In the wake of the education community’s shift to remote and virtual learning solutions, the importance of leveraging technology in education cannot be overstated. Through the Digital Principals of the Year (DPOY) program, NASSP honors principals who exhibit bold, creative leadership in their drive to harness the potential of new technologies to further learning goals. Each year, NASSP honors three member principals in schools that cover any subset of grades 6–12. Criteria for the award are based on the International Society for Technology in Education Standards for Administrators and the applications of those skills to further the Building Ranks™ framework for school improvement.
Congratulations to the 2020 NASSP Digital Principals of the Year:
Independence Nontraditional School
Principal Robert Eichorn believes that eliminating technology barriers to create educational equity for the most at-risk students and those who serve them begins with a vision of learner- and staff-centered access, modeling applications as a team, and continually evaluating and celebrating successes. Every student and staff member at Independence Nontraditional School in Prince William County in Virginia is provided with 1:1 access to digital technology, on- and off-site. As a new principal in 2009, he set out to help socioeconomically disadvantaged students by using available resources in a tuition-free and cost-effective manner to ultimately increase graduation rates while reducing dropout rates for high school students. Independence Nontraditional School expanded all virtual and blended learning options for students enrolled directly at the school while simultaneously offering several hundred seats to students enrolled at other high schools. After reviewing graduation and dropout data, surveying high school principals, and coordinating with district leadership, they established a tuition-free virtual learning program called the Senior Scholarship Program. A year-round model, students remained in their home school while concurrently taking multiple classes through the program. Students with no internet access were given access to open labs after school from 2:30–5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:00–11:00 a.m. During nine years of implementation, 2,450 graduates were served and families saved $774,775.00 in tuition costs. Prince William County moved from an 83.19 percent graduation rate in 2008 to 92.1 percent in 2018, with the dropout rate below the state average.
Spring Hill, FL
Beyond the use of digital content and learning management systems, Principal JoAnne Glenn has made it her mission to select, develop, and refine a suite of technology tools to improve communication with students, parents, and teacher teams, affording stakeholders the opportunity to communicate in a variety of formats within and outside the learning platform. Her staff collaborates to devise innovative strategies to build digital content, learning experiences, and tailored instructional resources that provide students access to supplemental coursework and lessons—regardless of when they need support. These shared tools, practices, and experiences have now gelled into a cohesive instructional model that defines the school’s way of working. Students and parents share common touchpoints in their daily educational experiences that include student choice, flexible scheduling, and mastery-based learning supported by a team of talented teachers. She led the selection and adoption of a new web conferencing platform for hosting synchronous lessons. Her team reviewed web conferencing platforms and selected one that could integrate with their learning management system to provide authentication of users. Staff members with technical and pedagogical expertise were recruited to participate in demonstrations to narrow the field. Once a tool was selected, a series of tiered trainings was created for teachers to build their knowledge and mastery of the new platform. This transition provided an opportunity to train teachers and students in a new model for collaboration, with a focus on leveraging features that required a more active model of student participation.
Howard University Middle School of
Mathematics and Science
Principal Kathryn Procope believes in transforming the way children learn. At the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, students use technology to experience knowledge and expand on what they already know in a safe and secure classroom. The blended experience using the Summit Learning platform provides students with opportunities to supplement teacher instruction with online enrichment. Students set goals in the online platform, which are then reviewed with their mentor teacher during daily mentoring meetings. Students use digital tools in self-directed learning time to complete assignments, research projects with team members, and submit work to their teachers for feedback. This approach has enabled students to take ownership of their learning while developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Parents and teachers use The Remind text messaging service to keep in touch daily, and the Summit Learning Parent Portal provides parents insight on their child’s academic progress and offers methods to assist children at home. She works with community partners to supply internet access to families. The school sends devices home with students so they can pursue academic activities at home. Community partners help support that vision by providing field experiences, professional development sessions for teachers, and training support for parents. When the COVID-19 pandemic required the school to transition to distance learning, She shifted the teaching model to ensure they equip students with the habits they’ll need to be successful long after they finish school—like knowing how to manage their time, set goals, reflect on their progress, and reach out for additional help. Today, all students have regular check-ins where they set short- and long-term goals and work with their mentors to make a plan on how to achieve them, and are able to track their own progress.