As NASSP enters its 100th year, it seems like a great opportunity to reflect on how our advocacy work has impacted the profession.
Historical documents state that NASSP, founded in February 1916 as an organization for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders, “was conceived in rebellion.” The public high school idea had rapidly expanded, and principals were faced with difficult problems for which there was no precedent. Research shows that principals also greatly resented local school boards and district leaders who interfered with their ability to hire teachers and perform other functions under their jurisdiction. NASSP was formed to be an organization that would strengthen the position of principals and provide self-expression and free discussion among colleagues.
Several decades later, in 1978, NASSP sought to further its impact by creating an in-house government relations office and communications network to establish more direct ties to Capitol Hill. The idea was that this network would help inform secondary school principals of federal education policy issues and help principals express their views to Congress and other federal policymakers.
Over the years, however, the challenges facing principals increased, as did accountability pressures. Following the release of the report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform in 1983, the adoption of federal policies governing standards and assessments in the 1990s, and the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, the role of the principal became even more complex as instructional leadership responsibilities were layered over traditional managerial duties.
More recently, an entirely new challenge that principals have been forced to tackle involves the rapid pace of new technology. NASSP took advantage of the latest technology trends by using these new methods to provide school leaders with timelier advocacy updates from Washington, D.C., through websites, blog posts, and social media. We’ve also made it easier for principals to directly contact their legislators about issues affecting their schools by creating the online Principal’s Legislative Action Center.
In addition to providing a method for contacting Congress, we have encouraged our members to become their own advocates by annually bringing state Principals of the Year to Capitol Hill to meet their legislators in person. These face-to-face meetings have an immeasurable impact on students and schools, because they allow principals the opportunity to share their stories and potentially build a working relationship with their member of Congress.
I have worked at NASSP for almost a decade, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished during that time. We had a bill introduced that specifically addresses the recruitment and training of principals in high-need schools, which was included in the Every Student Succeeds Act, the most recent iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Principals have testified at congressional hearings to address the needs of middle and high school leaders, school safety, career and technical education, cyberbullying, and corporal punishment. National Principals Month has been officially recognized by Congress every year since 2009, and by governors in a handful of states.
We have traveled across the country to support state associations in making their advocacy programs more robust. And we had a hand in the U.S. Department of Education’s creation of a Principal Ambassador Fellowship program that allows local leaders to share their knowledge and experience in education, and to learn more about education policy at the federal level.
As we look to the future, NASSP will continue to advocate for school leaders and ensure their interests and voices are represented in federal policies, including everything from higher education to career and technical education to the federal investment in education and resource equity. We will also continue to encourage all of our members to get involved in advocacy efforts. One easy way to do that is by joining NASSP’s Federal Grassroots Network (FGN). As a member of the FGN, you join a community of advocates who regularly voice their insights on effective school leadership, and you receive a monthly e-newsletter with the latest education policy news. Join today by visiting www.nassp.org/fgn.
Here’s to another 100 years of great work!
Amanda Karhuse is NASSP’s director of advocacy.