Happy National Principals Month!

To honor the dedication, commitment, and passion for public education, AFSA is supporting the 2014 October National Principals Month.

This is a time to celebrate the tremendous job principals and school administrators do  every day in our schools. Without this professional leadership, fostering a culture of learning, guiding instruction, engaging teachers and staff, and connecting with students, high quality learning simply cannot happen. They are the heroes in our nation’s public schools, a heroism more often abused than honored.

But this year, there is more cause to celebrate than the recognition of our profession by the nation’s elected leaders, for there is a rising tide of resistance to the data-driven, test-obsessed approach to education being advocated by corporate “reformers” that greater activism by our members can do much to advance.

Resistance to the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, led by coalitions of parents and educators, is expanding rapidly across the nation, with the goals of rolling back testing overkill, eliminating summary firing of principals, and creating an assessment system that supports teaching and learning. Some states have already responded to this uprising by temporarily pausing some sanctions for educators.

I note with great pride that our members in some school districts are in the forefront of these efforts, rallying community support for giving educators and parents a stronger voice in policy decisions and evaluation systems.  The more of us who exercise our valued role as community leaders in advancing this cause, the greater our chances of restoring the respect for our profession and our value to the nation’s children.

Nor has AFSA waited for the recognition of the 2014 October National Principals Month to take action in combating the assault on our profession.  AFSA has joined with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to assert that the first step in turning around a low-performing school should never be to remove its principal.

Together we filed public comment this month with the Education Department on proposed changes to the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program. The SIG program initially laid out four turnaround models for grantees to choose from, all of which included removal of the principal.

Those models are still options, but the proposed changes would also give states power to come up with their own federally approved turnaround models. As a united front, our organizations lauded that change because it doesn’t require removal of the principal and replacement of at least half the staff.

We have made it clear that principals and supervisory staffs have deep ties within the community and a unique understanding of the surrounding community and local culture, and that all principals and staff should first have the opportunity to be evaluated and provided with the necessary support to lead the successful school turnaround, rather than being summarily replaced.

The proposed changes would also add an intervention model focused on improving early learning outcomes, models in which principals should play an integral role.

Over the course of this year, AFSA has also been collaborating with the NASSP and NAESP to help elevate the voice of the principal. AFSA is proud to unite with the other organizations representing our profession in the outstanding efforts of support for the 2014 October National Principals Month.

For ideas on how to celebrate National Principals Month, including an opportunity for your students to create a video about why they love you, visit www.principalsmonth.org.

Again, thank you for the outstanding job you do. It is greatly appreciated and truly deserves recognition every day of the year.


In solidarity,

Diann Woodard

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