The American Association of School Administrators is doing its part to improve leadership development. Between January and May, AASA consultants are providing professional development for principals and assistant principals in the Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools.
“People are thirsty for an opportunity to learn everything that belongs to their jobs, from budget and finances to curriculum and instruction to school operations,” says AASA Director of Leadership Development MaryAnn Jobe.
A number of other school leadership initiatives—aimed at reaching a wider base of districts—are also cropping up. In New York State, the mid-Hudson Leadership Academy offers a New Administrators Program—and one-on-one mentoring—for the dozens of school districts that it serves.
Over the past year, the National Association of Elementary School Principals has created webinars for its elementary principals in areas such as teacher evaluation, Common Core State Standards, and school improvement planning. “We’ve seen a movement of principals taking more advantage of online training,” says NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly, adding that online training is the consequence of their limited time for professional development.
With those time limitations in mind, NAESP has reinvented its annual conference from a gathering well-known for networking . “Now the emphasis is on continuing improvement,” Connelly points out. “We pull together some of the most well-known experts for several days so principals can really be steeped in the research and in learning from successful peers.”
NAESP also has developed a national mentor certification program that has grown to 1,500 principal mentors around the country. “They cover the gamut of what a principal should know and be able to do,” Connelly says. In July, the National Conference on Differentiated Instruction will host teachers and principals in Las Vegas and cover how to achieve that differentiation when it comes to challenges like Common Core, 21st-century skills, and STEM learning.
There are even professional development opportunities for individual principals in the self-paced, hands-on training presented by education expert Bill Sterrett in his book Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works, published in 2011.
The book includes chapters on turning technology into engaged learning, turning data into action, and turning vision into reality. And it also provides an array of everyday tips from successful principals, Sterrett notes. “If a principal opened a faculty meeting with a great math lesson using an interactive whiteboard, that meeting would have a more vibrant meaning,” he states. Likewise, principals can use morning announcements to share larger visions of the school mission as well as daily information. And they would do well to follow on Twitter school leaders whom they respect. “Who better knows school improvement than principals?” Sterrett concludes.