In “Redefining the Role of the Principal: Innovative Approaches to Empower School Leaders,” the Aspen Institute looks at innovative ways to prepare, support, and develop principals. The institute examined five districts and states that are working to “cultivate positive school climates and deliver rigorous academic experiences for every student.” The examples, collected through research and conversations with district leaders and principals, include:

  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Evaluating Principal Readiness Through Authentic Tasks
  • District of Columbia Public Schools: Increasing Principals’ Capacity to Focus on Strategic Priorities
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District: Designing Responsive Principal Professional Development
  • Long Beach Unified School District: Developing Differentiated Professional Learning for Principals
  • Tulsa Public Schools: Supporting Principals with Content Specialists
Terry Adams, NASSP’S 2022 Oklahoma State Principal of the Year. PHOTO COURTESY OF NASSP

Read the report at bit.ly/49EP2bj.


In September 2022, Norman Public Schools created the Oklahoma Aviation Academy to connect the curriculum to students’ interests and possible careers in aviation and aerospace science. Terry Adams, the former principal of Bixby High School, spoke to Edutopia about his efforts to launch and lead the program; connecting with funders, community partners, and professional mentors for students; and engaging students to prepare for technical careers. Adams was NASSP’s 2022 Oklahoma State Principal of the Year. Read the full article at bit.ly/47hhoGN.


Each February, schools across the country observe Black History Month. Principal Leadership talked with one leader whose school is well known for its stellar academic reputation within District of Columbia Public Schools. But its namesake is not as well known to its students. Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., is named for Banneker, a noted African American naturalist, mathematician, astronomer, land surveyor, and author of a widely read almanac. Principal Anita Berger, an NASSP board member, is the long-time leader of the school.

How does your school plan to celebrate Black History Month this year? Will you be doing anything different?

The goal is to get as many students as possible involved. One thing we’ve often done is host a schoolwide assembly where students showcase their talents. Whether it’s dancing, poetry, music, or something different, this is their time to shine. Because our focus is mainly on academics, students seldom have the opportunity to share their artistic talents. But one thing we’ve discovered is that our students don’t know a lot about Benjamin Banneker, so this year, we’re going to celebrate and highlight all of his contributions to society and the broader scientific world.

In the school’s main lobby, students perform before artwork depicting Benjamin Banneker.

I understand that when you moved into a new building a couple of years ago, a lot of effort went into honoring Banneker throughout the school.

Yes, he is highlighted throughout the school’s design. There’s a rendering of his famous clock that hangs in the atrium of the open campus design. Banneker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson, challenging Jefferson’s racial ideology, is scripted on a glass wall. Additionally, there is a huge portrait of him etched into a metal plate erected across the front of the school. As part of Black History Month, these pieces of art will augment the focus on Benjamin Banneker.

What do you think about celebrating the history and contributions of different groups during a designated week rather than weaving that content throughout the curriculum during the year?

Our population is predominantly African American, so educating them about the contributions of African Americans through a monthly celebration is beneficial. In fact, we are very intentional about celebrating all groups within the school. We do that not only by celebrating the contributions of different groups during a designated time, but also within the curriculum. Students have benefitted immensely from both approaches.