Groups representing principals and school administrators on Wednesday praised the recently approved federal spending measure for recognizing principals’ mounting responsibilities and for directing the U.S. Department of Education to step up professional development and support to help principals get the job done.
In a joint statement, the American Federation of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals said that language in the spending measure that acknowledged the importance of principals—and the need for funding and professional development to support them—was a step in the right direction. Both houses of Congress approved the spending bill which President Obama signed on Tuesday.
“The inclusion of language in the omnibus that identifies principals’ vital and expanding role in learning is a clear mandate by Congress that we need greater investment in principal development,” the statement read. “This is a great first step in improving the instructional leadership capacity in our nation’s schools. We will continue the momentum to ensure that the Department of Education provide states with guidance as Congress directs.”
The statement highlighted the relevant portion of the bill:
“The Department should recognize that the roles and responsibilities of principals continue to expand, including the implementation of State-led teacher evaluation systems, college and career-ready standards and new on-line assessments, so they must be afforded specialized opportunities for professional learning and growth targeted to their role as instructional leaders. Therefore, the Department should provide guidance to SEAs on ensuring that sufficient professional development opportunities are provided to principals in order to help them improve instructional leadership capacity.”
The language, the groups say, is further evidence that both Congress and the Obama administration recognize that “an investment in the principal is an investment in learning.”
Earlier this month, Education Week looked at the growing focus and inclusion of principals in the policy making process from both the Department of Education and Congress.
The principals’ advocacy groups said they were pleased with the emphasis from both congress and the administration but wanted more, including funds to pay for proven, research-based professional development and training opportunities for principals.
The request list included language in Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would require a specific set aside covering professional development for principals.
While schools and school districts can use Title II funds to pay for principal-professional-development programs, on average, only four percent of those monies are used for those purposes, according to the groups.
That percentage falls “far short of what principals need to meet the increased demands placed on them as the organizational and instructional leaders of their schools,” the groups wrote.
Deborah Delisle, the assistant secretary of education of elementary and secondary education, told Education Week in November that the department recognized the need for additional professional development and training opportunities for principals—and the contention around the use of Title II funds to pay for them.
While the use of those funds could be regulated by requirements mandating a specific set aside for principals, there continued to be a debate about the most effective ways to ensure that principals are beneficiaries and whether the best way to do so was through regulation or through providing guidance, clarification and encouragement to states, school districts and schools on how Title II funds can be used, she said.
Providing guidance and encouragement to states and local education authorities on how to use that money for principals may be a better alternative because, “from a timing standpoint, ... re-regulating or placing new requirements on a specific source of federal funds is more lengthy of a process,” she said.
Delisle said in the last several months, the department has spent considerable efforts and has become much more strategic in clarifying the use of Title II funds with state education officials and school districts.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.