5 Takeaways from NAESP’s National Leadership Conference

Principals from across the nation attended the advocacy and leadership event in Washington D.C.
March 2019, Volume 42, Issue 7

School safety, more funding for public schools, and student mental health services were on the minds of the principals who traveled from across the nation to attend NAESP’s National Leaders Conference (NLC) in Washington, D.C. The annual leadership and advocacy event included sessions on federal education policy, top leadership strategies, and the latest research and concluded with a day of action on Capitol Hill. Here are the top takeaways:

1. Education accounts for less than 2 percent of all federal spending. You read that right—less than 2 percent, despite a recent Politico poll showing that voters want to see more government spending on education. In the latest budget proposal, the Trump administration recommended significant cuts to education funding, which would be detrimental to our students, schools, teachers and administrators, and our communities. Read NAESP’s statement on the proposed budget.

Take Action: NAESP’s new VoterVoice platform allows you to quickly and easily contact your legislators. The more they hear from you—our principals on the front lines of education—the more likely they will be to support the programs and services your schools and students need to succeed. Check it out today!

2. Social-emotional learning (SEL) continues to be a hot topic. As noted in the NAESP Advocacy Update presentation by Danny Carlson, NAESP assistant executive director, Policy and Advocacy, SEL was one of the top three issues of concern among principals who took part in our advocacy survey.

In a leadership session during NLC, John Bridgeland, commissioner, National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, highlighted a new study from The Aspen Institute called From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope. What they found, among many takeaways, was that there’s a demand for SEL skills among students—not just in school but also throughout life.

Bridgeland also pointed out recommendations that came from the study. They include:

  • Set a vision for student success that prioritizes the whole child;
  • Transform learning settings so they are physically and emotionally safe and fost strong bonds among students and adults;
  • Change instruction to teach students social, emotional, and cognitive skills and embed these skills in academics and school-wide practices; and
  • Build adult expertise in child and adolescent development.

SEL issues also came up during a crossfire debate between Deb Delisle, Alliance for Excellent Education, and Rick Hess, American Enterprise Institute.

“Kids don’t leave trauma at the door,” said Delisle. “I suggest schools have a part of [teaching SEL], but it also needs to be a community-based approach.”

3. Principals advocating on behalf of education are among the most passionate in the country. And we’ve got our latest #NAESPchat to prove it; almost more than 100 principals and assistant principals from across the country joined forces to discuss via Twitter the most pressing issues in education. Here’s a sampling of the most popular tweets.

4. All principals need to prepare for data use and governance, according to Jeremy Anderson, president, Education Commission of the States. Well-designed state data systems allow schools, districts, and the public to access timely, useful information, which is important to get increased funding for schools. Decision-makers are looking for better data to guide actions—and principals should know the trends to be able to advocate for their schools.

5. Though it takes time, making meaningful connections with legislators is vital. Former Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia knows this firsthand—from the view of a legislator. Relationships with legislators don’t happen with one visit. Whether it is a meeting at the state capitol or on Capitol Hill, there are ways you can keep in touch. Here are a handful:

  • Regularly inform district and federal legislative offices about current education topics;
  • Check in often with district staff and federal legislative assistants;
  • Attend town meetings and thank legislators for their positive efforts;
  • Periodically invite legislators or staff to events; and
  • Make sure to follow up and invite legislators to visit your school community.

Find more gems from NAESP’s National Leaders Conference by following the Twitter conversation at #naespNLC.

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