The Value of Participation

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
May 2021 News & Notes

A few weeks ago, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) conducted a virtual spring advocacy conference. Its state affiliates had teams that engaged in formal preparation on both substantive issues and manner of presentation to a variety of congressional offices. It was a coordinated effort to have the issues important to elementary and middle-level principals presented to policymakers. Just recently, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) conducted its own advocacy conference that included a session with Secretary of Education Cardona. It too had its members visiting congressional offices. SAANYS participated in both events with SAANYS members who are also members of NASSP or NAESP.

I urge principals and assistant principals to consider joining NASSP or NAESP. The national organizations represent building-level issues to national policymakers. Teachers, superintendents, school boards, and even the commissioners and other chief state school officers (the titles vary by state) have their own advocacy groups. To have building-level issues heard in Congress and at the USDE, we depend upon NASSP and NAESP, and they in turn depend upon having many working administrators as members to provide expertise, current experience, and ultimately legitimacy. Joining the national organizations can be done right on your SAANYS membership renewal form. Membership is often an affinity relationship between the national organizations and educators. Together they stand up for the profession and represent educators in any number of ways. The impact may at times feel inconsequential, but if we don’t participate, we become invisible as a result of our own inaction.

In arranging for Secretary Cardona to address its advocacy conference, and take questions from members, NASSP put the secretary in the position to hear directly from those educators in the field. The issue of testing came up, along with the USDE denial of testing waiver applications submitted by about a dozen states. The discussion touched on the purported value of testing, USDE provided testing accommodations, as well as the weaknesses inherent in standardized testing, and the likelihood of a robust opt-out this year from standardized 3-8 tests.

In an odd way, the conversation seemed to me like a step toward normalcy. Testing validity, opt-outs, and school and individual accountability linked to tests reminded me of pre-pandemic debate. It feels like things are slowly turning in a better direction. New federal monies being directed toward education will help avert an earlier feared funding crisis, and should allow districts to address a variety of pressing needs. In-person school reopenings are accelerating and pandemic restrictions declining. The pledge of the state to fully fund the Foundation Aid over the next three years gives rise to cautious optimism about finally having the means to attack achievement gaps, although I know many that are sufficiently jaded to say they will believe the Foundation Aid will arrive when they see it.

Consistent with this movement toward normality, SAANYS has decided that it will conduct an in-person annual conference this year on October 17 and 18 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany. We believe there is a need for collective effort, learning, and sharing. The theme will be Bouncing Back Better, and will focus on what needs to be done to move beyond pandemic learning, while addressing the adverse impact that the pandemic wrought upon learning. I hope you consider joining us to collectively wrestle with the singular challenge of our time. Many will benefit from your participation.