Postscript: The Difference Mentoring Makes

Principals need continuous, job-embedded professional learning opportunities.
By L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE
Principal, May/June 2018. Volume 97, Number 5.

Every student deserves to attend a high-functioning school. That means we must do more to ensure that each school is led by an effective principal, with the appro­priate professional supports for continuous development.

In what areas do principals need the most support? We can turn to NAESP’s recently released report, The Pre-K–8 School Leader in 2018: A 10-Year Study, for perspective. Principals describe multiple areas of professional development need, including improving staff per­formance, understanding and applying technology, managing time, using social media effectively, and planning school improvement. Principals also iden­tified a number of student-related issues as being of high concern, including mental health issues, manag­ing behavior, and poverty.

NAESP bolsters principal leadership by addressing these focus areas and provid­ing research and best practices through various professional devel­opment activities and resources. But it is essential that states and districts also focus on what prin­cipals identify as their learning needs and use that information, along with the growing awareness of new models, to support principal learning throughout their career span and to develop authentic, rele­vant, and high-impact professional learning opportunities.

Mentoring programs, for exam­ple, have gained prominence in the ecosystem of professional learning opportunities. NAESP has long touted the benefits of prin­cipal mentoring in overall school success. New or newly assigned principals require the critical support that a highly trained mentor can offer in an atmosphere of trust and professional assistance. The opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to on-the-job implementation with the guidance of an experienced administrator helps ensure a successful career trajectory. And responses from The Pre-K–8 School Leader in 2018 indicate that 75 percent of responding principals found mentorship programs very or some­what valuable to success as an elementary principal.

Since its inception in 2003, NAESP’s National Mentor Training and Certification Program has empowered school districts from around the country to develop outstanding programs that enhance their leadership succession plans for the recruitment and retention of highly qualified princi­pals and other school leaders. Mentor training is a win-win situation for mentors and their protégés: Mentors give back to the profession while the protégé receives on-the-job training from an experienced principal.

L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE, is executive director of NAESP.

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