The principal is the school’s leader and promotes equity and excellence in education for each student. This leadership is vital to every aspect of education–academics, the arts, athletics, cocurricular activities, and general administration. As the Association that represents these leaders, NASSP presents this statement of values for our staff, our members, and the broader educational community. The specific enumeration of these values that follows is based on several important conditions under which educators operate:
- Education in the United States is diverse in all aspects of operation, except in the expectation held by professional educators that all young people should receive a quality education that effectively prepares them for active and rewarding lives as individuals, parents, workers, and citizens.
- The nation’s student body is diverse. The great variety of faces that regularly appear in our classrooms and hallways brings with it a similarly great variety of educational aspirations and needs to which our schools and our society must respond with care, resources, and professional skills.
- Practitioners in secondary education, including administrators, teachers, counselors, and others must be trained to provide support and maintain responsive and proactive positions regarding the ever-changing nature of our society and the needs of our students. To facilitate these endeavors, NASSP provides opportunities to enhance the professional development and increase the effectiveness of the leadership of our members as they strive to improve the quality of education provided in their schools.
As leaders in the field of secondary education, both middle level and high schools, NASSP maintains the following set of values to guide our individual and organizational decision-making. These values reflect the beliefs embodied in the many previous positions of the Association, including our Mission Statement, Strategic Objectives, Statement of Ethics for School Administrators, Policy Statements and a number of specific position papers. The NASSP Statement of Values is a living document that is expected to evolve in response to the changes in law, policy, and procedure that inevitably, and regularly, affect education.NASSP VALUESRole of the Principal
The principal promotes excellence in school leadership. As the instructional leader of the school the principal promotes the success of all students by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that the principal develops in cooperation with the school community. The principal strives to make schools a positive learning environment by setting high expectations for each student and teacher. The principal is also the manager of the school, responsible for the legal, fiscal, and operational functions that provide an infrastructure for learning. Effective principals combine both instructional and managerial roles to foster student success and teacher effectiveness.Professional Development
Principals are responsible for their own professional development as well as their staff’s. Schools should be professional learning communities where principals and teachers are viewed as “lifelong learners” in their profession.
- Professional development for principals should be of high quality, ongoing, and focused on instructional leadership and raising student achievement. A principal’s commitment to professional development should extend through the life cycle of leadership–from principal preparation to on-the-job practice.
- Professional development activities for all professional staff should have a defined purpose that ties into the curriculum or the overall goals of the school that justify the participation of the school principal, faculty and staff in such activities.
Teacher quality begins with a strong preparation program followed by a closely supervised internship. All routes to certification should include rigorous coursework in pedagogy and extensive content area preparation. Schools should establish induction initiatives, including mentorships and integrated ongoing professional development, to support new teachers.School Improvement
Principals must ensure the culture of continuous improvement in their schools in terms of school climate, instructional programs, and instructional facilities. As such, the principal should have the decision-making authority to effectively bring about systematic change necessary for school improvement.Collaboration
Principals should strive for facilitative leadership, which is accomplished by delegating to and collaborating with teachers, developing teacher leaders by pursuing common goals, and engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process. Principals should communicate effectively with increasingly diverse internal and external audiences, including students, teachers, parents, and other community members. Additionally principals should identify emerging leaders for the principalship.School Organization
Schools should be organized into small learning communities that establish a personalized learning environment for each student. Principals should examine the various structures of the school, including the academic year, daily period structure, and faculty departmental organization, to ensure those structures best facilitate student learning. These decisions should be based on and substantiated by scientifically based research.Data-Driven Decision Making
The informed use of data is an essential element in instructional decision making. Research and data, in conjunction with the principal’s professional judgment, should drive instructional, curricular, and pedagogical decisions. Principals must use data, report and explain data to internal and external audiences, in support of data-driven decisions, which influence instruction and stimulate change.Assessment and Accountability
Standardized testing is one element in the complete assessment of student progress, but no single test should serve as the sole criteria for a student’s advancement in grade level, graduation or placement or serve as a punishment or reward for schools or those who staff them. Accountability should be enforced where the necessary resources are provided and the tools used to measure success or failure are well developed, appropriate to the task, and used to inform instructional decisions.School Choice
School choice is appropriate within the public school system as long as equal opportunity and access are ensured without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or disability. Public funds should remain in public schools and should not be used to support private or parochial schools.Alternative Education
Alternative educational opportunities should be made available to students for whom the traditional classroom setting is not the optimal learning environment. Schools should work to create a learning plan for students, which may include alternative classroom settings, that will best address the educational needs of students.Literacy
Reading and writing initiatives at the secondary school level need to receive the level of commitment and resources to ensure that appropriate reading programs and initiatives are in place. Literacy skills should be fostered and enhanced as the basis for learning for the full K-12 spectrum and should serve as a foundation on which other curriculum areas must build.Technology
Technology in schools is a tool for enhancing learning. Professional development on the use of technology should be provided to the faculty on a regular basis. Further, schools should be constructed and modernized to maximize the benefit of technology investments.Relationships
Principals, as leaders in the school and in the community, oversee the development and maintenance of school relationships. Principals should work to foster positive relationships in and among those within the school building, but should also work to build positive relationships within the entire community.
- The principal serves as the link between district-level officials and faculty, students, and staff who work within the individual school. It is critical that the principal communicate information, education policies and concerns between school officials, staff and students at all levels. By working in concert, school administrators in their respective roles can help to create a positive and productive learning environment for the students and a positive and productive working environment for faculty and staff.
- Principals and faculty members along with students’ parents and families should work to create mutually supportive relationships to further the best interests of the students and the school.
- Principals should develop political and business relationships with individuals and organizations to cultivate support for educational programs and policies. Additionally, principals should work with community agencies to coordinate the delivery of health and social services to improve and preserve the overall well-being and safety of students. With respect to these community-based relationships, the principal reserves the authority to determine the level of involvement the school has with those outside of the school building.
Principals clearly understand the needs of the their individual schools. Therefore, principals should have the authority to make decisions based on the best interest of their school and their students.
- With respect to district-wide decisions, the principal shall be offered the opportunity to make recommendations, which should receive full consideration of school district officials.
- In all circumstances, the principal should draw on available data, experience and the needs of the standards set by the community to support such decisions and recommendations.
- In general, where local and state laws are silent on an issue, decision-making authority should reside at the school or district level, as appropriate.
Principals should advocate on behalf of students. To advocate effectively on behalf of students, principals and teachers must continue to support and uphold the constitutional, civil, and due process rights of all students.Student Achievement
Schools should prepare students for the challenges that they will face as they transition from one stage of life to the next by helping students focus on gaining the skills, knowledge, and understandings today that they will need tomorrow. Ultimately, the success of a school is dependent upon the achievement of each student.
- School officials should be able to assess, in a fair and consistent manner, the performance of students to ensure that each student is progressing in school and to address those areas in which students need additional help to achieve their goals. The results of these assessments should be communicated regularly with students and parents as a part of the school’s plan for building strong school-home relations.
- Schools foster confidence in students and reinforce the essentials of learning by recognizing the significant achievements of students.
- The promotion of a student to the next grade is appropriate when that student has mastered the skills at the present level necessary to meet the new challenges at the next level. Schools must provide students who are falling behind with additional services and resources, including tutoring, after-school programs, or summer school. In addition, schools should work to identify those students who are at risk for failing or dropping out of school, focus on assisting those students, and guide them successfully through their secondary school experience.
- Middle level and high schools should provide rigorous instruction and curricula, along with activities that are developmentally appropriate–sensitive to the unique emotional, intellectual, physical, psychological, and social needs of early and older adolescents so as to create opportunities for high levels of student success.
Schools should strive to educate the total child by providing basic classroom instruction and by offering other experiences and activities that are rich in educational value and contribute to the positive development of the child. Student development is an ongoing process that includes academics as well as activities that promote character, citizenship, and leadership.
- Schools must unabashedly teach students about key virtues such as honesty, dependability, trust, responsibility, tolerance, respect, and other commonly held values important to our society.
- The development of sound ethical values is critical to the maintenance of a free and democratic society. The pervasive impact of modern society has increased the need for the development of sound ethical values in our youth.
- The principalship is enhanced by a core of effective and strong student leaders.
The students are a school community’s first priority. To maintain this as a priority, school-based decisions must always be guided by the students’ best interest.
- Principals and other school staff should communicate and work with students to understand and meet the needs of students.
- The safety of students while they attend school and school-sponsored activities is of paramount importance. Therefore, it is imperative that schools provide an environment in which safety and order prevail.
- Principals must play an active role in designing and implementing consistent discipline policies that ensure the safety of students.
For students to function as productive members of a democratic society, they must understand and appreciate their own rights and the rights of others. While schools teach students these values through the curriculum and school-sponsored activities, school officials must also teach by example by respecting the rights of students and requiring that students respect the rights of one another.
- Schools must recognize that students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate. Therefore, to the greatest practical extent, students must be afforded their rights protected under law.
- In circumstances where a student is facing suspension, expulsion, or some other deprivation of liberty or property, schools must continue to provide the student with appropriate due process prior to taking action against the student and must handle such matters with fundamental fairness.
- Schools should respect the diversity of their student body and maintain equal treatment for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or disability. All students have the right to learn in an environment that is free from discrimination or harassment of any student by any other student, faculty member, administrator, or other school personnel.
Beyond the standard curriculum of required and elective courses, schools enhance student learning and development by offering a range of co-curricular activities. These activities are expected to be age-appropriate and relevant to the needs of the student body and the overall goals of the school.
Although all activities should serve as extensions of or have links to the curriculum or the purposes of the school, they can be divided into four distinct categories:
- Direct extensions of required or elective courses (e.g., science club, math club, dance club, etc.), including opportunities for recognition of achievements in those areas through honorary organizations (e.g., National Honor Society, Quill and Scroll, Spanish Honor Society, Tri-M Honor Society [music], etc.)
- Clubs or activities that are expressions of student interest that may be interdisciplinary in nature or not have a direct curricular link (e.g., popular music club, skateboarding club, etc.)
- Student council or student government that serve as opportunities for students to engage in the democratic process and have a voice in the life of the school to the extent allowable by law, policy, or tradition
- Interscholastic and intramural athletics that provide students opportunities for development through sport (e.g., football, track, tennis, cheerleading, etc.).
For many activities sponsored on campus, there exist state and national organizations of like-minded participants. Membership in these organizations adds value to the activities sponsored at the local level by providing training and other services, unique opportunities for networking, and additional recognition for those involved.Participation in the events sponsored by the state and national organizations for youth should meet identifiable minimum standards for the quality of the program, its content, and its practices regarding participant supervision and safety.Activities, regardless of which category they fall into, can be expected to maintain the following qualities:
- Activities have a defined purpose that ties into the curriculum or the overall goals of the school, thus making such activities educationally defensible.
- Activities are well planned, organized, and implemented, and are evaluated on a regular basis.
- Activities remain nondiscriminatory in their membership policies and functions, and seek to engage the maximum number of students within the established limits of the program.
- Activities are supervised by professional staff to ensure that all functions of the group are monitored and in line with established policies and the law. Because this supervision is an extension of the professional responsibilities of the staff member involved, the staff member should receive professional development in the area of responsibility and appropriate compensation for the work provided while fulfilling this supervisory duty.
Approved by the NASSP Board of Directors
November 9, 2002