Every summer, principals, district leaders, and other educators flock to education conferences on a mission to transform their schools the following year. There are countless back-to-school professional development options for you to consider, so we rounded up the top six school leader conferences to check out this summer. For your planning convenience, we have listed these events by date.
Note: Before you make decisions about which professional learning opportunities you and your team will attend this summer, you may want to read this article outlining the elements of effective, evidence-based professional development.
2021 National Social and Emotional Learning Conference
Dates: May 17-19, 2021
Cost: $399 per person
Why It Matters:
During COVID-related school closures, educators quickly realized the need for students to develop social and emotional learning (SEL) skills if they were going to thrive in a remote learning environment. In the 2021-2022 school year, we expect most schools to partially or fully reopen for in-person classes and extracurricular activities. Everyone will experience an unpredictable, challenging transition back to school in the post-COVID era.
Fortunately, school leaders can focus on developing SEL systems this summer to help students adapt to new systems when they return to school. The Learning Policy Institute explains that “[a]lthough adversity impacts learning, the psychological effects of these traumatic experiences can be partly mitigated by strong, trusting relationships, social and emotional supports, and opportunities to develop social and emotional learning (SEL) skills.”
At the National Social and Emotional Learning Conference, principals and other school leaders will not only learn about the basics of SEL, but also about how to develop SEL with an equitable approach for all students.
Learn More: Learn more about the three-day Social and Emotional Learning Virtual Conference on their website.
Southeast Conference on Positive Behavior Interventions and Support
Dates: June 7-9, 2021
Cost: $175-300 per person
Why It Matters:
The negative impacts of exclusionary discipline practices (such as suspension and expulsion) have been well-documented. Exclusionary discipline leads to learning delays, more dropouts, an increased likelihood for students to enter the criminal justice system, and other negative life outcomes. On the other hand, Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and culturally responsive Positive Behavioral and Intervention Supports (PBIS) have been proven to promote positive student outcomes.
Especially as students recover from COVID-related learning loss in the upcoming school year, school leaders should not rely on exclusionary discipline which could compound the achievement gap. According to Georgia Southern University, the Southeast Conference on Positive Behavior Interventions and Support “provides training for schools and districts for developing school-wide behavioral intervention plans” that will “increase the academic and social behavior outcomes for all students.”
Learn More: Learn more about this virtual conference through Georgia Southern University.
The Path Forward: School Leadership Today
Dates: June 14-25, 2021
Cost: $2,495 per person
Why It Matters:
The Path Forward is an interactive, collaborative experience where you will develop an actionable school improvement plan that targets your school’s specific needs. You will work with faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to:
- Learn about the latest best practices in school leadership
- Identify a “priority area of focus for [your] school in the year ahead”
- Test leadership ideas and strategies in facilitated, collaborative group sessions
- Build a school improvement plan which incorporates culturally responsive systems, social and emotional learning, and accelerated learning strategies
This program is recommended for school and district leaders, and education leadership teams.
Learn More: Check out Harvard’s overview of this leadership program.
NAESP’s Pre-K-8 Principals Conference
Dates: July 8-10, 2021
Location: Chicago, IL
Why It Matters:
This year, the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ annual conference is organized with five strands:
- Instructional Leadership Development — Learn to make data-driven decisions for your school, prioritize equitable education for all students, support early childhood learning, implement high-quality literacy and STEAM programs, and promote positive student behaviors.
- Management Techniques for Effective Learning Communities — Promote an empowering, equitable, and an ethical school culture for students and educators.
- Strategies for Technology, Social Media, and School Branding — Learn to use new technologies to engage students’ caregivers and communities with a unified vision.
- Best Practices in Social and Emotional Learning — Explore the research about how to develop effective SEL strategies and create an inclusive, trauma-informed environment for all students.
- Innovative Leadership Approaches — Get to know the latest evidence-based trends in innovative school leadership, including data-driven school improvement, equitable and inclusive environments, and collaborative partnerships that are centered on student success.
Learn More: Check out this year’s speakers and agenda on the conference website.
A Role Reimagined: Leadership Development for Principals
Dates: July 12-16, 2021
Cost: $1,995 per person
Why It Matters:
Collaboration is a key component of effective professional development, especially for new principals. Being a principal can feel isolating when you’re bogged down with administrative duties at your school, coaching and mentoring obligations with your teachers, and reporting requirements for your district and state.
A Role Reimagined uses a cohort model so that principals with five or fewer years of experience can collaborate with faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and other education experts. You will learn how to apply evidence-based school improvement strategies for your school, and practice developing critical instructional leadership skills.
Learn More: Read more about this professional development program for new principals on the Harvard Graduate School of Education website.
2021 NASSP National Principals Conference
Dates: July 14-16, 2021
Cost: $299.00 for members and $399.00 for nonmembers
Why It Matters:
This year, the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ annual conference is organized by three strands:
- Equity — You probably already know that chronically underserved US students face an achievement gap due to many systemic inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened these inequities; in particular, students of color and students with IEPs and special needs are expected to suffer greater COVID-related learning loss than more privileged students. School leaders must commit to closing the equity gap in the 2021-2022 school year.
- Wellness — States have long offered free and reduced-cost lunches to students from low-income households because we know that students need their needs met before they can learn. But wellness is about more than simply providing students with two meals per day. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model recognizes the many interconnected needs that school leaders must consider to truly improve student achievement and outcomes.
- Innovation — When COVID-19 first caused schools to close in the spring of 2020, communities were shocked to learn just how ill-prepared we were to handle such an unexpected crisis. Fortunately, we have now had time to regroup, reflect, and identify innovative best practices that can make our schools sustainable for the long term.
Learn More: NASSP continues to publish updates on their conference website.
How to Implement Professional Learning in the 2021-2022 School Year
Summer education conférences for school leaders offer a great opportunity for you to connect, collaborate, and learn from others’ experiences as you plan for the new school year. However, treating these events as one-off learning experiences will not help you implement sustainable changes in your school or district.
In a recent article, we summarize the research about which professional development practices are most effective for promoting school improvement. Professional development produces measurable results for your school when it is:
- Intensive, sustained, and implemented with fidelity;
- Content-focused, coherent, and well-defined; and