The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) passed the House Education and Workforce committee along a party-line vote on Wednesday evening, with all republicans voting in favor of the bill and all democrats opposed. The approximately eight and a half hour mark-up of the bill included two hours of remarks by various members and then a total of 25 amendments, debate, and votes.
The democrats on the committee lead by Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) offered a substitute amendment to replace H.R. 5 that was voted down on a party line. NASSP supported the Scott substitute, and opposed H.R. 5. NASSP joined forces with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American Federation of School Administrators to issue this letter earlier in the week expressing our concerns with the Student Success Act.
Throughout the mark-up, democrats consistently raised objections about the lack of bipartisanship, hearings, and inclusion of protections for high-need students in the ESEA reauthorization proposal by Chairman Kline (R-MN). Republicans retorted that H.R. 5 has been around for years and that the bill provides more freedom and flexibility for states and districts to meet the educational needs of students.
H.R. 5 is now expected to get floor time the week of February 23. On the Senate side, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are in negotiations to see if they can produce a bipartisan bill that can pass out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and get to the Senate floor in early spring.
As for the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) that was reported out of committee, four republican amendments were added to the bill. All the democratic amendments that were offered failed along party-line votes. There were two amendments that received bipartisan support—an amendment offered by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) that would require the disaggregated reporting of military student achievement data and an amendment by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) that would change English language learner accountability requirements on math assessments from one year to two years and accountability on reading assessments from one year to three years. This amendment received support from his fellow Floridian, Rep. Fredericka Wilson (D-FL). You can review all amendments on the House Education and Workforce website.
The other two amendments that were added to the bill were the addition of an annual study from the Institute of Education Science on the reduced federal role in education due to H.R. 5 and to recommend further funding reductions and Rep. Steve Russell’s (R-OK) amendment that would protect student and teacher privacy by only allowing data collected at the local level to be sent to the U.S. Secretary of Education in the aggregate. During debate, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) expressed concern about how the amendment was written and that it would limit the ability of data collected to be able to better inform and personalize pedagogy and instruction to students.
Of concern to NASSP and many education advocates was the introduction of an amendment by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) to allow Title I funds to pay for private school tuition, effectively creating a federal school voucher program. Fortunately, Rep. Messer withdrew his amendment for consideration but we expect portability and voucher amendments to resurface during the floor debate and vote of H.R. 5.
NASSP looks forward to working with both the House and the Senate to ensure that the needs of students, schools, teachers, and principals are met with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
When I taught government class, I told my high school students that a budget outlines the priorities in which you are willing to invest. While President Obama clearly values education, the U.S. Department of Education budget does not directly support the growing professional learning and development needs of the nation’s principals. The president has proposed a $70.7 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Education, a 5.4 percent increase over FY 2015. Furthermore, the department’s budget increases investments in the ESEA programs by $2.7 billion, or 11.8 percent over FY 2015 levels ($26 billion total).
While there are several increases in important federal investments in education, such as in Title I and IDEA, the president’s budget does not adhere to the discretionary spending caps established under the Budget Control Act brokered by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in 2013. As the caps stand now, appropriations for FY 2016 would be effectively frozen for a second year at about $1.017 trillion. However, President’s Obama’s budget increases the cap by $74 billion that would be split evenly between defense and domestic spending.
The Department of Education’s budget identifies four key areas for investment: high-quality early learning; equity and opportunity for all students; supporting teachers and school leaders; and access, affordability, and student outcomes in college. While NASSP is pleased to see a focus on supporting school leaders, that priority does not bear out in the president’s budget. The Administration’s budget consolidates the only federal program dedicated to recruiting, mentoring, and training principals and assistant principals to serve in high-need schools into a larger funding stream to support teacher and principal preparation. We find this problematic for two reasons: 1) The School leadership Program does more than just prepare school leaders, but provides professional development, ongoing support, and retention initiatives to strengthen the continuum of effective school leadership, and 2) barely 4 percent of Title II funds currently go to principal professional development. To that end, we are also disappointed that the president level-funded investments in Title II for FY 2016 at $2.3 billion dollars. NASSP has been a strong advocate for a set-aside of funds within Title II to support specialized professional learning and growth opportunities as principals continue to lead schools in implementing more rigorous college and career-readiness standards, new teacher evaluation systems, and support for digital learning and transitions to online assessments.
We are also disappointed to see the refocus of the Striving Readers program, from a state comprehensive literacy program supporting children from birth to grade 12 to a local grant initiative that would only be required to serve at least two grade levels in a high-need school. This change would undo all the promising results for combatting the literacy gap facing so many of the nation’s students. The six states that receive discretionary funding under the current Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program to support school districts in improving literacy instruction for the neediest students all report increases in literacy achievement.
The president’s budget does win some accolades for increasing Title I funding by $1 billion dollars and by increasing IDEA state grants by $175 million. However, while the president responded to our calls to increase investments in foundational educational programs, the resources provided to IDEA still fall far short of the 40 percent of per-pupil expenses promised by the federal government to states that support special education services. As schools continue to transform their buildings and classrooms into hubs of digital learning, we were pleased to see the budget proposal include $200 million dollars for Educational Technology state grants program to support exemplary models of technology-based instruction in high-need districts.
The president also proposes three new competitive grant programs: Next Generation High Schools, Teaching for Tomorrow (TFT), and Excellent Educators. The Next Generation High Schools program, $125 million STEM-focused competitive grant initiative would support a comprehensive transformation of the high school experience to provide challenging and relevant learning opportunities to prepare students for postsecondary education and/or careers.
The Teaching for Tomorrow (TFT) program would provide $1 billion over five years in mandatory spending to recruit, train, support, and retain highly effective teachers. There is some concern that the purpose of this new program is to help states implement the Education Department’s new and controversial teacher preparation regulations. Lastly, the budget request includes an expanded version of the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) for teachers and principals, called the Excellent Educator grants, which would allow states and districts to develop and implement not only compensation-based programs, but innovative approaches to professional development, support, and career advancement based on an analysis of local need.
We look forward to working with Congress to ensure our nation’s students, schools, and principals receive the maximum federal investment to support the success of each student.
As Congress moves to quickly reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NASSP Board Member Christine Handy testified January 27 at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on supporting teachers and leaders.
“My experience, the experience of my colleagues, and 10 years of rigorous research by the Wallace Foundation bear out one large reality: School. Leadership. Matters,” said Handy who is the principal of Gaithersburg High School, a large and diverse school in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Maryland. “The nation must invest in the recruitment, preparation, and ongoing support of principals if we want each student in every school to succeed. The reauthorization of ESEA gives Congress the perfect opportunity to provide that support to school leaders.”
Handy urged Congress to provide dedicated funding for professional development for principals. While Title II of ESEA is the primary source of federal funds to improve principal quality, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has found that only 4 percent is actually spent for principal professional development. The reality is that principal professional learning and growth competes with teacher development, class-size reduction, and other priorities once federal funds arrive to the school district.
“I have benefited enormously in my professional life from guidance and development from my district and from our state and national principal organizations,” continued Handy. “But as state budgets tighten, that professional development becomes less and less accessible.” She noted that Congress recently instructed ED to provide guidance to states to support professional development opportunities for principals. In addition, NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of Teachers have proposed a 10 percent set-aside within Title II for principal professional development.
To read Handy’s full written remarks, visit the NASSP website.
Other witnesses spoke about teacher quality and preparation programs, including the importance of teacher residencies and mentoring. Questions from the senators on the committee covered every aspect of ESEA such as testing, recruitment of effective teachers and leaders, and the appropriate federal role in education.
The Senate HELP Committee is expected to consider a draft bill on ESEA reauthorization in mid-February with the House Education and the Workforce Committee following close behind. Be sure to read the latest information on the Principal’s Policy Blog and follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter.
The English language has a magnificent tradition of doublespeak. Where in the 1980s, “peacekeeping devices” (bombs) were sufficient to stave off war, today we respond to attacks with “pain compliance techniques” (torture). A generation that endured the most severe economic conditions in nearly a century has come to know mass layoffs as “rightsizing.” And how did “No Child Left Behind” turn out?
January 25–31 is “National School Choice Week,” a rhetorical gem to which George Orwell himself would tip his hat. This annual event presents private school voucher proponents with the opportunity to tout the supposed benefits of “school choice,” a-downright-friendly-sounding moniker that ostensibly clusters public school choice like charter and magnet schools into its privatization agenda. But the public school options are mere window dressing. Pull back the curtain and you see that the real focus of this event is a push for private school vouchers, a scheme designed exclusively to funnel public funds to private and for-profit schools without regard for educational equity or quality.
First, private school vouchers do not provide students and parents with real and meaningful choice. Under private school voucher schemes, the ultimate choice rests with the school, not with the students and their families. Voucher programs usually allow participating private schools to reject students based on numerous factors, including economic status, gender, religion, academic achievement, sexual orientation, and even disability. Public schools, on the other hand, are required to accept all students.
Some students have even less choice than others. Students with disabilities often aren’t guaranteed the same services in the voucher school that they would ordinarily receive in a public school and can find few voucher schools that offer them the services they need. That is likely why they number only 1.6 percent of the city’s voucher school students, although students with disabilities comprise almost 20 percent of the Milwaukee public school population. And, students who want to attend a secular school are also left with few options, as the vast majority of schools that accept vouchers are religious schools.
Second, voucher programs don’t provide students and families with quality options. Studies consistently show that private school vouchers don’t improve reading and math achievement. For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—the country’s oldest voucher program—a recent study shows that the students in the voucher program do no better in reading or math than their peers in public schools. Similarly in Louisiana, 67 percent of public school students pass their standardized tests, whereas only 44 percent of voucher students do.
Unfortunately, parents often don’t know and can’t discover these problems in voucher schools. Without oversight, access to records and test scores, or public meetings—all hallmarks of public education—parents are often denied the pertinent information required to make a good choice.
Nonetheless, states continue to create and expand voucher programs. There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit (backdoor voucher) programs in 23 states. And as states begin their 2015 legislative sessions, we are already seeing the introduction of numerous voucher bills.
Congress will likely debate private school vouchers too, as it attempts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In fact, the Senate bill already includes a scheme called “Title I Portability”—a clever name, but not quite clever enough to steal the crown from DC’s “Opportunity Scholarships”—which proposes that Title I funds should follow the student from school to school.
First, Title I funding was designed to promote equity. Funds are directed to schools with high concentrations of poverty, allowing schools to pool funds to mitigate the compounded effects of poverty. Portability would dismantle Title I and crush the ESEA’s equity agenda. To be clear, the current proposal limits the portability of funds just to public schools. But there is no masking the agenda: Clear the first hurdle by getting Title I funds assigned to the student instead of the school, then expanding choice to private school vouchers becomes a much easier—and more lucrative—endeavor.
During this National School Choice Week, it is important to remember that private school vouchers are not true school choice, and they do not offer any real benefit to the children most in need of better educational opportunities. That’s why voters in several states have voted down vouchers at the ballot box. Take the time to let your legislators know that you don’t support private school vouchers and that they should oppose any attempt to create or expand private school voucher programs, including Title I portability.
So during National School Choice Week, we do indeed have a choice: Use the NASSP Principal’s Legislative Action Center to alert your members of Congress that Title I must remain intact to preserve the equity goal inherent in ESEA. Otherwise, we could soon see schools with the greatest need suffering under conditions that are, well, “less than optimal.”
Fulfilling his promise to make reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) a top priority in the 114th Congress, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a discussion draft to improve the law as his first action as the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Similar to the bill he introduced in 2013, the purpose of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act is “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals and other school leaders, States, Governors, and local communities so that that they can improve their local public schools.” To do so, the legislation would prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from prescribing the standards or measures that states use to establish state standards, assessments, accountability systems, systems that measure student academic growth, measures of other academic indicators, teacher and principal evaluation systems, or indicators of teacher and principal effectiveness.
In order to receive Title I funding, which is authorized at $14.9 billion, states must provide an assurance that they have adopted challenging academic content standards and academic achievement standards in math, reading/language arts, science, and any other subjects as determined by the states. States may also adopt alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities provided that the standards align with state subject standards and promote access to the general curriculum.
Because proliferation of testing has become such a hot issue, the discussion draft offers two options for discussion by the HELP Committee. One option is to continue the requirement for annual assessments in math and reading. The other option is to require assessments in math, reading, and science, but states would be given flexibility over their assessment timelines. They could keep the current schedule for assessments (every year in grades 3-8 and once in grades 9-12) or they could implement grade-span testing, which would require only one assessment in grades 3-5, grades 6-9, and grades 10-12. Districts may also seek approval to administer their own assessments with approval from the state.
State plans must include a single, statewide accountability system “to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.” They system should annually measure academic achievement of all public school students, annually identify and differentiate all public schools in the state, taking into consideration achievement gaps between student subgroups, overall performance of student subgroups, 4-year cohort graduation rates, and extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rates.
Districts with schools identified for assistance are required to conduct a review of the school’s data and the policies, procedures, personnel decisions, and budget decisions that impact the school before developing “evidence-based assistance strategies and activities” for the school. Districts must continue to provide students an option to transfer to another public school and musty pay for the transportation costs.
The draft bill would include a new portability provisions that would give districts the flexibility to ensure that Title I funds follow low-income children to whatever public school they attend. In a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leaders, NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators expressed our opposition to any proposal to transform Title I into a private school voucher program. This portability provision is designed to make it easier implement private school vouchers as a next step.
Just over $3 billion would be authorized for Title II, and the allowable state activities look very similar to current law with regard to principals and other school leaders: reforming principal certification and licensure systems to ensure that principals have the instructional leadership skills to help teachers teach and to help students meet challenge academic content standards, developing and improving evaluation systems that “are based in part on evidence of student academic achievement” and may include student academic growth and other measures determined by the state, establishing alternative routes for principal certification, recruiting and retaining principals who are effective in improving student achievement, developing new principal induction and mentoring programs, implementing high-quality professional development programs for principals, developing school leadership academies, supporting efforts to train principals to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction, and improving principal preparation programs.
The allowable local activities include professional development for principals, which is a priority for NASSP, but it’s in the same bucket as school libraries; AP, dual enrollment, and early college high school programs; extended learning time; and liability insurance for teachers. It seems very unlikely that any of the funding would actually be used for principal professional development since only 4% is used for that purpose under current law.
$1.6 billion is authorized for Safe and Healthy Students under Title IV. Districts may use the funding for drug and violence prevention activities, before and after school programs, school-based mental health services, mentoring programs for at risk students, school counseling programs, and positive behavioral interventions and supports among other activities.
The draft bill would also eliminate Maintenance of Effort (MOE), which helps ensure the continuity of state and local funding efforts. Current MOE provisions provide the greatest protection to low-wealth districts that generally educate more low-income students. We’re concerned that if states are allowed to cut funding for education, the most vulnerable districts that serve the neediest students could be hurt disproportionately.
Providing flexibility in the use of federal funds, the draft bill would allow states to transfer 100% of their funds between Title II and Title IV.
Comments on the discussion draft should be e-mailed to the Senate HELP Committee at FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov by February 2. NASSP will submit comments and meet with staff for Sen. Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to ensure that the bill supports principals and the teachers and students they serve. For updates on ESEA hearings and the pending markup in February, follow @akarhuse and @balljacki on Twitter.
Providing a sneak preview of priorities that will be highlighted in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama gave a speech at the Federal Trade Commission on January 12 where he outlined initiatives to protect consumers from identity theft and ensure that student data is used only for educational purposes.
President Obama urged Congress to act on student data privacy in 2015 and will soon release a legislative proposal titled the Student Digital Privacy Act. The bill would be modeled on legislation approved in California last year that prohibits education technology companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission and targeted advertising to students.
President Obama also noted that the Privacy Technical Assurance Center at the U.S. Department of Education will develop model terms of service and teacher training assistance that will “enhance our ability to help ensure educational data is used appropriately and in accordance with the educational mission.”
NASSP is encouraged by the president’s proposal to safeguard student data, which echoes the recommendations that will be finalized by our Board of Directors in February 2015. The power of technology to support education is undeniable, and NASSP has long been an advocate for maximizing the opportunities that technology presents. At the same time, principals must be able to attest to parents that the data collected for educational purposes is used only for educational purposes. Absent a mandate, principals would have to either negotiate their own guidelines with vendors or withhold crucial data from technology partners, which limits the effectiveness of the tool.
In 2014, a congressional hearing was held to address student data privacy issues and a Senate bill was introduced to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. While it seems most likely that Congress will consider this issue independently, there are some rumors that it could be rolled into the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is already moving quickly through the hearing process.
NASSP hope the new legislation on student data privacy will ultimately have the effect of reducing the confusion created by the patchwork of guidelines from FERPA, state regulations, and the educational technology industry itself. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress on the Student Digital Privacy Act in the months to come.
St. Paul, Arkansas principal Daisy Dyer Duerr was invited to speak before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of rural schools prior to their successful 3-2 vote to increase funding for the E-Rate program. The vote will ensure that an additional 408,000 in her state will have access to high-speed broadband Internet and Wi-Fi access in their classrooms.
Duerr, who was named an NASSP Digital Principal earlier this year, shared the story of her school’s success in using technology to greatly improve student achievement. When she became the principal of the 225-student K-12 campus in 2011, the high school was being targeted by the state for poor test scores in literacy and math, and the elementary grades had just been removed from Arkansas’ school improvement roles.
Through grants to purchase digital devices and intensive professional development for teachers, the school has started a bring-your-own-device program and the high school is no longer under state supervision. But with more than 80% of students on free and reduced meals and only 10% with Internet access at home, Duerr said that the E-Rate program allows her to provide accessibility they wouldn’t otherwise receive.
Even though Duerr’s students use digital devices on a daily basis, she noted that one of her biggest struggles has been bandwidth. She praised the FCC for their action to increase funding for the E-Rate program because not every rural school “has a little bulldog fighting for them.”
The order approved today by the FCC raises the spending cap on the E-Rate program from the current $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion annually. The commission also took steps to improve the overall administration of the program and maximize the options schools and libraries have for purchasing affordable high-speed broadband connectivity. For more information, go to: http://www.fcc.gov/e-rate-update.
Tuesday night, the House of Representatives released a massive omnibus appropriations bill that combined 11 of the 12 individual appropriations bills into one large spending bill that covers every facet of federal spending—including investments in education. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will be under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until March 2015. The House is expected to take action on the spending bill on Thursday with the Senate to follow suit on the weekend or early next week. There will likely be a one to two day CR to allow enough time for both the House and Senate to act since the current CR expires on Thursday, December 11.
Unfortunately, due to budget caps established in December 2013, many education programs did not see any increases in funding, and several were cut, including two programs NASSP has consistently advocated for: the School Leadership Program and the High School Graduation Initiative. Title II, Part A funds for improving teacher and principal quality and career and technical education state grants were flat-funded at their FY14 levels, leaving those programs at $2.3 billion and $1.1 billion respectively.
However, NASSP was pleased to see that two foundational investments for high-need students, Title I and IDEA, each saw a $25 million dollar increase from the last fiscal year. Additionally, the Striving Readers program, which supports comprehensive literacy programming for students from birth to grade 12, received a $2 million dollar increase in FY 2015.
While research shows the impact of school leadership on student achievement and its importance on school climate and culture, Congress once again cut the School Leadership Program. NASSP worked with Congress in 2001 to create this federal grant program which focuses on recruiting, mentoring, and training principals and assistant principals to serve in high-need schools. Since FY12, this program has seen decreases in funding. Unfortunately, it was cut once again by $9.4 million. These continued cuts are disappointing considering the expanding roles and responsibilities of principals, including implementing new teacher evaluation systems, college and career ready standards and new online assessments. The program will be reduced from $25.8 million to $16.4 million in FY15.
Despite the cut in the School Leadership Program, NASSP and principals got a big advocacy win in the report language accompanying the omnibus spending bill. The report language is similar to the language NASSP secured with NAESP and AFSA in the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Ed) Appropriations Committee report. The committee and omnibus report recognized the importance and impact of school leadership on student achievement. Within the report, Congress has directed the U.S. Department of Education to provide guidance to state education agencies to ensure principals are receiving “sufficient professional development opportunities” to support their instructional leadership capacity.
Lastly, NASSP was disappointed to see that the High School Graduation Initiative program was zeroed out in the FY15 omnibus. This is the only federal investment dedicated to reducing the nation’s dropout rate. We were also disappointed that despite the attention on digital learning over the last year and a half, that there was no funding allocated for education technology and related professional development programs.
NASSP will continue to advocate for investments in school leadership that support the profession and benefit students. NASSP is particularly concerned with the impending return of sequestration in FY 2016 if Congress does not take action to replace the sequester in the 114th Congress.
Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Tom Wheeler today announced that the FCC will increase funding for the federal E-Rate program by $1.5 billion, bringing the annual total to just under $4 billion. The FCC is expected to consider the proposal at their next meeting on December 11.
“Chairman Wheeler’s proposal recognizes that students cannot engage in 21st century learning without 21st century tools,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Increasing the funding level of the E-Rate program brings us closer to the promise of connecting students with peers and resources around the globe, of empowering students to lead their own learning, and of amplifying their voices as creators of content. The simple bandwidth of a fiber optic line conveys not just bits of data, but boundless opportunity for each student it reaches.”
NASSP has long supported the E-Rate program and urged the FCC to provide additional funding to meet the growing need for Internet broadband and Wi-Fi services in our nation’s secondary schools. Over the past year, we have called on the FCC to immediately and permanently increase the program’s annual funding level.
Funded at $2.25 billion annually since 1999, the E-Rate was level-funded until 2010, when it began receiving annual inflationary increases. Total funding for the program in FY 2013 was $2.43 billion, less than half of school and library demand for that year. An increase of $1.5 billion equates to just 16 cents per month per telephone line, or less than a penny per day.
Without the ability to access greater bandwidth speeds in classrooms, our nation’s students would be hamstrung in their efforts to use digital textbooks, participate in online and distance learning courses, and take online assessments. In addition, we have consistently maintained that the E-Rate’s annual funding cap, essentially unchanged from its inception, is grossly inadequate to fund the bandwidth increases so many schools require with the growing use of laptops and digital devices.
Through the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC), JoAnn Bartoletti and NASSP’s advocacy staff attended meetings with Chairman Wheeler and his staff to advocate on behalf of the E-Rate beneficiaries—your schools and the students you serve. We also submitted comments in response to proposals to modernize the program that were released earlier this year and have urged principals to talk about the importance of the E-Rate programs in meetings with their federal legislators. Our advocacy efforts will continue as we expect the new Congress to review the FCC actions in 2015.
For more information, view the FCC’s fact sheet here.
For the third year in a row, NASSP, NAESP and New Leaders have collaborated with the US Department of Education (ED) to conduct shadowing visits of principals as part of our celebration of National Principals Month. This year, more than 50 principals across the nation opened up their schools to ED officials so they could “walk a day in their shoes.”
On October 30, principals from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia convened at ED headquarters for a debrief session where US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other officials shared their experiences. Duncan shadowed Principal Ambassador Fellow Rachel Skerritt who is the principal of Eastern Senior High School in Washington, DC. Nearly 100% of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and the school is undergoing the transformation model under the School Improvement Grants program.
Duncan greeted students as they entered the building and helped Principal Skerritt take attendance and collect cell phones, which are not allowed in the classroom. He also sat in on a faculty huddle in the gym and got a glimpse into the principal’s ever-growing email inbox. Duncan even volunteered to call a parent when there was a challenge with a student.
ED officials also shared their “aha” moments, which included the loneliness of the job for elementary school principals who may be the only administrator in the building and the need for good mentoring programs. They were pleased to witness collaborative leadership in action and now better understand how the principal helps build a safe culture in schools.
Principals were asked what hurdles get in the way of maximizing their role as instructional leaders. A middle school principal from Maryland shared with a small group that he always conducts classroom visits and teacher observations in the morning because he never knows what may happen that day. While being shadowed by the ED official, a student who had been suspended was seen on campus and the principal spent a good part of the day tracking down his parents. Other principals lamented that they often hear teachers say they would never want their job, which makes them very concerned about succession planning and the future of their profession.
Duncan posed for a group photo with the principals and one middle school principal even got a selfie with the secretary, which she immediately tweeted to her students. Duncan thanked the principals for their hard work and ended the discussion with his oft-used quote, “I have yet to see a great school that didn’t have a great principal.” Those words are so true!
Check out the #prinmonth hashtag on Twitter to see photos of the shadowing visits or read the Department’s Storify of the week.