The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) expanded the federal role in education and has significantly impacted schools and school leader responsibilities. The era of reform ushered in by this legislation requires that administrators make connections between academic data and excellence and they employ strategic thinking and innovations in developing partnerships with a variety of constituent groups. It is no longer sufficient to deplore the achievement gap; school leaders must be able to make decisions to improve teaching and learning for all students or face corrective action if their schools fail to meet mandated accountability measures.
NCLB placed a great emphasis on teachers by defining a highly qualified teacher (HQT) and mandating that all teachers meet specific certification requirements in order to teach. However, the HQT provisions only ensure that teachers are competent with respect to subject knowledge. To be truly highly effective, a teacher must also be able to successfully communicate that knowledge to students.
Highly qualified principals are mentioned throughout NCLB, but there is not a similar definition of what constitutes a highly qualified principal, nor any assurance that the principal be effective in his or her position. Nonetheless, a recent study by the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality (2005) on the working conditions of teachers found that high-quality leadership was the single greatest predictor of whether or not high schools made “adequate yearly progress” as defined by NCLB—more than either school size or teacher retention.
NASSP GUIDING PRINCIPLES
- NASSP acknowledges that within the school building, the principal bears the ultimate responsibility for implementing schoolwide reforms that will lead to high academic achievement for all students.
- NASSP recognizes that school leaders are expected to be instructional leaders but also educational visionaries; assessment experts; working knowledge of curriculum as it aligns to content standards; disciplinarians; community builders; public relations experts; budget analysts; facility managers; special programs administrators; and guardians of various legal, contractual, and policy mandates and initiatives.
- NASSP offers this position statement as guiding recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers, noting that states currently bear the responsibility for determining the characteristics of a highly effective principal and the multiple measures used in assessing the principal’s performance.
- NASSP believes that quantitative and qualitative data should inform decisions at the classroom, school building and district levels. Data should therefore inform principals' effectiveness.
- NASSP recommends that principal performance be based on multiple measures that are objective and take into account the context in which a principal operates the school, and are not limited to student performance indicators.
- NASSP developed Breaking Ranks II and Breaking Ranks in the Middle to offer strategies for principals implementing schoolwide reforms, and this framework provides a basis for our recommendations to define and measure highly effective principals.
- NASSP recommends that a highly effective principal or assistant principal:
- Demonstrate awareness of and have experiences with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to effectively lead teaching and learning appropriate to the needs of all students in the school
- Has successfully completed a state approved principal licensure program that builds the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively lead people, lead learning, and manage school operations
- Engages in continuous professional development, utilizing a combination of academic study, developmental simulation exercises, self-reflection, mentorship and internship
- Demonstrates capacity to lead in establishing and maintaining a professional learning community that effectively extracts information from data to improve the school culture and personalize instruction for all students to result in improved student achievement
- Demonstrates knowledge of youth development appropriate to the age level served by the school
- Demonstrates the capacity to create and maintain a learning culture within the school that provides a climate conducive to the development of all members of the school community.
- NASSP recommends that school districts examine quantitative and qualitative data pertaining to both academic and nonacademic indicators in their evaluation of principals.
- NASSP recommends the following measurements, in addition to student indicators, for assessing principal performance:
- Supervisor site visits
- School documentation of classroom observations, faculty agendas, etc.
- Climate survey
- Teacher, other school staff, parent, and student evaluations
- Teacher retention/transfer rates
- Opportunities for student engagement through co-curricular and extracurricular activities and rates of participation.
- In measuring a principal’s performance based on student indicators, states should use multiple assessments that are aligned with state standards, include performance based measures, and measure individual student growth from year to year. NASSP suggests the use of such assessments as:
- State assessments
- Portfolios, performance tasks, and other examples of a student’s accomplishments
- Traditional quizzes and tests
- Interviews, questionnaires, and conferences
- End-of-course exams
- Comprehensive personal academic or graduation plans
- Assessments aligned with high school and college entrance requirements (ACT, PSAT, SAT)
- Senior projects.
- NASSP recommends that Congress provide a dedicated funding stream of $100 million to prepare, train, and recruit highly effective principals. Funds could be used for the following:
- Reforming principal certification (including recertification) or licensing requirements
- Carrying out programs that provide support to principals or assistant principals, including mentoring and professional development programs
- Assisting local educational agencies and schools in effectively recruiting and retaining highly effective principals
- Encouraging and supporting the training of administrators to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction
- Developing and implementing professional development programs that enable principals to be effective instructional leaders and to prepare all students to meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards
- Developing and implementing initiatives to promote the retention of highly effective principals, particularly within elementary, middle and high schools with a high percentage of low-achieving students
- Carrying out professional development activities designed to improve the quality of principals, including the development and support of academies to help talented aspiring or current principals become outstanding managers and educational leaders.
National Association of Secondary School Principals (2004). Breaking Ranks II: Strategies for Leading High School Reform. Reston, VA: Author.
National Association of Secondary School Principals (2006). Breaking Ranks in the Middle: Strategies for Leading Middle Level Reform. Reston, VA: Author.
National Association of Secondary School Principals (2007). Changing Role of the Middle Level and High School Leader: Learning from the Past—Preparing for the Future. Reston, VA: Author.
Southeast Center for Teaching Quality (2004). Teaching working conditions are student learning conditions. Retrieved June 2005 from http://www.teachingquality.org/pdfs/TWC_FullReport.pdf.
Adopted November 2, 2007.