NAESP Members Testify Before Congress About ESEA
by Abigail C. Evans, NAESP Government Relations Specialist
Communicator, Vol. 33, No. 10, June 2010

Timing of when the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will happen is the burning question in education circles these days. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are calling on Congress to move swiftly to update the massive education law and some legislators seem inclined to agree: Both the House and Senate education chairs have indicated they plan to release their respective reauthorization proposals this summer. However, the congressional calendar is already full—and short, given the midterm elections approaching in November—therefore, the ESEA reauthorization might slip into 2011.

Nevertheless, much has been done recently that gives some credence to reauthorization moving forward. Since April, the congressional education committees have been holding hearings on various topics surrounding ESEA. NAESP was pleased that two of its members were invited to testify on different panels to discuss the role of the principal in reform and instructional leadership.

In April, Wyoming elementary school principal Layne Parmenter testified before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing on teachers and leaders regarding the Education Department’s Blueprint for Reform proposal.

During his testimony, Parmenter told senators, “Next to good teachers in the classroom, principals are the driving force behind improved student achievement and learning outcomes.” Parmenter was invited to testify to represent the perspective of America’s rural schools and educators. “As you consider the many options and reforms to ESEA, I respectfully urge you to remember the complex and important job of the principal and the unique challenges of those serving in rural areas,” he added. Parmenter pointed to the importance of ongoing professional development and mentoring for principals to stay current in best practices and to lead schools to sustainable achievement.

In May, Virginia elementary school principal Susan Bridges testified before the House Education and Labor Committee to discuss the skills needed to lead change in schools. Citing concerns with school reform proposals that would enable the federal government to replace principals and teachers in persistently low-performing schools, Bridges told the committee, “Principals understand that local decisions—staffing, resource priorities, infrastructure needs, etc.—must continue to reside at the local school and district level where community and school needs can be adequately weighed and addressed.”

During a robust question-and-answer session, Bridges and her fellow witnesses agreed that four items are necessary to lead and sustain change in schools: flexibility, time, local decision-making, and professional development for teachers and principals.

Now that the education committees have completed their hearings on ESEA, they will begin work on drafting their respective reauthorization proposals. Regardless of how soon we see the details of these proposals, NAESP has been working closely with Congress and the administration on our own proposals for ESEA. NAESP is committed to ensuring all principals receive the authority and autonomy they require to lead their schools to success. We know principals—just like teachers—require access to ongoing professional development and opportunities for mentoring with principals in similar school situations. And we’re forging ground with a proposal to ensure principals who seek it have access to quality professional development in the area of early childhood education.

As the reauthorization process moves forward, NAESP continues to solicit feedback and ideas from our members. Visit our Advocacy page to find out how to get involved.

 

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