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Proposal to Rate Leadership Programs Has Principals' Groups 'Concerned'

Two national principals' group said they are generally pleased with the changes that may affect school leaders' training and preparation included in the Senate Democrats' draft reauthorization bill for the Higher Education Act, but, at the same time, they are concerned about the inclusion of a grant program that would allow states to rate principal preparation programs using value-added measures.

In a joint letter to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the two groups—the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals— praised a number of changes regarding the recruiting and training of school leaders.

"The proposal makes several positive changes to the programs that are critically important to improving our nation's education system and supporting the essential role of principals as they provide instructional leadership in schools," they wrote in a June 23 letter to Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Among the areas they supported: The inclusion of language that recognizes principals and assistant principals as school leaders, and a competitive grant program to recruit, support, and prepare school leaders in high-need schools. The letter also includes recommendations on the kinds of school leader-training and -support programs the two groups endorse.

But the two organizations had reservations about a system to allow states to rate leadership-preparation programs using value-added measures, such as those based on student test scores.

"We believe there are multiple ways that states can strengthen accountability and standards for preparation programs without developing such a rating system, which will conflate the multiple concerns that research has exposed in terms of the efficacy of VAM [value-added measures]  with teacher and principal evaluations," they wrote.

They said they preferred an approach that stressed high standards for preparation programs. 

They encouraged federal programs that would focus on the preparation and ongoing development of principals. They said they support programs that provide useful feedback to school leaders and use evaluations to inform decision-making about professional development.

Lauren Camera, at the Politics K-12 blog, provided a fuller synopsis last week of the discussion draft, particularly those provisions affecting teachers and school leaders. 

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