Navigating the transition to college and career

School leaders can play a central role in helping students choose the path they want to take after high school—college or career—and guiding them toward success. In a roundtable discussion, three principals share what has worked for their students. These school leaders include Cammie Knapp, the principal of Corvallis High School in Corvallis, MT, and the 2023 Montana Principal of the Year; Robert McCarthy, the principal of Central Falls High School in Central Falls, RI, and the 2023 Rhode Island Principal of the Year; and Morgan Smith, EdD, the principal of Marina High School in Huntington Beach, CA, and the 2023 California Principal of the Year.


Helping students find their passion

For the nearly 20% of his graduating seniors who won’t end up pursuing higher education, Chad Stone, the principal of Tift High School in Tifton, GA, tries to ensure they have other good options to pursue. Career and technical education programs are an obvious strategy that has led to some notable success stories. For instance, one student whose only goal was to drive a truck, achieved it after the school set up a program allowing him to take coursework toward earning a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) at a local technical college while in high school. Last May, he became the first high school student in the state to earn his CDL.

Partnership offers students real-life experience


At Bosse High School in Evansville, IN, a group of students not only study robotics, hydraulics, and industrial design in their CTE program, but they also gain hands-on experience at a local Toyota plant, including paid positions their senior year, as part of the school’s 4T Academy. The partnership with Toyota, now in its second year at Bosse, is one of the proudest achievements of NASSP President Aaron Huff during his time as principal of the school. “We look at the program as a way to prepare students for the future,” Huff says. “The point isn’t necessarily to steer them toward the Toyota workforce or entry-level employment at the plant. It was designed around helping students take what they learn and transition into any industry or into higher education. We want to make sure we’re preparing students to be successful.”

A 360° approach to improving school leadership


It takes a combination of strategies to improve leadership in a school—a challenge for many principals in addition to their regular duties. Jessica Griffin of the United School Administrators of Kansas says the process “doesn’t have to be a mystery to be solved or happen by accident.” She describes the organization’s use of NASSP’s 360° Survey to improve school leadership and learning. The survey assesses the leadership characteristics needed to build a positive culture in the building and the ability of the principal to effectively lead the learning process, and then breaks those areas into 15 dimensions that help leaders identify strengths and areas for improvement.