ESSA 101: Title II Provisions that Support Principals

How the new law supports principals, including through mentoring, induction, and professional learning.

June 2016, Volume 39, Issue 10

The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives unprecedented support for the role of principals. It includes authorization for funding to states and districts that can be used in a myriad of ways to support principals, such as mentoring and induction for early career principals, and professional learning for mid-career school leaders to improve instructional leadership skills. States and districts are now developing plans on how to use ESSA funding, which requires principals, both aspiring and currently in the profession, to advocate for programs and opportunities that will meet their needs—as well as show that investing in school leadership can improve student outcomes.

How does the law support principals now?
Similar to the previous law, Title II Part A provides formula grants to states and districts based on Title I Part A allocations that must be used to support educator development and effectiveness. This can be achieved through a variety of means, such as improving preparation programs and providing professional learning for teachers and principals. However, states are now allowed to reserve up to 3 percent of the total Title II Part A allocation to support principals exclusively through activities such as professional development, mentoring, or professional residency in preparation for the profession.

NAESP sees this new permissive use of funds as an excellent opportunity to examine professional development systems for principals and increase support where the systems fall short across the principal’s entire career, from recruitment to ongoing support.

*Title II will phase in a new formula over the next four years that will increase funding for concentrations of poverty in states.

What’s different?
This is the first time ESEA specifically calls out principals and the need to support school leaders throughout their careers. The Title II provisions addresses the national need to fill a robust principal pipeline—recruiting, retaining, and supporting principals to ensure that there are enough qualified principals to meet the demand, which will continue to increase in coming years.

Two important notes about this new provision in the law:

Principals’ and teachers’ must have separate professional development to meet their unique needs—this will allow states to focus funds specifically on mentoring, induction, and other professional learning to recruit and retain principals.

ESSA also clarifies the term “school leader” as the principal or assistant principal in the school building—an important and much-needed distinction to avoid confusion with other school district administrators.

What should I do now?
First and foremost, principals must be sure that their school district and state leaders are aware of this new provision and allowable use of funds.

ESSA requires that school districts and states consult with principals for their advice on how to best use these funds and how to improve existing programs and services.

NAESP recommends that principals and superintendents work together now to identify shortfalls in the principal pipeline and make plans to use the funds in ways that best fit their local needs, such as preparation programs, ongoing professional learning, or recruitment.

What’s next?
Congress must appropriate funds for the program through its fiscal year 2017 budget, and states are working to set plans for ESSA implementation by the 2017-2018 school year.

NAESP will continue to work to publicize this new permissive use of Title II funds and will continue to bring information about Title II opportunities for principals.

ESSA Fast Facts

  • The No Child Left Behind Act language mentioned “principals” 37 times in a meaningful way, while mentioning “teachers” over 400 times. ESSA, in recognition of the importance of the role, mentions principals more than 80 times in ways that are supportive in the law. This is significant in noting how the law places a greater and much-needed spotlight on the role of principals.
  • ESSA will go into effect over the next year as states develop plans and transition from NCLB beginning in August 2016, moving towards full implementation in the 2017-2018 school year. Many states are aiming to have their full plans set by December 2016.

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