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National Association of Secondary School Principals

A National Voice, Information and Resources, Programs, Organizational Structure, Membership

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is a national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders, providing its members the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders. The association was formed in 1916 by a group of seventy-eight high school principals from seven Midwestern states who met in Chicago, Illinois, to establish a professional organization. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, the NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of young people through its programs and student leadership services.

With nearly 37,000 members in the United States, Canada, and around the world, the NASSP is the largest organization serving middle level and high school administrators. Although most members are principals and assistant principals at public, private, and parochial secondary schools, the association's membership also includes aspiring principals, teachers, professors of secondary education, and retired educators.

A National Voice

Providing a national voice for principals across the United States is a key objective of the NASSP. As such, the association represents its members before the U.S. Congress and executive agencies of the federal government, monitors federal legislation directly affecting education, writes and delivers testimony before congressional committees, and assists members in advocating for state and federal policies to improve secondary education.

The NASSP supports federal policy initiatives that provide for secondary school programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), that require mandatory funding for the federal government's share of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), that provide efforts to lessen the impact of the principal shortage, and that guarantee that federal funding is available for the professional development of principals. Specifically, secondary school programs under the ESEA should include school safety initiatives, dropout prevention programs, enhanced curriculum, technology in schools, and developmental reading and writing programs in middle level and high schools.

Information and Resources

The NASSP provides a variety of publications, resources, and programs designed to assist school leaders in their school improvement process and to enhance student achievement. The NASSP Bulletin, a peer-refereed quarterly research journal, is aimed at secondary school administrators and is widely used in graduate-level principal preparation courses. Each issue of the Bulletin contains research and scholarly articles that develop a particular theme, such as instructional leadership, funding and equity, teacher recruitment and retention, standards and assessment, and alternative scheduling. Additional essays on other educational issues are also usually included. In September 2000, the NASSP launched the middle school and high school editions of Principal Leadership magazine. Principal Leadership, published monthly from September through May, offers practical, hands-on strategies for school leaders. Articles appearing in Principal Leadership are submitted by practitioners and offer personal insight into a host of educational issues.

Monographs, special reports, and in-depth studies supplement the regular NASSP publications. In 1996, in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the NASSP released the groundbreaking report Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution. This report presents recommendations for restructuring high schools in ways that contribute to academic success. Unlike other reports, Breaking Ranks embodies a vision developed primarily by high school principals. It draws strength and authority from the fact that it arises from the inside.

Turning Points 2000, by Anthony W. Jackson and Gayle A. Davis, is a Carnegie Corporation project published by Teachers College Press and co-published and distributed by the NASSP and the National Middle School Association. Affirming and extending the original 1989 Turning Points model, which is considered the definitive work on reform at the middle school level, Turning Points 2000 places greater emphasis on teaching and learning, and on the principal's role in ensuring that the focus of reform efforts is directed toward improving curriculum, assessment, and instruction. Together, Turning Points 2000 and Breaking Ranks are the centerpieces for school improvement programs in the nation's middle level and high schools.


In 2001 the NASSP announced the formation of three national task forces–Middle School Principalship, High School Principalship, and Principal Preparation. Comprising principals, assistant principals, and professors, these task forces identify best practices in school leadership and in the preparation and development of school leaders; assist in disseminating these practices; advise the NASSP on the development and implementation of standards impacting principal preparation and practice; identify pertinent research topics; and contribute articles for NASSP publications.

To further support its legislative priorities, and in response to members' needs, the NASSP added two Resident Practitioners to the national staff in 2000–one with expertise in creating safe and orderly schools and one with expertise in special education. These practitioners are available to answer members' questions and conduct presentations to large groups of educational leaders.

Cities and states nationwide report principal vacancies and a lack of qualified candidates willing to fill the positions. The Principal, Keystone of a High-Achieving School: Attracting and Keeping the Leaders We Need, prepared in 2000 by the Educational Research Service for the NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, estimates that more than 40 percent of public school principals will retire by 2010. This report identifies the characteristics of effective principals, discusses factors contributing to the shortage, and suggests steps toward breaking down the barriers to attracting and retaining quality school leaders. With more than twenty years experience in assessment and development of instructional leaders, the NASSP, through its leadership development and assessment programs, assists school districts with the identification and development of potential school leaders. These highly personalized programs measure leadership potential by diagnosing individual strengths and development needs essential to effective leaders.

The association holds an annual convention that attracts more than 5,000 school leaders. The convention offers general sessions featuring speakers of national and international reputation; more than 200 concurrent sessions with distinct middle level and high school strands; exhibits featuring the latest in school technology, curriculum materials, and school supplies; school visits to explore exemplary programs; and informal networking opportunities.

Association programs and services, while most directly focused on the needs of secondary school leaders, also directly touch the lives of students. The NASSP sponsors the National Honor Society (NHS), National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), and National Association of Student Councils (NASC). In 2000 more than 18,000 local NHS/NJHS chapters recognized students for scholarship, character, service, and leadership. In addition, more than 18,000 schools affiliated with the NASC. Leadership for Student Activities magazine, published monthly from September through May, provides NHS, NJHS, and NASC advisers and their student leaders with timely articles on leadership topics and ideas for student-centered projects. Three standing committees, the Executive Board of the National Association of Student Councils, the NHS/NJHS Council, and the National Committee on Contests and Activities, ensure that the NASSP maintains its prominent position in the area of student leadership development.

The Trust to Reach Education Excellence (TREE) foundation was created to make grants available to educators and students who would ordinarily not have access to outstanding education opportunities. TREE makes grants to tax-exempt accredited school districts, individual public and private schools, and students. In addition, the TREE 5K, held at the annual convention, raises money for the foundation grants program.

Organizational Structure

The NASSP is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization. The association's twenty-four-member board of directors works with the executive director and staff to set the NASSP goals, priorities, and policies. The board includes two members from each of eight geographic regions; four members who speak for under-represented groups; and two members elected at large (a middle level principal and an assistant principal). The association's president and presidentelect also serve on the board of directors. A steering committee, composed of the president, presidentelect, and a board member chosen by the board, oversees association operations between board meetings, which are held four times each year. The NASSP also works cooperatively with fifty-four affiliated state and regional principals' organizations throughout the United States. Individuals who hold membership in both national and state organizations enjoy a range of complementary services.


Several categories of membership are offered by the NASSP, each providing a wide range of benefits and services. Individual membership is open to persons engaged in the practice or supervision of middle level or high school administration. Individual membership is not transferable. Institutional membership is also open to persons engaged in the practice or supervision of middle level or high school administration. Institutional members receive all the benefits of individual membership. An institutional membership is in the name of an individual, but is owned by the school. Consequently, an institutional membership is transferable. Educator membership is open to graduate students enrolled in programs in educational administration, professors, parents, and teachers not engaged in administration. NASSP also offers a membership to retired school administrators.




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