Finding Our Voice
Gail Connelly, NAESP Executive Director
, Vol. 33, No. 8, April 2010

Here’s some “hot off the press” information I’m thrilled to share with you:

According to very preliminary information from NAESP’s new market research survey that just crossed my desk, more than 75 percent of NAESP members—you and your colleagues across the nation—rate “advocacy on federal legislation and policy” as an extremely important/very important member benefit.

This reaffirms what we’ve been hearing from you in informal and formal conversations, in e-mails and phone calls, and during meetings. You want—you need—your voice to be heard on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. Department of Education. But none of us can be heard when we’re speaking alone. One voice quickly gets drowned out in the din of discourse. When the voices of thousands of principals join together as a national community of peers, amplified by NAESP’s megaphone, you gain power and resonance in a chorus that no governance body or Cabinet-level department can tune out or ignore.

We hear you loud and clear, too, and we’ve taken strong action by assembling an expert policy staff at NAESP who are advancing a proactive advocacy agenda. Our investment in advocacy on your behalf is already paying big dividends.

Our message to Congress and the U.S. Department of Education is clear, strong, and consistent: Principals provide essential leadership in improving student achievement and school performance. Your voice must be heard and heeded in the national discussion about school improvement. Here’s a summary of our action on your behalf.

On the Hill

This spring, NAESP launched a multifaceted, comprehensive advocacy campaign on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—still known formally as No Child Left Behind—to ensure that federal policies are aimed at building the capacity of elementary and middle-level principals to lead learning communities. NAESP is working to advance the entire bill (which includes several separate sections), but is specifically focusing on two significant provisions that directly impact principals:

  • Professional development—NAESP is working collaboratively with other associations to redefine “professional development” in ESEA so it is standards-based. We’re also working with members of Congress to identify a sponsor for our proposal to provide professional development for principals to strengthen their knowledge and skills related to early childhood education. Our proposal is grounded in our research-based standards, which are outlined in Leading Early Childhood Learning Communities.
  • High-quality mentoring—NAESP proposed language that would establish and fund high-quality leadership mentoring programs modeled on our National Mentor Certification Program.

On a separate initiative, NAESP helped create the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation, or the LEARN Act, which is a new, comprehensive measure that addresses literacy education from early childhood through adolescence. LEARN was introduced in the House and Senate in November; it will be folded into other legislation in the coming months.

With the U.S. Department of Education

NAESP continues to be proactively engaged with the department on several issues, some of which the Association supports on behalf of principals and some of which the Association respectfully opposes.

  • Race to the Top, part of the stimulus package, is designed to provide states with incentives to implement reform across four “assurance” areas: standards and assessments, teacher effectiveness and equity in teacher distribution, collecting and using data, and support for struggling schools. NAESP generally supports these guidelines and the allocation of funds to state governors.
  • The Obama administration revised the long-standing School Improvement Grants program to require low-performing schools to follow one of four “reform models” in order to receive funding. All four models result in the dismissal of principals and other educators.
    NAESP continues to vigorously oppose these models and strenuously object to the automatic dismissal of the principal without first granting such individuals the necessary authority, autonomy, time, and resources to implement sustainable improvements.
  • NAESP’s advocacy team has positioned the organization as a valued partner of the Department of Education, especially in its early childhood education initiatives. We’ve been called on to testify on ways to create and sustain aligned systems and seamless transitions for children from pre-K to grade 3. We’ll be calling on some of you to help inform our testimony.
We’ll keep you posted on the status of these and other initiatives, and we’ll continue to make advocacy a priority. No organization—not a national association and not a school district—can cut its way to prosperity. We must invest in the things that matter. Advocacy for elementary and middle-level principals in their commitment to all children matters.
Copyright © 2010. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or Web site may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, read NAESP's reprint policy.