Onboarding Students and Forming Personal Connections

As a new school year begins, it feels good to reconnect with students and meet new families in our community. As the assistant principal at Vail Academy and High School, a K–12 public school of approximately 475 students in Tucson, AZ, one of my responsibilities is to focus on onboarding new students and guiding them through a summer orientation process—a challenge that was the first project I took on when I arrived at the school. By serving our learning community, I have been fortunate to watch students that attended our orientation later walk across the graduation stage.  

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‘Monday Musings’: Building Communication, Inclusion, and Cohesion With Parents

At Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School, we believe our three stakeholder groups—students, educators, and parents—determine the overall success of our educational experience. We use the analogy that successful education is a strong, solid, weight-bearing “three-legged stool,” with each leg representing one of the stakeholder groups. We have confidence in and rely upon each leg of the stool holding its own weight and doing its job so that it does not collapse or fail. Furthermore, we have a culture in our building that is built upon strong relationships, as we follow the research that dictates that communication and trust are the deciding factors in determining the overall success of any relationship. That being stated, we knew that during a challenging and divisive season such as pandemic education, communication and trust would be even more paramount; when there is a lack of communication, or lack of trust, negativity fills in the gap. 

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NPC21 Session Recap: State of American Education

The beginning of the school year is approaching, and with it, a major push to return to normal this fall. At the 2021 National Principals Conference, “The State of American Education” session brought together leading local, state, and federal policymakers and influencers to discuss emerging issues in education policy. The session also featured strategies and suggestions for how school leaders can influence the decisions being made that impact their schools. This year’s panelists included Chris Rush, Director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education Office of the Secretary; Dr. Sydnee Dickson, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Dr. Susan Enfield, the superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Washington state; and Allison Persad, principal of The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria in Astoria, NY. The session was moderated by Alyson Klein, assistant editor at Education Week

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Four Ways to Anchor Yourself as a Leader

I still remember the shock on March 13, 2020, when we sent students home to complete the year online. Looking back, these last 16 months have been beyond stormy—just one wave after another as we battled to support teachers, support our school community, support our students, and somehow find something that supported ourselves. Throughout this challenging time, there are four things that anchored me throughout the storm. 

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Inclusion Beyond the Classroom

Establishing a culture of inclusion across the building and beyond the classroom not only benefits the students being included, it also helps build a positive culture for everyone in the school community. As is typical in most schools, we’ve worked to maximize the inclusion opportunities for our students with developmental disabilities. Over the last several years, we’ve been able to expand beyond the academic program and into other areas around the school by starting off relatively small and expanding into clubs, athletics, and other activities.  

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National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Executive Director Doug Shapiro and NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe Discuss the Impact of COVID-19 on Students

Listen to Their Conversation and Attend the Clearinghouse’s Session at the 2021 NASSP National Principals Conference

During a webinar earlier this year, Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, and Ronn Nozoe, CEO of NASSP, shared their thoughts about two important Research Center reports: 

  • The early look at fall enrollment as it pertains to the class of 2020 high school graduates 
  • The annual High School Benchmarks Report on National College Progression Rates for the class of 2019
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Building Community, Camaraderie, and Leadership Through Student Mentorship

Young adults are amazing. I am inspired every day by their love of learning, their energy, and their ability to make the most out of any situation. As a middle level educator, I get the joy of watching students blossom in many ways. During these formative years, I watch students transform from awkward ducklings into confident swans on a daily basis. Finding ways to encourage and foster that growth is a fundamental part of the work we do as educational leaders, and quite frankly, one of the best parts of my job. The growth of our school’s mentoring program has provided new opportunities for our students to grow, give back to our community, and build relationships with the students who will be joining us in the coming years. 

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Lessons in Virtual Hiring for School Leaders

Deputy chief of talent development at D.C. Public Schools offers an inside look at how the district has restructured its principal hiring

This article first appeared on The Wallace Foundation’s blog. It has been republished with permission.

​​​​​The COVID-19 pandemic has upended a great number of systems and processes in the K–12 education system, including the hiring of principals and school leaders. More than a year into the pandemic, school districts are once again facing a remote hiring season. What can we learn from their experience last year? And what might be improved in the virtual hiring process for both district leaders and job candidates going forward?

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A Small Token Goes a Long Way

I was about to enter my first year of a principalship, and you could feel the sunny Cape Cod days slipping away quickly. I had just signed my first principal contract, and I wanted to hit the ground running as soon as I entered my new middle level school. Friends laughed at me that evening around the late summer campfire when I threw out the idea of buying my staff engagement rings to show my commitment to all of them. The next morning, I promptly ordered 120 of the shiniest, gaudiest plastic “diamond” rings that you have ever seen. I wasn’t kidding when I stated in my interview that I was committed—“all in.”

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Meet the NPC21 Keynote Speakers

As principals and assistant principals prepare for the upcoming school year, the 2021 National Principals Conference (NPC21) provides a time for renewal, engagement, community, and great professional learning from fellow school leaders. The July 14–16 event is virtual and will feature networking, expert-led courses, and breakout sessions. Keynote speakers will address equity, innovation, and wellness: the conference’s three program strands.  

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Performance-Based Grading: Changing the Way We See Grades

Each leader comes to the table with their unique set of experiences that mold their platform, style, and passion. Many of these experiences are small, almost unrecognizable in the grand scheme of life, but they represent significant cogs in the wheels of our processing. As a teacher, leader, and student, for me it was always the stigma of the grade that was one point under the goal. As a student, I detested the evil 92, just shy of an A in Maine, and as a teacher never gave a 69 because no child should fail by one point. The emotional significance of these scores outweighs the academic statement of what the child “earned.” 

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Why Diversity and Equity in Content Matters for Reading Growth

A recent survey asked middle level and high school principals to choose the greatest challenge they face with their students’ literacy development. An overwhelming 63% of respondents cited students who were reading below grade level1. This response is not surprising. In 2019, only 34% of eighth grade students performed at or above the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) proficient level2.

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2021 Digital Principals of the Year Announced

Recognizing extraordinary, tech-savvy school leaders

The education landscape shifted dramatically this past year, with principals everywhere embracing innovation and technology to adapt to their changing circumstances. NASSP is proud to celebrate three principals, whose leadership was needed more than ever. Congratulations to the 2021 Digital Principals of the Year for their work using digital media to improve instruction, student achievement, and their own leadership. We’re excited to share their stories! 


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Connections, Connections, Connections: We All Need Them

We have seen more than ever this year that connections are necessary. We need to be purposeful in giving our students the tools to make sure these connections are meaningful and lasting. The Connections program at Lowery Freshman Center is more than “just a class.” With its focus on building supportive relationships, it is making an impact everywhere on campus.

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Virtual Clubs: Connecting Students During a Challenging Year

“I finally feel like I’m a part of something.” —Seventh grade student in Anime Club

When those words were uttered extemporaneously following an interview with members of the Downingtown Middle School Anime Club, both the club sponsor, Todd Shirley, and I did a double take. That seventh grade student had struggled to make friends and meaningful connections all through their school career. Her statement was a striking validation of our school’s focus on relationships, kindness, and grace throughout an extraordinary year.

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Marketing Your School

When I was in elementary school, my father was a troubleshooter for his company. If there was an issue in a plant in another state, off he would go, and we knew that we would soon be moving to follow. As soon as my parents knew which city we would be relocating to, my mother would begin to research schools, making phone calls and scheduling visits. The company may have decided the general location, but the city and neighborhood would be determined by the research she did into the local school district as well as the individual schools. Today, that information is available with a few clicks on a computer. With this information easily accessible around the globe, it is even more important that principals consider the information available about their school.

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Helping the Nation’s Schools Recover From COVID-19

In March 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which includes $122 billion for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund. These funds are provided to state educational agencies and school districts to help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students. 

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Announcing Our 2021 Advocacy Champion of the Year

Congratulations to Principal Derrick Lawson of Indio High School!

Principal Derrick Lawson of Indio High School in Indio, CA, noticed virtual attendance dropping from 94% to as low as 70% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like hundreds of other schools hit hard by the pandemic, Indio High School’s vulnerable populations were disproportionately suffering. Half the students lived with family members who had gotten sick, a third lacked stable housing, and a quarter had begun working full time or were caring for younger siblings while at home. 

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