In a powerful opening speech at the 2018 NASSP National Principals Conference in July, Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti once again reinforced NASSP’s commitment to equity and support of public education with a strong statement directed at U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
According to EdWeek, DeVos’ Department of Education has rolled back several Obama administration policies, including federal guidance regarding transgender students, the dismissal of civil rights cases without review, endorsement of local leaders who call ICE on students, and Title IX decisions that restrict the rights of rape victims and LGBTQ students.
“Madame Secretary, your department must recommit to student equity,” stated Bartoletti. She further emphasized, “You have been very clear about what your department will not do. Now, with no more protections left for you to withdraw, you’re obliged to show us what you will do to protect our most vulnerable students. The equity challenges our students face are too pervasive to ignore. Your canned responses of ‘the states should consider it’ or ‘whatever the problem, private school vouchers will fix it’ are insufficient to the point of insulting. Our kids deserve better. Our leaders deserve better.”
Bartoletti stressed the need to protect all students, particularly the most vulnerable. In fact, newer frameworks and standards like NASSP’s Building Ranks and the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders call on us to address issues and confront policies that place students in the margins, so all student potential can be fulfilled. “While much of the country sees your special-needs kids, your immigrant kids, and your LGBTQ kids as problems to be solved, you see their unique giftedness—that is the promise of public education.”
Bartoletti also commended student advocates on their persistence, commitment, and eloquence, and in doing so, praised their public schools, stating that the schools “taught them crucial knowledge and skills, then empowered them to use their knowledge and skills in the ‘realest’ of real-world settings.”
You cannot have real student learning without real student empowerment, and you cannot have real student empowerment without an investment in school leaders and public education, especially at the federal government level. “I’ll say it again—‘whether your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, on a slave ship, or on a row boat across the Rio Grande, we’re all in the same boat now,’” stated Bartoletti. “All of our fates are linked, and our only course is to build human potential, because the purpose of NASSP is to develop school leaders to shape the future of American education by promising great leaders in every school committed to the success of each—not some—student.”