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ESSA Allows States to Focus on Often Overlooked Pre-K Ed Players — School Principals

July 12, 2017
Abbie Lieberman
The 74

 While teachers and their students are beginning to soak up some much-earned summer vacation, officials in most state departments of education are busy finalizing their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and deciding what to do with their newfound flexibility.

(The 74: Exclusive — New Interactive Map Shows State Progress in Finalizing ESSA Plans)

As my colleagues at New America have pointed out, ESSA presents many opportunities for states to better support early learning, but it gives them discretion to decide whether to prioritize these crucial years. Through Title II, which supports preparation and training of educators and leaders, states have an opportunity to significantly improve the quality of pre-K programs by focusing on an often overlooked group of professionals: elementary school principals.

majority of elementary school principals now oversee pre-K classrooms in their buildings. Yet a majority report that they don’t feel confident in their knowledge of early education. This is problematic because research shows that after teachers, these school leaders are the greatest in-school factor impacting student achievement. Failing to train and support principals as early-learning leaders is a missed opportunity because it can inhibit their ability to support early-grade teachers.

A recently released 50-state scan of policies related to pre-K leaders from New America found that states are doing little to address this. State standards around elementary school principals’ pre-service qualifications and professional learning opportunities rarely reflect the important role they play in providing high-quality learning environments for younger children.