Pre-K Leadership Training Helps Meet the Needs of Vulnerable Students

NAESP releases SREB evaluation results of the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy Pilot in Alabama.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia—To address the gap between early childhood programs and early elementary schooling, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) developed and piloted the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy. The blended learning academy trains school leaders in the necessary competencies to oversee education in early childhood settings. The inaugural cohort took place in Alabama in the 2017-2018 school year and included 29 school leaders.

According to “Evaluation of the 2017-18 Implementation of the NAESP Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy Pilot in Alabama,” participants reported statistical significant growth in each of the six Pre-K–3 leadership competencies, noted below. Ninety percent of respondents reported that the academy helped them to “better meet the needs of vulnerable children.”

Additional major outcomes include:

Increased professional learning:

There was a 42 percent increase in joint professional development (PD) including both ages 0-4 and grades K-3 practitioners: across all participants, there were 92 joint PD events in 2017-18, up from 65 in 2016-17. Fourteen of 21 participants (67 percent) reported an increase. Respondents also reported that 139 of the K–3 teachers at their schools are currently receiving early childhood training, credentials, accreditation, or experience.

Make schools a hub for Pre-K–3 learning:

At the beginning of the program, participants identified Competency 6, “Make schools a hub for Pre-K–3 learning for families and communities,” as the competency on which they were weakest, giving an average rating of 3.76 on a six-point Likert scale. At the end of the academy, the average rating increased to 5.19.

Ensuring developmentally appropriate teaching:

When asked whether they believe developmentally appropriate practices approaches are superior to traditional approaches in a variety of areas of student learning, almost all participants agreed they were best for all areas except self-care skills such as managing clothes and jackets, zipping and buttoning, and hanging up backpacks. Therefore, while a majority still did see developmentally appropriate practices as preferred (16 of 21, 76 percent), there was a larger group of leaders preferring to see teachers take a more direct instructional approach to managing these areas.

Jon Schmidt-Davis of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) conducted the evaluation in August 2018 and prepared the report for NAESP.

The academy curriculum is based on six leadership competencies the NAESP identified in its 2014 white paper on the topic, “Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice” (NAESP 2014):

  • Competency 1: Embrace the Pre-K-3 early learning continuum
  • Competency 2: Ensure developmentally appropriate teaching
  • Competency 3: Provide personalized learning environments
  • Competency 4: Use multiple measures of assessment to guide student learning growth
  • Competency 5: Build professional capacity across the learning community
  • Competency 6: Make schools a hub of Pre-K-3 learning for families and communities

Read the full report. Learn more about the Academy.

About NAESP: The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) is a professional organization serving elementary and middle school principals and other education leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada and overseas. Our mission is to lead in the advocacy and support for these leaders in education in their commitment for all children. To learn more, visit