The National Association of Secondary School Principals supports the development and implementation of a results-oriented, independent system of advanced professional certification for principals. The pressure to improve student learning has led to a greater emphasis on the instructional leadership responsibilities of school principals. Unlike the common practice of the corporate world, where there are systematic and continuous initiatives to grow and develop a leadership culture that can take on responsibilities, education makes no such investment of resources in future leaders. State licensing regulations require principals to take occasional graduate coursework or to accumulate some fixed number of continuing education units. However, there is no system that encourages greater level of competence and capacity building that principals might work toward.

The goal of an advanced certification process will be to formulate a set of professional norms for exemplary practitioners. The existence of advanced standards can guide all phases of the education and training of principals, from initial preparation and practice on to advanced practice. Principals who have developed into exemplary practitioners deserve to be recognized by the profession for their accomplishments. This affirmation of the quality of the work would create an incentive for excellence and professional growth. The implementation of a valid, reliable and fair system to identify exemplary principals would be of substantial assistance in selecting leaders and placing highly effective principals in those settings most in need of renewal and improvement.

NASSP Guiding Principles:

  • NASSP fully supports the development and implementation of an advanced certification process.
  • School principals must have a professional advanced accrediting organization similar to such entities found in the fields of medicine, architecture, accounting, and teaching.
  • Recent research has affirmed that leadership is an indispensable ingredient in transforming a school and is essential in order to implement and sustain quality instruction and a rigorous curriculum.
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract strong candidates and retain quality leaders to the principalship. Recognizing and rewarding exemplary practitioners would encourage strong leaders to remain in positions where they are making a difference.
  • The way in which schools are organized, structured, financed, and governed requires strong instructional leadership in order to foster improved teaching and student achievement.
  • Solid methods of quality assurance for principals must be put in place in order to assure effective leadership for all of the nation’s schools.
  • The existence of a valid, reliable, and fair system to identify highly effective principals is of substantial assistance in placing leaders in those settings most in need of renewal and improvement.
  • Pursuing an advanced system of certification is, in and of itself, a benefit for school leaders and the improvement of instruction and administration.


  • Establish a results-oriented advanced, independent, freestanding, and voluntary system of advanced certification for school principals built on a model similar to that of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
  • Ensure that an advanced certification process is developed to include an ongoing advisory board for the purpose of providing practical and academic advice. This advisory board must include principals and should also include additional stakeholders such as parents, teachers, and business leaders.
  • Establish appropriate and rigorous research and evaluation components in the development of the process in order to measure the effectiveness of the program related to school leadership practices and their impact on student learning.
  • Develop advanced standards and assessments for principals that enhance, not substitute, state licensing systems.
  • Provide advanced standards that guide all phases of the education and training of principals, from initial preparation, through licensure and initial practice and experience, and then on to advanced practice.
  • Encourage the support of local districts, school boards, schools of education, state and national organizations and the participation of experienced principals once an advanced certification process is established.
  • Work with other administrator organizations and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA) to seek the necessary financial support, personnel, and resources to bring a voluntary system of advanced certification to fruition.


Adopted July 13, 2006