Where to go from here

Noting research from vetted studies, the report emphasized that principals are integral to school success, stating that “effective schools are operated by effective leaders.”

“The role of the principal has been seriously overlooked in far too many national and state-level discussions related to college and career-ready state standards, particularly in the evolution, state adoption and implementation of the CCSS,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of NAESP. “This is a profound and disturbing oversight given the research substantiating the role of principals as the primary catalyst for change and improvement in schools.”

The report noted that principals are often “local change facilitators” and their position makes them responsible for setting instructional improvement priorities, channeling resources toward initiatives, engaging staff in curriculum revision, supporting PD, assessing teacher performance, and much more.

Which leads to the question: “If principals aren’t sure how to sustain Common Core, can schools truly succeed in CCSS implementation long-term?”

Outside of potentially inadequate teacher evaluations, curricular changes, and special needs programs, the execution of online assessments related to CCSS will also fail if critical gaps in principal-readiness are not addressed, said Connelly, as well as ensuring the proper technology and infrastructure needed to administer CCSS and collect data.

The report suggests that, considering the context in which the CCSS are being implemented—in this “era of change and increased demands”—principals be better versed in “what might be termed ‘adaptive leadership.’”

Yet, “to date, comparatively few resources have been set aside or provided specifically to prepare principals to adapt to the changes that are expected with the Common Core,” said the report.

Another suggestion would be for third-party researchers to take a look at school Personal Learning Communities (PLCs) and develop best practices.

“Given that most principals in [the survey] report that they are using PLCs, it could be instructive to know more about how these Common Core PLCs are structured, how they vary, and the progress they are making in planning for the Common Core and making changes in curriculum and instruction.”

“NAESP is concerned about the stress that principals are experiencing today,” concluded the report. “If the Common Core State Standards are going to bring about the intended changes, then the results from our sample suggest that principals need to be more involved—they need more guidance about their role, more input into this specific change process, and more resources available for direct implementation of the Common Core in their schools.”