Attached and pasted below is a state organization sign-on letter from the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), urging Congress to oppose any expansion of the U.S. Department of Education’s misguided models for school reform. Instead of these models, we encourage Congress to embrace meaningful middle level and high school reform strategies during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as detailed by the bills in this letter, and NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework.
The Honorable George Miller The Honorable John Kline
2181 Rayburn House Office Building 2101 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington , DC 20515 Washington , DC 20515
March 26, 2010
Dear Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Kline:
On behalf of the nation’s middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders, the undersigned organizations urge Congress to oppose an expansion of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) misguided models for school reform and instead embrace meaningful middle level and high school reform strategies during reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
When the School Improvement Grants (SIG) guidance was first released in August 2009, we urged ED officials to reconsider the four proposed models for education reform that would all require the principal’s replacement as a condition for receiving SIG funds. We believed that the Transformation Model provided the greatest hope for promoting genuine school improvement as it was built around the continuous use of data to inform instruction, developing teacher and leader effectiveness through high-quality professional development, reforming instructional strategies, and extending learning time. It also contained provisions that would give the school flexibility and support to implement reform efforts.
But we had a major concern that this model also called for replacing the principal before beginning these efforts. Our organizations strive for excellence in middle level and high school leadership, and anything less compromises the whole profession. We are not interested in defending substandard principals, and it might be true that the principal in some of these lowest-performing schools is the agent of stagnation that has to go before real progress can commence. But there are many other factors that affect student learning and low performance.
We encouraged the Department to first urge school districts to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the principal’s performance to determine his or her capacity and will to address his or her own professional development needs as they relate to student learning. We also reiterated our long-standing support for a dedicated funding stream of $100 million in Title II of ESEA to recruit, train, and mentor principals and assistant principals.
We have spent the past decade identifying and examining schools that succeed despite challenging circumstances. The common lessons have been condensed down to a framework called Breaking Ranks, which includes a set of recommendations to be considered in each school’s unique context. This comprehensive framework for middle and high schools encourages principals to foster collaborative leadership and ongoing professional development that continually improves curriculum, instruction, and assessment in an environment that is personalized for each student.
The Breaking Ranks framework has been repeatedly validated by diverse, high-poverty schools that share a commitment to student achievement and have seen growth over time in such measures as graduation rates, state assessment scores, and literacy and numeracy achievement. And each school that implements the Breaking Ranks framework reminds us all that turning around a school takes at least three-to-five years of time-consuming, resource-intensive, hard work.
As Congress works to reauthorize ESEA, we encourage you to support the following proposals that would strengthen current law by providing the support necessary to turn around our nation’s lowest-performing middle and high schools and give our struggling students the help they need from preschool through graduation.
Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 4037)
The LEARN Act would provide support for comprehensive state and locally led literacy programs to ensure that children from birth to 12th grade have the reading and writing skills necessary for success in school and beyond. Under the bill, funds would be provided for job-embedded, continuous high-quality professional development that would prepare school leaders and teachers to improve literacy instruction; analyze data to improve student learning; use diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments to inform instruction; and effectively implement literacy intervention strategies.
Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 3006)
The Success in the Middle Act would require states to implement a middle school improvement plan that describes what students are required to know and do to successfully complete the middle grades and make the transition to succeed in an academically rigorous high school. School districts would receive grants to help them invest in proven intervention strategies, including professional development and coaching for school leaders, teachers, and other school personnel; and student supports such as personal academic plans, intensive reading and math interventions, and extended learning time.
Graduation Promise Act (H.R. 4181)
The Graduation Promise Act would support the development of statewide systems of differentiated high school improvement that focuses research and evidence-based intervention on the lowest-performing high schools, and improves the capacity of the high schools to decrease dropout rates and increase student achievement. The bill would also provide competitive grants to states to identify statewide obstacles hindering students from graduating and incentives for states to increase graduation rates.
School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 4354)
The School Principal Recruitment and Training Act would help districts recruit, select, train, and support aspiring or current principals with track records of transforming student learning and outcomes, and prepare these principals to lead high-need schools. Selected aspiring principals would be provided with a pre-service residency and focused coursework on instructional leadership, organizational management, and the use of data to inform instruction, as well as ongoing support and professional development for at least two years. Grant funds would also be used to provide mentoring and professional development to strengthen current principals’ capacity in the areas of instruction, supervision, evaluation, and development of teachers and highly effective school organizations.
NASSP and our state affiliates look forward to working with you as you craft legislation to reauthorize ESEA. Should you have any questions about our position on these bills or other secondary school reform issues, please contact me or Amanda Karhuse on my staff at email@example.com or 703-627-6421.
Gerald N. Tirozzi, Ph.D.
Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools
Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals
Arizona School Administrators
Arkansas Association of Secondary School Principals
Colorado Association of School Executives
Connecticut Association of Schools
Delaware Association of School Administrators
District of Columbia Association of Secondary School Principals
Idaho Association of School Administrators
Illinois Principals Association
Indiana Association of School Principals
School Administrators of Iowa
Louisiana Association of Principals
Maine Principals’ Association
Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals
Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association
Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals
Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals
Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals
Montana Association of Secondary School Principals
Nebraska Council of School Administrators
Nevada Association of School Administrators
New Hampshire Association of School Principals
New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association
New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals
School Administrators Association of New York State
North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association
North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals
Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators
Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals
Confederation of Oregon School Administrators
Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals
Rhode Island Association of School Principals
School Administrators of South Dakota
Texas Association of Secondary School Principals
Utah Association of Secondary School Principals
Vermont Principals’ Association
Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
Association of Washington School Principals
West Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals
Association of Wisconsin School Administrators
Wyoming Association of Secondary School Principals