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ESSA, Pre-K-3, Research Are the Focus of Principals' Conference

ESSA. Leading Pre-K-3 schools. Teacher leadership. School turnarounds. Using social media to reach parents and students. And fostering inclusive school communities.

Those are some of the topics that elementary and middle school principals will dive into as they gather in National Harbor, Md., over the next three days for the annual conference of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

More than 1,500 school leaders and others have registered for the event, and this year's contingent includes a number of principals from other parts of the world, including Moldova, Nicaragua, and United Arab Emirates, according to the NAESP.

Some principals were already in the Washington, D.C-area on Tuesday to participate in the organization's community service day, which traditionally precedes the conference. This year, the group was expected to help build a playground at Princeton Elementary School in Suitland, Md.

The conference sessions will be led by experts, researchers, and principals.

"Aligning pre-K-3 learning communities, preparing to implement ESSA, and mastering research-based strategies for effective learning communities are just a few of the topics that are on principals' minds," said Robyn Conrad Hansen, the association's president. "NAESP's annual conference delivers fresh thinking and innovative strategies on these topics that will inspire principals at every stage to lead students to success."

Over the coming months, principals will have a lot more on their plates as states and districts prepare to put into effect the new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Principals have mixed feelings about the new law, according to a Gallup poll released in May. Thirty-one percent of principals said they were familiar with ESSA, 44 percent said they were somewhat familiar with the law, 15 percent said they were not at all familiar with the law, and 10 percent said they were very familiar with the law, according to that poll.

About 62 percent of principals surveyed said they expected the law to have a neutral impact on their schools, while 29 percent said it would have a positive effect, the poll found.

An ESSA discussion planned for Wednesday will explore how the law supports principals and the challenges that may emerge during the transition. The panel discussion will also look at new opportunities in the law for educators, according to the NAESP.

Conference guest speakers include Pedro Noguera, a sociologist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles; Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional-intelligence; and psychologist Russell Quaglia.

The NAESP also plans to release the results of a national survey on principals who lead early-childhood schools. Pre-K-3 has been a special focus for the NAESP over the last few years.

"School leaders are vital to creating vibrant learning communities and driving school improvement and student achievement," said Gail Connelly, the association's executive director. "In this year of major changes in education, including the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, principals are more than ever in need of high-quality professional learning that will prepare and sustain them in their roles." 

You can follow the conference events and discussions on Twitter, using the hashtag #NAESP16.

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