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Secondary-Level School Administrators Make Voices Heard on Capitol Hill

Top administrators from middle and high schools recently went to Capitol Hill to tell legislators they wanted more tools to help prepare their students to be successful in college and careers. Among their requests: more support for professional development, technology in classroom, and higher standards—including backing of the common core.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals brought 44 National Assistant Principals of the Year to Washington last week to be honored for their work, share best practices, and use their expertise to leverage for changes to education policy.

"Being an advocate is one more thing for an administrator to do," says Bob Farrace, director of communications for the Reston, Va. -based NASSP. "But they are really internalizing the messages we are giving them, 'You have authority. You are able to go to legislators and they will listen.' "

Tori Ruis, assistant principal at LaVergne High School in LaVergne, Tenn., told her Congressional representatives on a Hill visit Thursday that educators on the ground supported the Common Core State Standards, despite the backlash that is occurring in her state.

"The majority of the opposition comes from the fact that they just don't know. They don't understand the core," she said. "I discussed with the senators raising standards and that's where our focus needed to be. And if the core wasn't the answer, what were we going to do to ensure that our seniors were ready for the next stage?"

It is a challenge as schools are beginning to adopt instructional strategies to comply with the new standards, yet teachers are being held accountable through assessments based on the old standards, Ruis said. Also, teachers are discouraged about implementing the standards amid the public's skepticism.

Although Ruis found the legislators felt the common core was more of an issue to be decided at the state level without federal involvement, she said it was important to express her view that students need instruction that pushed them to think at a higher level and problem solve in new ways.

Brooke Macomber, assistant principal at Coventry High School in Coventry, R.I., spoke with her senators about the need for professional development for administrators. Among NASSP's legislative priorities are the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act (H.R. 1736/S. 840) and the Great Teaching and Leading for Great School Act (H.R, 4269).

"We do a pretty good job sending our teacher-leaders out for professional development, but we don't do as good of a job training our administrators," she said. "So sometimes we feel like we are lagging behind some of our teachers. When we do staff development, I sometimes feel I'm not the most well-trained in the room."

Western Middle School in Greenwich, Conn., recently has adopted a digital learning environment where it is phasing in one-to-one devices for students to personalize instruction. Assistant Principal Albert Nii Lartey Sackey asked representatives to pass legislation to help more districts provide technology and accompanying professional development to close the achievement gap. Measures that NASSP would like to see passed include the Transforming Education Through Technology Act H.R. 521, and Enhancing Education Through Technology Act (S. 1087).

"Handing a student an iPad is not what is going change instruction. You have to make sure teachers are trained in the right way to use the resource to create lessons that kids can engage in," said Sackey. "Using the tool properly is a critical piece, not just the device itself."

Other items on the legislative agenda for NASSP: the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act (H.R. 2706/S. 758) that authorizes $2.5 billion for comprehensive state and local literacy programs, Success in the Middle Act (H.R. 2316/S. 708) to improve teaching of middle grades students in low-performing schools, and the Graduation Promise Act (S. 940) aimed at reducing dropout rates and increasing student achievement.

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