Principal Mentoring   
In This Issue
NAESP Mentoring
Collaboration for School Leadership
Virtual Simulations for Principals



NAESP has trained and certified national mentors throughout the United States and Internationally since 2004. Its program has enabled highly skilled mentors to coach and support novice principals ensuring a strong foundation as they begin their administrative careers and continuously develop leadership skills in their schools
You have an opportunity to be part of the NAESP Mentor Community byattending
workshops in your state or at NAESP National Conference in Baltimore (July 8-10).
For the first time:
Tier II: Advanced Principal Mentor Training. Offered in conjunction with Columbia University's Teacher College, Urban Education Leadership Program, May 2-3.  


 to Rigor 
NAESP has developed workshops on rigor to help principals implement the Common Core and high academic standards.  These are available for states, districts, and individual schools.
Click here.


Aspiring Principals 

NAESP is offering both Aspriing Principal and Principal Induction programs for districts, state departments of education, and state affiliate.
Click here.


Professional Development



CEI sponsors dozens of training modules on a wide range of categories: Common Core, Intervention Methods, Leadership, Learning Strategies, Planning for Improvement, School Culture, Tools for Teaching.  


Sessions range from one hour to two days, and several of them can be arranged for remote delivery.


Go here and select a category.




New Innovative Principal-authored Web-based Simulations


Faced a tough leadership challenge lately?

(who hasn't!)


Share the experience and lessons learned
Re-creating it with peers as a web-based simulation!

All training, travel, room and board provided, via a special collaboration between NAESP and the University of Pennsylvania.

If interested, contact   

PELS Program

Contact: Dr. Eric Bernstein, PELS Project Coordinator

(see article on right) 


  We hope you are enjoying our New! Website 


View our blog, and see bios for our team, feeds from relevant sites, announcements of upcoming events, and descriptions of our services. Thanks to

Monica Jerbi, our Web Content Specialist.


CEI remains committed to providing high-quality research based services, to questioning current strategies, and contemplating the future of education, nationally and globally.

For more information on our services and modules contact Honor Fede (

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1. Primary concern or need: 2. Proposed dates of service:  

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 Dear Educator,


Typically Wow! Ed focuses on an exemplary practice and provides examples of schools you could contact to learn more about these practices. In this month's Wow! we describe practices that are useful in supporting teacher leaders and principals--including programs for Aspiring Principals, the University of Pennsylvania's program for developing and using virtual simulations, and the NAESP principal mentoring program. NAESP is expanding our programs in these areas and also partnering with the University of Pennsylvania to deepen our involvement in their simulations. 


Parkay, Currie & Rhodes (1992) describe the socialization stages for principals. These include (a) survival, (b) control, (c) stability, (d) educational leadership, and (e) professional actualization. We believe principals need support and guidance in each of these phases. Principals as the leaders of their schools can feel isolated. They may need both technical advice or coaching about academics and school operations and also site-specific advice about the school culture, the community, leadership, alliances, and communications.


Principal mentoring has been demonstrated to be both a highly effective and low-cost way to expand the capacity of school leaders. (Weingartner, 2009; Zachary, 2012).  It certainly is a best practice that can both reduce the stress and frustrations of new principals and advance their skills and effectiveness.  It is also a way for veteran principals to re-ignite their sense of purpose and expand their influence. Whether you are a new principal needing support or an experienced principal looking for a way to give back to the field, principal mentoring is one of those practices that can lead to school improvement and increased job satisfaction.
Parkay, F. W., Currie, G. D. and Rhodes, J. W. (1992). Professional  socialization: a longitudinal study of first time high school principals. Educational Administration Quarterly, 28 , pp. 43-75.
Weingartner, C. J. (2009). Mentoring for principals: A safe, supportive and  simple approach. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Zachary, L. (2012). The mentor's guide: Facilitating effective learning relationships 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

A Call to Action


A Collaborative Approach to School Leadership: Teaming the NAESP Theory of Mentoring with a School District's Theory of Leadership Action

By Carol Riley, NAESP Mentor Program  


Four years ago visionary administrators in Prince George's County Public Schools, a Maryland county that borders Washington, D.C., developed a comprehensive, research-based foundation for leadership development. The PGCPS concept of leadership was derived from its board-approved theory of action of managed performance/empowerment. This comprehensive theory of action embraced change to support district growth to better serve their schools and communities. It became their laser-like approach to action!


This organizational change depended on cohesive, purposeful and rigorous approaches to improve the capacity of every aspiring, novice, and experienced principal to meet identified student needs and drive student achievement. The National Association of Elementary School Principals' experience and expertise in professional learning theory and support of school administrators coalesced to engage in support of the PGCPS goals and vision. It focused on specialized professional development, coaching and mentoring to principals at every stage of their careers, differentiated according to assessed needs. 

As Prince George's County Schools outlined their actions steps and created an "on-the-ground" plan, funding sources included securing a grant in 2011 by the Wallace Foundation to support a "Pipeline of New Leaders." The NAESP Mentor Program became one of three partners to support and aid PGCPS in the implementation of their action plan for improved leadership performance and empowerment. Douglas Anthony, currently Acting Chief of Human Resources, had become a mentor early in his career as a principal in PGCPS. He recognized this critical support as necessary for new principals to succeed and lead their schools with skill and knowledge in their novice years. 


The NAESP National Principal Mentor Program has been a part of the PGCPS professional development offerings since 2005. With the funding through the Wallace Foundation grant, the mentor training and certification program was expanded to include additional resources, research, evaluation, and assessments. Trainings occurred in December of 2011 and June of 2012, assigning mentors to guide new principals and to create an environment to support professional leadership growth. Currently over 80 principals are being served in their first or second years of the principalship through one-on-one mentoring. The core components of the program are: continued engagement activities and well-designed interaction opportunities by the mentors and their protégés. Continuous monitoring of the program's goals is enhanced by focus groups, feedback surveys, matching of protégés with mentors, principal meetings, and celebrations of individual successes. Carol Riley at NAESP and Lori Ellis, PGCPS Mentor Coordinator, examine progress and develop strategies to align the mentoring goals to the needs of each principal in the field. 


The NPMCP offers a "win-win" opportunity for the mentors, who continually reflect on their practice, and for the aspiring principals, teacher leaders, and novice principals, and also for the school district with the ongoing professional growth and support. 


Carol Riley can be reached at

Strengthen the Pipeline!

By Kathleen Sciarappa, EdD
NAESP Aspiring Leaders Coach/Mentor Trainer


As physicians must heal themselves, so must principals replace themselves? Succession planning for school leaders has become ever more important as skilled, wise leaders pack their bags and head into the sunset. More than a decade ago Educational Research Service (2000) warned of principal shortages as the retirement rate accelerated, and teachers warily viewed the long hours, stress, and insufficient compensation for leaders serving as principals. The shortages prophecy is fully realized today. Consider these circumstances:
  • Principal attrition is growing and there are insufficient numbers of aspiring leaders in the pipeline.
  • Nationally, there are 118,400 principals but the more recent principal hires are younger and have less experience when compared with new principals from earlier decades (Center for Education Statistics; 2012).
  • Although the new principals come with less experience, the demands of the job have intensified in the past two decades and continue to grow with each passing year. Unfortunately, this does not encourage teacher leader advancement or principal retention. Principals need to do their own encouraging.

Leaving prior to 5 years 

Examining principal turnover, the Center for Education Statistics separates principals into "stayers," "movers" and "leavers." Although youth and enthusiasm may be helpful to those new to the classroom, leadership skills and psychological readiness are far more likely to spell success in the principalship. The Fuller (2009) study of principal tenure and retention revealed that close to 50% of principals are leavers after three years and upwards towards 70% vacate their positions after completing the fifth year.


Although there are differences in longevity at elementary, middle and high school (lowest longevity) or in urban, suburban and rural (lowest longevity), the number of principals who leave prior to completing five years is alarming when research clearly indicates most school reform takes at least five years to become institutionalized. That same research ties drops in student achievement and loss of teachers to the departure of the principal.



Attrition in low-performing schools

Principal retention is particularly difficult, not surprisingly, in schools where student achievement scores are low and poverty prevails. According to anecdotal information shared during discussions with the "leavers," principals vacate their positions for four reasons:

a) pressures associated with accountability;

b) the complexity and intensity of the principalship;

c) low levels of support from superiors; and

d) insufficient compensation considering the magnitude of responsibility.


The questions remain: How do we entice the right newcomers and simultaneously increase their longevity so they become "stayers?"


Yes, there are obstacles and all principals can readily express similar frustrations. Yet their concerns conclude with a surprising punch line: "I love my job!"


What principals can do to stave the turnover

How do we convey to promising teacher leaders the "love my job" part? How can we encourage promising teacher leaders to prepare for career advancement? Emergent principals may be showing the tell-tale signs described by Ratzel (2012) as teachers who:  

  1. make an impact beyond their own classrooms;
  2. serve as resources for other teachers;
  3. create solutions rather than problems;
  4. help new teachers; and
  5. constantly engage in professional growth.

As respected principals, our encouraging words can be very powerful. Reaching out to the aspiring leaders and cultivating their leadership ambitions and skills is critical.


Leadership opportunities 

Future principals need more than words of encouragement. They need leadership opportunities to solidify skills and leadership training. Although many will train at universities, most principals find their university training insufficient once on the job. Some districts across the country are creating their own programs relying on coaching, mentoring, internships and residencies so that select teacher leaders can prepare for specific jobs locally. A recent article in Education Week (2012) describes Wallace-funded programs in Prince George's County, MD; Gwinnett County, GA; Chicago; Denver; New York City; Philadelphia; and Sarasota County, FL, designed to provide on-the-job training for emergent leaders.


Is it possible to create your own training for skilled teacher leaders? Certainly! Provide opportunities for teacher leaders to:

  • Lead curriculum work or important school initiatives; prepare budgets; cultivate a school vision; interpret school-wide data; participate in school board or other key meetings;
  • Get involved with community building;
  • Work on aspects of school management; and
  • Enroll in the Aspiring Leaders programs. NAESP is rolling out its Aspiring Leaders program this spring. Watch for upcoming announcements!

Principals everywhere, find your promising teacher leaders, encourage them, train them, and then promote them with the powers that be. Consider inviting your emergent leaders to train with other aspiring leaders. Once they've become principals or assistants, be certain your protégés have trained mentors for support in the early years. Principals, we can search for and promote even better versions of ourselves.




Educational Research Service. (2000). The principal, keystone of a high-achieving school: Attracting and keeping the leaders we need. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service.

Fuller, E. & Young, M. (2009). Tenure and retention of newly hired principals in Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas. Retrieved from:
National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2009).
Getting the job-done right!Alexandria, VA: no author.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2012).
The condition of education-elementary and secondary education. Retrieved from:

Mendels, P. (2012). Principals in the pipeline. New York: The Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from: 


Ratzel , M. (2012). Five tell-tale signs you're becoming a teacher leader
Education Week .Feb 21, 2012. Retrieved from: 


 Zubrzycki, J. (2012). More principals learn the job in real  schools. Education Week .Dec 5, 2012. Retrieved from:




Sim: Virtual Simulations for Principals  

By Peter Carpenter, Ed.D., Principal,  
Emmorton Elementary School, Bel Air, MD


As a kid, one of my favorite things to read was the

Choose Your Own Adventure Series. Do you remember those books? It was the ultimate amalgamation of choice, suspense, and rereading. Often times, I found myself re-reading the books to see if the ending would change because I decided to change the path.


Now, as an elementary principal, every day appears to be a

Choose Your Own Adventure when it comes to decision making. Each day seems riddled with choices that lead to various paths: some with dead ends, and some with happy endings. The number of decisions a principal needs to make in a day is startling; and because it is such a lonely position, we often find ourselves wondering if the decisions that we make are the best ones for our schools and for kids. And in some cases, the reality of loneliness is often compounded with miles of space between the nearest available principal. Picking up the phone and calling your friendly neighborhood principal who is down the street may be--literally--a 40 mile distance. 


Enter The Penn Educational Leadership Simulations (PELS) Program, a new initiative of the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE: a joint effort with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).  


The simulation (Sim) project affords any educational leader or future educational leader the opportunity to engage in professional development at any time in their day by participating in virtual simulations inspired by real-life issues that a principal may face. Written by principals for principals, this project aims to help leaders engage in a "choose your own adventure" path where the decisions that are made lead to other decisions that can eventually lead to realistic outcomes.


Simply put, a "Sim" is short for a "simulation," meaning a replication of something that may have occurred in the past. Sims are designed to put a person in the middle of a situation with low risk. That means you're free to make decisions and see the results of that decision with minimal stress and risk. Brain research tells us that experiential learning is a best way for memory to develop, and if we cannot experience the learning directly, simulation is the second best way. Finding time for principals to enrich themselves while balancing the day-to-day operations of a school and being an instructional leader is a daunting task. But the project is a really effective way to keep an administrator's mind sharp while helping an administrator learn to make decisions. While the Sims may be used for individual professional growth, the power of the Sim comes through dialogue with others.


Writing a Sim begins with a real-life story or a situation that has happened in a school (not to worry...names have been changed to protect the innocent). Each detail is fleshed out and weighed in importance so that, as people relive the Sim, they can learn about what happens when each decision is made. The story is then re-told in a flow chart (which looks like a tree), delineating each of the events from the situation using software that allows the author to see the various paths. Sims are not created in isolation; it's best to re-create the situation with a partner so that the decisions are clear to a potential administrator. The dialogue that we have had from writing a Sim has been a great professional growth opportunity in and of itself.


From a small group setting, the Sims are shared with a larger group to garner feedback. Once feedback is given, the Sims are edited, taking into consideration the feedback. The Sims are then put through production where actors are hired and scripts written. The Sims are recorded and edited for viewing. At this time, there are about a half dozen Sims in production with three completed Sims ready for sharing.    


The use of Sims is a great way to help groom future leaders in the art of decision making. I recently had the opportunity to work through two Sims with three administrative hopefuls and a relatively new assistant principal. One of the big learning points that came out of our conversations was to consider the larger context and the ripple effect that decisions can have.  


When we watched another Sim, we were able to guide the participants' thinking at each decision point by asking questions such as, "Whose perspectives do we need to consider?"  "What is that perspective's importance?"  "What decision do we need to make and what do you think the ripple effects from those decisions will be? The dialogue surrounding what we would do and why we chose what we did really helped everyone involved shift their individual perspectives and gave us fodder for continued discussions.


The use of Sims for continual professional growth for administrators and administrative hopefuls is a promising hope for our professional future. Any leader who is currently in a decision-making role or aspires to be in one would benefit from a regular diet of "choosing their own adventure," knowing full well that with each Sim, every day decision-making can become a little better for everyone!



Positive School Culture and Supports for Military Families and their Children in Transition


By Suzan Mullane, MS Ed


I've been to so many different schools in the past 4 years that I started failing and I know I'm smart, really smart. I asked to be home schooled because I felt I just couldn't handle being the new kid one more time. It was easier when I went to schools on base; I had friends there. We shared the same family stories.  -- Heather, 8th grader


Student transiency is challenging; it is particularly tough for children of military families who statistically attend 6 to 9 different schools before high school graduation. With over 1 million active duty families in US schools, and more moving back as several bases close in Europe and troops come home from war, principals can help ease the transition for these highly mobile students. What are best practices for serving one of the oldest subcultures in US schools? For starters, know who your military families are as soon as they arrive and warmly welcome them. See the student's strengths; one of the warmest welcomes is to recognize how a student may be an asset to the school-- especially for a student who has, once again, lost friends and his/her peer support group (Moran & Ross, 2013).


Recognize that students from military families have unique strengths. They are often college-bound, well-traveled with sharp computer skills and rich cultural experiences. They often thrive on academic structure, given their experiences of living on base, but they can also be more socially open-minded than some of their peers. Many are bilingual. Given parental deployment, some students have assumed greater responsibility to help manage homes and younger siblings, so they may seem wise beyond their years. Many are athletic and would welcome the opportunity to be on a sports team.


Academic Challenges

With the advent of the Common Core, the "mixed bag" of different curricula as students move from state-to-state should ease future transitions. In the mean time, teachers will continue to hear comments such as: "I was never taught phonics" or "Please do not make me read that book again, I read it 3 years ago."  In some cases, enrichment and remediation might be necessary at the same time in different subjects. Sometimes, brief tutoring to advance a sub-skill like phonics in reading will be enough. Fortunately, effective data-driven scaffolding will be easier, thanks to the "Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity Policy For Military Children." In brief, states must process school records, including standardized testing data within 10 days (Moran &  Ross, 2013).


Consider Individual Affective Needs

With over 1 million military children in public schools, there will be joy and readjustments when families of Operation Freedom rebuild their lives. Most will do well with the support of families, friends and community. Others will have special challenges that are not obvious. Depending on the circumstances, military children can experience their own private war, which can lead to academic underachievement and long-lasting mental health concerns. (Marek, et al., 2011). Principals can foster an efficient positive school climate by training staff with free public resources, (see list at bottom) and having key identified community members in place for mentoring, counseling referrals, and academic tutoring as the needs arise.

  • Honor the purpose and commitment of military personnel.
  • Allow students time to be with a deploying or returning parent.
  • Provide appropriate referrals and support for students whose parents are injured or suffering from other challenges  (Department of Defense 2005)


Department of Defense. Military Child Initiative, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy Office. (2005) Best practices: Building blocks for enhancing school environment.

Marek, L.I., D'Aniella, C., O'Rourke, K., Brock, D-J P., Moore, L., Butler, J.L., Zhand, J., Wiles, B. (2011). Returning home: What we know about the reintegration of deployed service members into their families and communities. National Council on Family Relations.
 Morgan M, Ross, A.(2013, January-February). Helping military children feel at ease. Principal, 1-33.

Principal-to-Principal Support 


Close to 20% of US principals leave the field each year. A stronger pipeline is needed to attract top teacher leaders to the principalship. And schools and districts need to implement effect principal mentoring programs to ensure that new principals have guidance and supports. 

  • If you are a teacher leader interested in becoming a principal, let us know--we may be offering an aspiring principal program near you soon.
  • If you are a new principal needing support, contact NAESP and we will try to connect you with a principal mentor.
  • If you are an experienced or retired principal wanting to strengthen your own professional growth or to support your colleagues, let us know--many new principals are not yet connected with mentors.

If you are interested in any of these options, NAESP will be reaching out to many with our expanded programs in the months to come. 



 Chris signature  

Christine Mason

Director, Center for Educational Improvement

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