As federal policymakers are finally beginning to understand that great schools cannot exist without great principals, NASSP is very pleased that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) reintroduced the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 840/H.R. 1736) last week. The bill, which had not been reintroduced during the 112th Congress, serves as the linchpin of our advocacy agenda to improve the preparation, mentoring, and professional development of our nation’s school leaders.
The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act would create a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals and assistant principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools. It would create one-year residencies to train aspiring principals and would provide ongoing mentoring, support, and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and commence work as school leaders.
The bill would ensure that principal preparation programs include coursework on instructional leadership, organizational management, and the use of data to inform instruction. They would also provide differentiated training to principals in competencies that are critical to improving school-level student outcomes such as supervising and evaluating teachers, establishing learning communities, addressing the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners, and using technology to personalize instruction.
NASSP members are strongly encouraged to contact their members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act. A form letter is available at the Principal’s Legislative Action Center, but we hope that you will personalize the message by sharing your own experiences in a principal preparation program and highlight the need for continuous, ongoing professional development.
Research has consistently shown that the quality of school leadership has a significant impact on student learning and teacher retention. Yet all too often principals enter the profession without having developed the instructional leadership skills necessary for success.
In an effort to change this situation, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (S. 2896/H.R. 4354), which would create a grant program to recruit, support, and prepare principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools.
“Like any successful organization, schools need strong leaders to ensure their success,” said Sen. Franken. “I believe that improving principal quality is essential to turning around high-need schools and closing the achievement gap that is leaving so many of our low-income and minority children behind. The bill will provide communities with the resources they need to prepare school leaders to tackle these challenges.”
“It takes a strong leader to turn around a struggling school. An inspirational principal at the helm can make an enormous difference in a school’s direction. We are introducing legislation to recruit and train a new generation of school leaders that have the ability to inspire change,” said Rep. Davis.
Although principals play a vital role in preparing students for the challenges that lie ahead of them, NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi acknowledged that principal training and professional development hasn’t kept pace with the changing role of the principalship. “NASSP is extremely pleased that Sen. Franken and Rep. Davis have chosen to address this issue, which has the potential to positively impact the lives of all students, including those in high-need schools,” Tirozzi said. “NASSP staff worked extensively with Sen. Franken’s office to craft this legislation, and we are proud to support this bill.” Sen. Franken took the lead in drafting this bill.
Specifically, grants would help districts form partnerships with nonprofit organizations or institutions of higher education to recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes. The grants would support sending these principals to schools in which 40% or more of the students are eligible for free and reduced meals and to high schools with a graduation rate of 65% or less and their feeder middle schools.
Participants would sign an agreement to serve for at least four years in a high-need school after they have been qualified and placed in the principalship (if they are not already a practicing principal) and to work toward substantially increasing student academic achievement in the schools they will lead within approximately three to six years of becoming principals.
Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a preservice residency that would last for at least one year and be combined with focused coursework on instructional leadership, organizational management, and the use of data to inform instruction. Ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after the aspiring principals complete the residency and commence work as school leaders would also be incorporated in the program.
Prior to the one-year residency, aspiring principals would undergo a skills assessment to determine their strengths and improvement needs. This information would be used to assist in developing and refining a data-based professional development plan that guides each individual’s year-long residency.
Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity to engage in effective instructional leadership practices and use a variety of data for the purposes of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations.
Finally, the bill would authorize development of a high-quality evaluation and information clearinghouse to facilitate the sharing of best practices and inform the recruitment, selection, training, and ongoing development of principals for high-need schools, including the development of standards and definitions of principal effectiveness.
Ten years since its last reauthorization, Congress has finally passed legislation (H.R. 4137) reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The law was originally set to expire in 2003, but Congress has passed 16 short-term extensions in the past four years. President Bush recently signed the bill into law on August 14, 2008.
Notably, the bill reauthorizes the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants program. Many provisions of this program are aligned with NASSP’s policy recommendations for middle level and high school reform, including:
- Mentoring prospective principals;
- Helping principals create a data-driven professional learning community within their school;
- Helping principals become instructional leaders by increasing their understanding of how students learn and develop, and how to use data to evaluate teacher instruction;
- Helping principals understand how to engage and involve parents, community members, businesses, and others to leverage additional resources to improve student academic achievement
H.R. 4137 also renews several teacher and principal preparation programs, including Preparing General Education Teachers to More Effectively Educate Students with Disabilities, which improves the ability of general education teachers to teach students with disabilities in the classroom; and the Adjunct Teacher Corps, which allows school districts to recruit content specialists from among mid-career professionals with expertise in math, science, and critical foreign languages.
H.R. 4137 also encourages low-income and rural students to graduate from high school and attend college through grants programs, including: Mathematics and Science Scholars Program, which will encourage students in secondary and postsecondary schools to pursue degrees in STEM or health-related fields; and the Rural Development Grants for Rural-Serving Colleges and Universities program, which will increase high school graduation rates in rural areas, improve career training, and create partnerships between rural colleges and employers to increase enrollment and graduation rates from rural colleges.
NASSP has long supported programs that prepare teachers and aspiring school leaders for the challenges of the 21st century school, as well as those that help connect students to postsecondary education and the workforce. We are very pleased with the long-awaited reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Effective school leadership is by its nature a constant challenge. In an ongoing effort to improve student and school performance, a recent report asked if principals should be given explicit authority over school management and staffing issues, or if ambiguity in labor agreements is a better way to go?
The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America’s Fifty Largest School Districts is a preliminary study of 50 of the nation’s largest school districts conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The report found that most (30) of the districts surveyed have labor agreements that are either “somewhat flexible or somewhat restrictive, suggesting that most principals have substantial leeway to manage assertively, should they so choose.” The report’s authors argue that while such agreements are preferable to highly restrictive labor agreements, they should be more transparent and should explicitly recognize “managerial discretion as part of a twenty-first century labor agreement.”
However, the report is quick to point out that while labor agreements can act as barriers to effective school and district management, the degree to which they hamper improvement efforts in large districts may be somewhat overstated. “It appears that district and school leaders are failing to exploit gray areas in which they may be free to act. Whether this hesitancy is due to a fear of provoking conflict and violating comfortable norms, union resistance and influence, or a lack of willingness by district leaders to actively support entrepreneurial activity, it calls for reformers to both address extra-district sources of inflexibility and push district officials to provide the requisite political, legal, and material support. District officials must cease blaming ‘the contract’ for their inaction,” the report said.
A similar conclusion was found in an earlier report by the Fordham Institute (Principal’s Policy Blog, May 21). Both reports point to the importance of resourcefulness to effective leadership. A central goal of school improvement efforts is the creation of a self-sustaining culture of learning. This often requires reaching out to parents and the broader community to address the myriad extra-academic issues that impact student achievement, while also seeking out school partnerships between businesses, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations to create opportunities for staff development and increased student achievement. For assistance on strategies for leading middle level and high school reform, please visit NASSP’s website for information on Breaking Ranks trainings and publications.
The U.S. Department of Education is currently accepting applications for grants under the School Leadership Program. Twenty-four to thirty grants ranging from $250,000-$750,000 are expected to be awarded in FY 2008. The competition is open to high-need districts and institutions of higher education in partnership with districts. A “notice of intent” to apply is due April 2, 2008, and the deadline for applications is May 2, 2008. For more information, please go to: www.ed.gov.
NASSP strongly supports the School Leadership Program, which is designed to help districts recruit, train, and retain principals and assistant principals in high-need schools. Grantees may use funds to provide financial incentives to aspiring new principals, provide stipends to principals who mentor new principals, carry out professional development programs in instructional leadership and management, provide incentives for teachers or individuals from other fields who would like to become principals, and other activities.
Would schools be better served by principals trained in a business model?
Total Votes: 343
A recent Washington Post article highlights a proposed program by Rice University to train principals as MBAs–focusing on a business model of leadership rather than the instructional leadership emphasized in principal-prep programs in schools of education. So we want to know from principals: Would schools be better served by principals trained in a business model–with an MBA instead of an EdD?
Principals have something to smile about as they open the doors for the first day of school, and surprisingly the reason is new legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), a freshman member and former special assistant to the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, understands that school leaders are more than building managers—they are also instructional leaders and must possess the knowledge and skills to guide teaching and learning in the school. His bill, the Instructional Leadership Act (H.R. 3441), would train principals in instructional leadership skills and incorporate those skills into state certification and licensure.
“Every child has potential,” Sarbanes said in a press release. “We ought to help them to realize it by developing exemplary leaders for all our schools. In order to stay true to the vision of sustainable improvements in student achievement, our principals should have the tools and training to be strong Instructional leaders. The Instructional Leadership Act of 2007 will help us take an important first step in accomplishing this goal.”
NASSP is pleased that the legislation builds on many of recommendations included in Breaking Ranks II and Breaking Ranks in the Middle. The bill would authorize $100 million for two competitive grant programs. One program would help states, school districts, nonprofit organizations, and universities develop innovative programs that train principals in instructional leadership skills. Specifically, these programs would train principals in developing a school vision; ensuring the regular integration of appropriate assessments into daily classroom instruction; providing staff members with focused, sustained, research-based professional development; and engaging all community stakeholders in a shared responsibility for student and school success. The other program would help states develop pilot programs to incorporate standards of instructional leadership into state principal certification or licensure.
The Instructional Leadership Act also requires the U.S. Department of Education to develop a definition for highly qualified principal (HQP). Building upon a position statement approved by the NASSP Board of Directors in July (www.nassp.org/hepstatement), the HQP definition should take into consideration the need for principals to:
- Demonstrate awareness of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to effectively lead teaching and learning in schools
- Engage in continual professional development, using a combination of academic study, developmental simulation exercises, self-reflection, mentorships, and internships
- Demonstrate the capacity to lead by establishing and maintaining a professional learning community that effectively uses data to improve and personalize instruction for all students to result in improved student achievement.
NASSP will actively work to ensure that the Instructional Leadership Act is enacted into law, but we need your help. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (www.nassp.org/PLAC) and encourage your members of Congress to cosponsor this important legislation. We especially encourage you to share stories from your school and highlight your role as an instructional leader.
The need to recruit, train, and retain quality principals was voiced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who recently introduced S. 1231, the Preparing, Recruiting, and Retaining Education Professionals (PRREP) Act of 2007.
According to the bill itself, a central goal of the PRREP Act is to improve “the recruitment, retention, and capacities of principals to provide instructional leadership and to support teachers in maintaining safe and effective learning environments,” while enhancing the interactions between parents and school personnel. The PRREP Act would accomplish this goal by authorizing the U.S. Secretary of Education to competitively award block grants to high need local educational agencies that serve schools with high numbers of students from families with incomes below the poverty line, who have high percentages of teachers who are not highly qualified, and who propose innovative reforms to work with institutions of higher education to increase their numbers of highly qualified teachers.
As part of the application process, grant applicants would be required to describe how the partnership between the local education agency and institution of higher education would “enhance the leadership and management skills of principals and provide effective support for principals, including new principals.” Once grants have been awarded, the bill would require grantees to develop and implement proven mechanisms to provide principals, superintendents, and other school personnel with “an understanding of the skills and behaviors that contribute to effective instructional leadership and the maintenance of a safe and effective learning environment” as well as “teaching and assessment skills needed to support successful classroom teaching; an understanding of how students learn and develop in order to increase achievement for all students; and the skills to effectively involve parents.”
If passed, the PRREP Act would authorize $10 million for these and other activities. Although the bill has yet to attract any co-sponsors, its basic ideas – recruiting, training, and retaining quality school administrators and educators – are elements likely to appear in other legislation.