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National Association of Elementary School Principals

Program, Organization, Membership and Financial Support, History

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) is a professional association dedicated to the professional development of principals serving grades kindergarten through eight. In addition, it seeks to provide a unified voice for its members in local, state, and national policy debates on issues affecting education and school administration. Finally, it seeks to make available resources and other forms of professional support to its members, with the aim of developing high standards of conduct and preparation within the profession.


The association carries out its mission in three general spheres of activity. First among these is a series of newsletters. The official newsletter for the organization is the Principal, a magazine published bimonthly throughout the school year. Every issue is usually dedicated to a particular theme of interest to members of the profession. Recent issues have been devoted to such topics as the debate on establishing national curriculum standards, career development for veteran teachers, and children's health and safety in the schools. In addition to the magazine, the organization also publishes a number of newsletters devoted to special topics, including Commentator, which reports on policies and association news and events. Another newsletter, Here's How, offers practical solutions to common problems faced by elementary school administrators. Other special-interest publications include Streamlined Seminar and Research Roundup, both of which present the results of recent research in school administration topics; Middle Matters, aimed specifically at principals serving in the nation's middle schools; and Student News Today, which focuses on working with student councils and other student organizations.

The national organization is also committed to working closely with local and regional associations, and the primary means of accomplishing this is through its field services program. Association members are available as speakers and consultants who can advise interested groups about school administration issues and about projects and programs that show promise in helping to strengthen schools. In addition, the NAESP provides a number of direct-to-members services, such as legal assistance for job-related concerns, both in the area of professional liability and for job-protection suits. It also offers access to a wide variety of educational resources at reduced cost.

The most important event on the NAESP annual calendar is the professional conference hosted by the association each year. In addition to seminars, panel discussions, and workshops, the annual conference provides members with an opportunity to raise their particular professional concerns with the governing board, to network with their peers, and to seek new employment opportunities. The association also sponsors smaller summer conferences in cooperation with other national educational organizations.


The NAESP is an autonomous organization with strong ties to the National Education Association (NEA). Its basic governing body is the delegate assembly, whose members are chosen by the individual state associations. This assembly meets annually during the convention and is responsible for establishing policy and responding to the concerns raised by the general membership. A smaller, fifteen-member board of directors is selected by the assembly and consists of three officers, nine regional representatives, a member representing ethnic minorities, a representative of middle school principals, and an executive director. The board appoints the various committees that help in carrying out NAESP business, including a nominating committee charged with selecting the next year's candidates for office and a publications committee, which works closely with the NAESP's full-time editorial staff. The executive director, supported by a professional staff, oversees the day-to-day operation of the association at the national headquarters.

Membership and Financial Support

The NAESP has several different categories of membership. At the heart of the organization are the active members who are all professionally engaged in the administration of elementary schools. Associate membership is available to faculty at universities and colleges who share the NAESP's interests but who are not themselves principals or vice principals. A growing membership category is the international associates, made up of principals, headmasters, and other elementary school administrators from out-side the United States. The NAESP has in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century become increasingly interested in exploring strategies and policies that have worked well in school programs outside of the United States, with the hope that some may provide useful new insights in addressing local needs and problems. A final membership category comprises aspiring principals: teachers, students, and others who hope to become administrators in elementary and middle schools. Institutional and library memberships are also available.

The NAESP gains much of its operating revenues through its membership dues and through the sale of publications, resource kits, and other services. These funds are supplemented by support from a number of corporate and private donors, who contribute funds toward NAESP-sponsored awards programs. In addition, the association has forged a number of partnerships with corporations that offer services and resources, such as retirement plans or educational and administrative resources.


While taking a summer school course in school administration offered by the University of Chicago, a group of principals got together to discuss the possible usefulness of organizing a formal association that would directly address their special interests. At the end of the course, each of these principals returned to their home districts and began raising support for the plan, so that by the convocation of the 1921 annual convention of the NEA, there were fifty-one willing recruits. They drafted a mission statement, bylaws, and a constitution, thus forming the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and were duly recognized by the NEA as an independent department of that organization.

The publication division of the NAESP was quickly launched, beginning with a bulletin that laid out the organization's goals and principles, followed by the publication of a yearbook, which contained articles on professional responsibility and leadership. The close association of the NAESP with the NEA continued over the next several decades.

By 1931 the NAESP had grown so much that it was granted permanent headquarters within the NEA offices in Washington, D.C. With this improvement in facilities, the publications division enjoyed a period of expansion as well, and the National Elementary Principal was launched. This publication, initially a newsletter, would eventually become the Principal magazine. The NAESP also began to move beyond its early focus on defining the administrator's role and status to include a consideration of related issues, such as community relations, controversies in educational standards and approaches, and other topics. Toward the end of the 1930s the organization began to offer additional services, notably a two-week summer workshop dedicated to enhancing professional skills.

In the 1950s the NAESP had grown substantially, and it was finally able to assert its independence from the NEA. Although it has always maintained a close professional cooperation with that organization, independence was important for it allowed the organization to devote all of its time exclusively to furthering the interests of its members. The organization continued to press for professional recognition, to advocate improvements in salary and working conditions, and to provide resources and support services to its members. In the 1980s and 1990s the NAESP focused on outreach to corporate, public, and private organizations to further the association's goals. The national organization remained housed within the NEA headquarters, however, until the 1990s, when it finally established its own independent offices.





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