As a Follow-Up to Administration's Education Blueprint, Bennet Pushes to include Bill to Attract & Support Talented Principals In High Needs Schools as Part of ESEA

Bennet: Recruiting and Training More Effective Principals Will Transform the Quality of Our Public Schools

Effort Comes on Same Day Secretary Duncan Visits Denver to See Colorado Innovations in Education

Washington, DC - As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) considers education reforms, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado and former Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, applauded the Administration's emphasis on school leaders and urged the Senate to include keys of the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This bipartisan legislation would create a new, competitive grant program to recruit, support and prepare high-caliber aspiring and current principals to lead high-need schools.

Bennet's push comes on the same day Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Denver to meet with educators from various school districts in Colorado and learn about innovative models to drive student achievement, support teachers, and improve our public schools.

"Attracting and training quality principals is critical to improving our public schools. As a former superintendent, I have seen how strong principal leadership can increase student performance, improve teacher retention and transform the entire atmosphere and culture of a school," said Bennet. "We need to address the chronic shortage of principals in high-needs schools by providing the support necessary to recruit high-quality principals. This bill will help transform an outdated system of recruiting and supporting talent in our schools that need it most."

Only 2,000 high schools produce over half of the country's high school dropouts. To support the Administration's efforts to transform these schools, Bennet is drafting legislation to support effective principals in leading transformation efforts in the nation's lowest performing schools. This bill will work in tandem with the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act.

At a recent HELP committee hearing, Secretary Duncan emphasized the importance of recruiting and retaining talented principals.

"Talent matters tremendously - in politics, in business, in non-profit work, in sports teams, in orchestras, and, yes, in education talent matters tremendously," said Duncan. "And we have to convince the country that poverty is not destiny. That we have poor children around this country routinely now beating the odds because they had great adults in their lives."

Without redesigning our system to attract, support and retain key leaders in our schools that need them most, other public education investments will not lead to the dramatic results we need for short-term economic recovery and long-term economic prosperity.

Research shows that school leadership is second only to teacher quality among school-related factors in its impact on student learning. While teacher quality has the greatest impact, principal quality is a key determinant of whether schools can attract and retain effective teachers.

The quality of preparation that principals receive influences both their willingness to take on the challenge of leading high-need schools and their willingness to remain in their positions. By preparing principals for this challenge, the bill will help address the shortage of qualified principals and the high turnover rate among principals at high-need schools.

The grants will be awarded to school districts (and to other entities, such as non-profits and universities, that establish partnerships with school districts) for high-quality training programs that prepare principals to improve student academic achievement in high-need schools. Each grantee will recruit, train, and support high-caliber aspiring and current principals who commit to serving at least four years in high-need schools.

For aspiring (pre-service) principals, programs will provide:

  • A one-year residency at a school under the wing of a mentor principal.
  • Coursework with a focus on instructional leadership, organizational management, and the effective use of data.
  • Ongoing support and professional development for at least two years after participants begin work as principals.

For current principals, programs will provide:

  • Mentoring and professional development on instructional leadership, data usage, and organizational management that will be tailored to the needs of individual principals and their schools.

Grantees can apply to renew their grants or scale up their efforts every five years based on their performance. The primary factor in assessing each grantee's performance will be whether schools led by principals trained by the grantee's program have obtained greater student academic achievement gains than comparable schools.

The bill will provide funding for a high quality evaluation of the programs funded by the bill, and for the dissemination of the best practices of effective programs.