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Eligibility and Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria


This program is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, front-line principals. Current staff of NASSP, current members of the NASSP Board of Directors, and current NASSP state executive directors and their respective family members are ineligible.

NASSP must be notified immediately of any change in principalship status. Failure to notify NASSP could jeopardize a candidate's eligibility for the national award.

  • Any principal, headmaster, or leader of a virtual, public, or private middle level or high school from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, or the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools is eligible to be a national principal of the year candidate. Middle level and high schools are defined as those containing some portion of grades 6 through 12.
  • Applicants must have served as a principal at one or more middle level or high schools for three or more consecutive school years.
  • Candidates must complete the online 2015 NASSP National Principal of the Year application.
  • Each candidate must be a principal, headmaster, or leader at a middle level or high school and a member of NASSP and his or her state affiliate association at the time of selection or tenure as state principal of the year. For national finalists, these conditions must also be met at the time of national principal of the year interviews, when the national winners are announced, and during tenure.
  • Previous national winner(s) are in-eligible to reapply for the award.

Selection Criteria

Personal Excellence

  • Models continuous professional growth
  • Interacts with others professionally and tactfully
  • Communicates effectively in speaking and writing
  • Models values, beliefs, and attitudes that encourage others to higher levels of performance
  • Demonstrates commitment to NASSP and its programs through continuous membership and participation in the following:
    • National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) through national and state affiliate involvement (i.e., conference presentations, etc.)
    • National Honor Society (NHS), National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), and/or National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) chapter(s) that actively supports achievement and works to improve the academic culture in the school
    • National Association of Student Councils (NASC) affiliation with active community and school involvement projects.

Collaborative Leadership

  • Involves teachers, staff members, parents, students, and the community in creating and fostering a shared vision for the school
  • Leads collaboratively to promote ownership among staff, students, parents, and community members for school efforts and outcomes
  • Creates a culture of collaboration in which staff members work together as a professional learning community to promote student learning
  • Teaches, coaches, and supports the development of potential and current school leaders
  • Utilizes available technology tools for school management, operation, instruction, and assessment, fostering collaboration and communication to effectively address issues in the school community and meet the unique learning needs of each student.

Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

  • Improves teaching, learning, and assessment by implementing practices, programs, and improvement efforts on the basis of multiple sources of data
  • Leads efforts in curriculum alignment and identification of essential learning at each level
  • Observes, supervises, and evaluates teachers and instructional programs to maximize the learning opportunities for every teacher and for each student
  • Demonstrates knowledge of learning, teaching, assessment practices, research, and programs that maximize student performance
  • Facilitates in developing and maintaining co-curricular programs that complement the curriculum while fostering students' academic and social success
  • Ensures that each student has the best possible opportunity of realizing success by providing a personalized plan that evaluates individual learner needs in relation to learning time, setting, methods, and course sequence
  • Provides enrichment and support for both students and teachers in meeting high standards.


  • Establishes and maintains a school environment that reflects high expectations for students and staff
  • Creates a school climate that is warm, inviting, safe, and secure
  • Organizes the school so that all social, economic, and racial/ethnic groups have equal access to all school programs and provides the support needed for student success
  • Creates structures that promote positive relationships between adults and students and ensures that each student is well-known by at least one staff member
  • Acknowledges the accomplishments of students, teachers, and school community members.
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