NAESP Orchestrates Push for Federal Funding to Support Principals

By Kelly D. Pollitt
April 2014, Volume 37, Issue 8

NAESP has joined forces with national organizations representing the nation’s principals to advance its longstanding advocacy initiatives related to directing federal funds to better support principals. The groups have come together to push a proposal that would direct local education agencies receiving funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to allocate no less than 10 percent of the total Title II funds available for professional development for principals to improve instructional leadership.

The proposal honors the intent and focus of the law, which requires states to provide assistance to local educational agencies for the development and implementation of professional development programs for principals that will enable them to be effective school leaders and prepare all students to meet challenging student academic achievement standards. To be effective leaders, principals must have the tools necessary to address a variety of activities required in schools, including the evaluation of teachers and implementation of new college- and career-ready standards.

NAESP is working with the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) on this effort, but the Association has long advocated that states and districts do a better job providing principals with the support that is needed to fulfill the requirements and expectations of the role. In recent years, principals have faced an increasingly complex set of demands as new state and local policies emerged based on federal laws and regulations, most notably related to the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and teacher evaluation. The majority of the nation’s teachers and principals are now tackling seismic shifts in practice without the provision of sufficient time or resources to address what are often profound practical implications of work to increase students’ mastery of skills across subjects.

Teachers and principals are working tirelessly to implement new curriculum frames that will lead to deeper understanding of conceptual thinking for students, who will be sufficiently prepared to transition to new assessments tied to college- and career-ready standards. Moreover, educators are engaging in new processes and procedures related to their performance evaluation, which are tied in significant part to student achievement.

“There is growing concern about the increasingly complex and demanding role of principals with no reciprocal support for them to meet new expectations of the job,” notes Gail Connelly, NAESP executive director. “If we expect principals to be successful in implementing the myriad of reforms in schools, we must provide the tools, resources and knowledge that they need as instructional leaders,” she added.

Funding for professional development to support the success of principals is currently an allowable use of funds under Title II of ESEA. However, last year the U.S. Department of Education found that districts use only an average of 4 percent of the $2.5 billion fund for principal development—falling far short of what principals need to meet the demands in instructional leadership.

In many cases, states and districts report offering 96 percent of the funds for professional learning related to the needs of teachers, while failing to provide principals access to opportunities that would build their knowledge and skills related to new reform areas.

This month, the principals’ coalition sent a letter to Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) of the Senate Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee requesting that the bill amend Title II to direct local education agencies receiving funds from ESEA to allocate no less than 10 percent of the total funds available for professional development for principals to improve instructional leadership. Signed by over 70 organizations, the initiative launched a comprehensive advocacy effort that will continue when Congress returns from spring break. NAESP, along with the coalition members, will push legislators in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to address this national concern.

NAESP members will have an opportunity to participate in this important effort; every principal’s voice is needed to influence lawmakers during this critical time. NAESP’s advocacy team will issue a legislative alert to help you connect with your representatives and senators on Capitol Hill to emphasize the need to provide funding that will support the nation’s principals as they work to support teachers and help all children succeed.

Kelly D. Pollitt is Associate Executive Director for Policy, Public Affairs, and Special Projects at NAESP

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