A New Year for New Principals
January 2016, Volume 39, Issue 5
Although January 1 signals the official start of a new year, for principals the most significant new year begins much earlier. Many members of NAESP’s National Panel of New Principals were opening their schools’ doors for the first time in August and September, and are already approaching the halfway mark. A recent survey asked panelists about their experiences a few months after the first day of school. The results provide an interesting snapshot of what it’s like for a principal new to the positon to kick off the school year.
The first day is never without some difficulties, but new principals were fairly confident in a few key areas. Most felt strongly about completing their scheduling (57 percent), and that staffing was in place (55 percent). However, fewer principals felt their schools were prepared in other aspects. 30 percent felt teachers were fully prepared, and only 28 percent thought parents were adequately informed and involved. Find tips for increasing family engagement in Principal magazine’s “Parents & Schools” departent, which features topics such as forging digital connections, and understanding the millennial parent. Report to Parents, a monthly bulletin to distribute to families, can also bolster family involvement by encouraging summer learning, and reinforcing math skills.
Despite these challenges, most new principals felt fairly well organized. More than two-thirds of those surveyed gave themselves at least seven out of ten in preparedness. What’s more, that confidence seems to only increase with experience. While only 53 percent of first-year principals felt themselves at least a seven on the preparedness scale, nearly 80 percent of second-year principals thought the same.
This confidence doesn’t necessarily lead to complacency, however, as there is still plenty to tackle in the months that follow. Here are some of the most frequently cited challenges, along with resources to support principals in these problem areas:
- Student academic achievement (55 percent)
Principal’s “Raising the Bar” column frequently features strategies to improve academic achievement, including rigor in the pre-k classroom and creating an urban oasis for students.
- Closing the student achievement gap (40 percent)
Principal magazine’s issue on equity and the achievement gap features ways to break the cycle, such as reconsidering disciplinary strategies that disproportionately impact minorities.
- Budgetary concerns (30 percent)
Principals can make the most out of the hand they are dealt by following the example of educators running successful schools despite financial setbacks.
- Student wellness and mental health (26 percent)
The Principal magazine issue on mental health and well-being features various articles on supporting wellness, including a roundtable from experts on how schools can leverage counselors and psychologists.
The coming year will bring more challenges, but it seems even those newest to the principalship feel ready to tackle them. To access the full results of this survey or the latest issue of Rise & Shine, visit the resources page of www.newprincipal.org. If you are a principal in your first or second year, consider joining the National Panel of New Prinicpals.
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