From the Editor: A Home Court Advantage

Students today need every possible advantage to navigate the increased expectations of their ever-complicated worlds. A safe school with a positive culture gives them that advantage, helping them focus on achieving their fullest potential. Because culture permeates every aspect of a school—from teaching and learning conditions to collaboration to attendance to security—a princi­pal’s ability to maintain a positive environment can improve learning outcomes. These “leading indicators” of school success, as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan describes in his Q&A with Gail Connelly, can provide “a much more comprehensive and a much more honest picture of school, district, and state progress” than test scores alone.

The school culture articles in this issue of Principal address a range of matters that principals must master. To start the section off, Bobbi DePorter and Mark Reardon outline a blueprint for implementing a social and emotional learning program in “Balancing Positive School Culture,” while Benjamin S. Fernandez and Kelly M. Vaillancourt provide strategies to provide a multitiered system of support in “Supporting Mental Health.” Fernandez and Vaillancourt argue that schools should maximize their use of school psychologists, especially given that failing to address students’ mental health problems can undermine the larger social and academic climate.

This issue’s review of school culture also explores online safety and security protocols. In “Safe Digital Citizenship,” Sandra A. Trach provides guidelines for online safety, arguing that educators—and parents, too—must embrace digital literacy as an essential 21st century skill. In a roundtable, school leaders and security experts also address communicating with parents to alleviate their con­cerns about their children’s safety.

The school culture theme continues throughout the remainder of the issue lineup. In this installment of the Building Bridges series, which focuses on supports for English-language learners, the authors discuss how principals can achieve cultural proficiency to ensure success for this group of students. In addition, department articles focus on creating a welcoming environment for the children of same-sex parents, using a book study to talk about cultural dif­ferences, and developing advisories to create a “home base” for students.

Finally, the Association has just celebrated this year’s class of National Dis­tinguished Principals in a program that honors outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators. This year’s honorees, 61 principals from across the nation and from the United States Departments of Defense Office of Edu­cational Activity and the United States Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, were recognized for their exemplary achievements in Washington, D.C., in October. The eight-page salute to these principals is between pages 32 and 33. Please take the time to reach out to congratulate your state’s honoree.

Your comments are always welcome, so send us an email at to let us know what you think about this issue.

—Kaylen Tucker

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