The research bears out what NASSP and the principals they represent have known for years: Principal leadership matters. The Wallace Foundation spent more than a decade studying the impact of leadership on schools, and they reached some stunning conclusions: Leadership is second only to instruction in school-based factors that affect student achievement. The researchers further found not a single incidence of sustained school turnaround without an effective leader at the wheel.
With a solid body of conclusive evidence on principal impact, it is reasonable to expect that provisions to train and sustain high-quality school leaders would receive consensus support in Congress. Yet the battle to weave principal support throughout federal education policy wages on, and NASSP is proud to lead that battle for the sake of both the principals we represent and the millions of students who depend on their leadership.
In cooperation with our colleagues at the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Federation of School Administrators, NASSP saw some success in getting principal support codified in federal documents. The fiscal year 2015 federal budget report recognized the unique needs of principals and encouraged the U.S. Department of Education to direct states to use federal funds to fulfill those needs. Our organizations subsequently launched the “#PD4principals” hashtag campaign on Twitter (www.nassp.org/title2) to keep the needs of principals front-of-mind while our groups met with the Department of Education to craft guidance for states on the use of Title II funds. Meanwhile, several bills which support principal development remain under consideration.
The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 930/S. 476) would authorize a grant program to recruit, select, train, and support principals to work in high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a preservice residency that would last for at least one year, as well as focused coursework on instructional leadership, organizational management, and the use of data to inform instruction. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen the effectiveness of current principals.
The Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act (H.R. 848) focuses on the importance of teacher and principal quality by providing intensive, job-embedded professional development that is useful and relevant to educators’ work. In this bill, professional development would focus on continuous professional learning strategies involving the use of technology, peer networks, and time for school leaders and teachers to participate in collaborative team-based learning multiple times per week. The bill would ensure that principal evaluations connect to a system of support and development, and that principal effectiveness is based on multiple measures of student performance, support for effective teachers, and other critical leadership factors.
The Better Educator Support and Training (BEST) Act (H.R. 1751/S. 882) would revamp Title II, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide targeted funding for states and districts to support teachers, principals, and other educators through comprehensive induction; residency and mentoring programs; and personalized, job-embedded professional development. The bill would require states to use 2-5 percent of funds to improve principal effectiveness.
Amanda Karhuse is director of advocacy at NASSP. Follow her on Twitter @akarhuse.