of effective Pre-K-3 systems;
  • Understand how to provide a student-centered, personalized, and well-rounded approach from ages 3 to 8;
  • Use the principal’s role as a vital link between prekindergarten and the primary grades and as a bridging force between school and community;
  • Build understanding among parents, community members, and others who are part of the learning community about the benefits of early learning; and
  • Build capacity to work effectively with parents and families.

Funds for this publication were generously contributed by:
VINCI Education—Dr. Dan Yang, Ph.D. Founder and CEO and Kamar Shah, Chief Marketing Officer, and Lifetouch National School Studios.


Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) leads in the advocacy and support for elementary and middle school principals in the United States and internationally. NAESP supports principals as the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning through policy and professional development, advocacy, programs, and resources for effective instructional leadership. NAESP advances the profession on behalf of all principals, providing specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas including pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and capacity-building educator evaluation. For more information about NAESP, please visit