Bipartisan Education Bill Recognizes Principal’s Key Role and Provides New Flexibility
Statement on the Senate passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) from the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP):
Principals will celebrate the elimination of No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) system of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), School Improvement Grants (SIG), and other letters that marked the highly punitive, overly-test-reliant era of NCLB. But more important, they recognize a great opportunity ESSA offers to create more holistic accountability systems that include successes a test score simply cannot capture.
We are also pleased that the role of the principal received a prominent place in the bill’s provisions. Specifically:
- Inclusion of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, championed by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
- Inclusion of language crafted by Sen. Franken allowing states to reserve up to 3 percent of their Title II funds for principal professional development.
- The clarification of school leader to mean a principal within the school building, an amendment introduced by Rep. Davis and Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL).
Under ESSA, states will reserve up to 7% of their Title I funds for school improvement activities that are not rigidly prescribed at the federal level, but that begin with a needs assessment and capacity analysis. While the legislation will support elementary schools to meet the challenges with struggling students and help states expand early learning to all three- and four-year olds, we would have liked to see more dedicated resources for low-performing middle and high schools. We are, however, pleased that ESSA requires state plans to include information about how the state will work with districts to provide effective transitions of students to middle grades and high school to decrease the risk of students dropping out.
The bill is not perfect—no bill is—but it moves U.S. public education in the right direction. We applaud Congress for this tremendous bipartisan achievement, and look forward to the president’s signing of the bill, as well as working with the U.S. Department of Education and the states to implement ESSA’s provisions.
The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces and communities. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. AFSA members are active in the labor movement and proudly stand in solidarity with all trade unionists and school administrators.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.
Principals are the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning. Since 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has been the leading advocate for elementary and middle level principals in the United States and worldwide. NAESP advances the profession by developing policy, advancing advocacy and providing professional development and resources for instructional leadership, including specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include pre-K-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and effective educator evaluation. For more information about NAESP, please visit www.naesp.org. NAESP administers the National Principals Resource Center, the American Student Council Association, and the President’s Education Awards & American Citizenship Awards Programs.