AASA History

In 1865, AASA was founded by a small group of individuals in Harrisburg, Pa. It was initially named the National Association of School Administrators.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, a group of city and state superintendents gathered at the National Teachers Association meeting in Harrisburg, Pa. These school leaders saw the need to form an organization comprised of individuals engaged in supervisory work in schools.

In February 1866, this new organization called itself the National Association of School Superintendents. In a period of our country’s reconstruction, school people were concerned about the role of education.

In 1870, the National Association of School Superintendents along with the American Normal School Association merged with the National Teachers Association to create the National Education Association. Within the NEA, the Department of Superintendents was formed.

Decades later, in the 1930s, the administrators decided to break away and became the American Association of School Administrators. Today, we are known as AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

From the very beginning, it was apparent that advocacy would be the driving force behind this newly formed organization. AASA is the premier association for school system leaders and serves as the national voice for public education and district leadership on Capitol Hill.

150 Years of Milestones in AASA's History
Early Years: 1865-1919

Photos from the Early Years of AASA


The National Association of School Superintendents organizes on Aug. 17, 1865. It is the first national association to limit membership to school administrators.


Rev. Birdsey Grant Northrop is elected first president. Nine states and 20 cities are represented at the first convention.


NASS merges with the National Teachers Association and the American Normal School Association to become the National Educational Association. NASS becomes the NEA Department of School Superintendence.


The first resolution: In all cases of absence, a pupil’s name should be kept on the roll as “belonging” for three whole days and dropped by the seventh day if the child has not shown up.


Members rally Congress to fund universal public schools to educate emancipated African Americans.


The organization urges Congress to provide public funds for centralizing rural schools and transporting pupils.


The Department of School Superintendence formally resolves that large-city schools teach the children of immigrants and adults unable to speak English.


AASA engages in debate about sex education being delivered in schools, generating controversy.


During World War I, the association opposes compulsory military training in schools until the government answers education-related questions.


“The American schools met the test of war; the schools were a mighty agency for victory,” NASS declares.

Organizational Advances: 1921-1928
Organizational Advances


Sherwood Dodge Shankland becomes the first executive secretary of the NEA Department of School Superintendence at an annual salary of $6,000.

AASA begins to charge a membership fee of $5 a year.


Shankland’s first budget shows expenditures of $14,400 and estimated income of $14,748.34.

Membership records reveal 1,263 had joined the association. (No records existed prior to this date.)


The first yearbook is published (and continues annually until 1960), featuring research on the superintendency. For many, yearbooks served as textbooks.


The Educational Research Service is started by NEA as a clearinghouse of information.


The first American Education Award recipient is James W. Crabtree, executive secretary of NEA.

The Great Depression: 1930-1937
The Great Depression


Despite the Depression, the convention draws crowds to Atlantic City, N.J., with 5,850 hotel rooms booked and 248 exhibitors.

Convention entertainment includes 10 golden harp players, a band, orchestra and 500 singers on stage.


To make payroll, some association staff are put on half salary for extended periods, and Shankland and others borrow on their personal life insurance.


Members approve a name change. The NEA’s Department of School Superintendence becomes the American Association of School Administrators, a department of NEA.

The War Years: 1943-1947
War Years


AASA’s 1943 convention is canceled under orders from the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation. AASA’s income shrinks.


First issue of The School Administrator, a one-page newsletter, is published.


AASA organizes five regional wartime conferences to minimize strain on hotel and transportation systems.


AASA national convention and regional meetings are canceled at request of the War Committee on Conventions to reserve hotels for service and war personnel.


S. D. Shankland retires Sept. 1 after 25 years as the first full-time executive secretary. During his tenure, membership increased fivefold to more than 6,000.

Worth McClure becomes the second executive secretary. He retires in 1956.

Regional conferences are held in Kansas City, Chicago, New York and Atlanta.


The first national conference since 1942 is held; attendance is 9,600.

AASA Executive Committee authorizes an annual meeting of presidents of state associations.

Expanded Services: 1949-1963
Expanded Services


Membership dues double to $10 a year as AASA expands services and staffing.

AASA launches a series of pamphlets on school board-superintendent relations with topics including “Choosing the Superintendent of Schools” and “The School Board in Action.”

AASA’s Cooperative Program in Educational Administration focuses on professional advancement of administrators through university training.

AASA amends the qualifications for membership to include graduate study. School boards revise qualifications for the superintendency to require the same.

Regional drive-in conferences are launched as a joint effort between AASA and state associations.

America’s School Buildings is published, establishing AASA’s expertise in the burgeoning school facility field.


AASA’s first school building exhibit is held with architectural exhibits and a competition at AASA’s convention.


For the first time, activities designated for women appear on AASA’s official convention program.


Membership in AASA tops 10,000.

AASA’s Committee for the Advancement of School Administration receives Kellogg Foundation funds for in-service education.


Finis Ewing Engleman becomes the third executive secretary of AASA.


AASA’s final yearbook is published with resources shifted to other publications.

AASA publishes Planning America’s School Buildings on the responsibility for schoolhouse planning.


AASA’s new Committee on Federal Policy and Legislation studies the relationships between the federal government and local schools.


Exhibit revenue at conventions provides 42 percent of the association’s half-million-dollar annual budget.

Growing Awareness of Diversity: 1963-1974
Growing Diversity


Women make up only 3-4 percent of AASA members, mostly assistant superintendents, and the AASA executive secretary acknowledges a problem.


More than 26,000 register for the annual convention, including 8,000 AASA members, 5,000 wives and other family members and 3,500 school board members.


The Singing Superintendents debut at AASA’s national convention.

New convention topics address educational technology, handling teacher contract negotiations and dealing with student segregation.


AASA becomes an associated organization of NEA, rather than an NEA department.

AASA’s National Academy of School Executives, or NASE, begins offering training in locations nationwide.

NEA’s president attacks school administrators in the press, straining relations with AASA.

A record-breaking 30,000 attend AASA’s 101st convention, featuring 10 general sessions and more than 100 closed-circuit television programs.

AASA’s legislative program calls for a cabinet-level Department of Education.


AASA strengthens eight state associations of school administrators, granting $83,500 to employ state executive secretaries, still part-time in many states.


Paul Salmon becomes AASA’s fourth executive director.


AASA’s executive responds to White House statement on busing and equal educational opportunity by requesting full funding of ESEA Title I.

AASA moves from NEA headquarters to its own building in Arlington, Va., along with three other education groups.

AASA runs Circuit Riders program, taking training programs on the road to various regions.


AASA severs all ties with NEA and becomes an autonomous organization.


County and intermediate unit superintendents are brought under the AASA umbrella, becoming the American Association of Educational Service Agencies.

Membership Peaks: 1974-1985

Membership surpasses 21,000.


The Federal Relations breakfast event at AASA convention draws 400.

AASA’s Executive Committee discusses whether representation should be regionalized and reviews procedures for electing a president.

AASA’s first Delegate Assembly adopts 41 resolutions, include opposition to national collective bargaining and employee strikes and support of affirmative action for women and minorities.

Member dues increase from $40 to $75.

AASA’s National Academy of School Executives serves more than 3,500 administrators at 65 short programs nationwide.

The first issue of the Convention Reporter offers a daily wrapup of AASA conference proceedings.


AASA runs a Washington Workshop to encourage greater involvement of school leaders in the federal legislative process.


Leadership for Learning is adopted as AASA’s new slogan.

The AASA National Center for the Improvement of Learning is launched.

The Executive Committee creates the Foundation Fund to raise money toward purchase of AASA headquarters.

AASA takes title on Sept. 29 to new headquarters at 1801 North Moore St. in Arlington, Va. The purchase price is $1.35 million.

Rev. Jesse Jackson heads up keynoters at AASA convention and receives the Golden Key Award.

A daily convention tabloid newspaper, along with the post-event Convention Reporter, provide thorough event coverage of AASA convention.

AASA gains attention for its Critical Issue Report on School Energy Crisis: Problems and Solutions.

A Ford Foundation grant enables AASA to run leadership workshops for 75 female leaders aspiring for the superintendency.


AASA mails the Job Bulletin, a new monthly newsletter with job listings nationwide.

The first annual summer convention in Minneapolis draws about 4,000.

AASA shapes federal energy legislation that yields millions in matching funds for fuel-saving renovations in schools.

AASA National Women’s Caucus criticizes the association for lack of a woman on the Executive Committee and mounts a campaign to elect a candidate.

AASA conducts a major survey on the attitudes toward women administrators.

The AASA Professor newsletter is launched to highlight research presentations at AASA conventions.

Effie Jones is hired to direct the Office of Minority Affairs, promoting women in leadership positions.

A concern about energy conservation leads The School Administrator to publish the “Oil Remaining Index.”

AASA/AAESA co-sponsor the first federal legislative policy conference, later known as “I Care” and “We Care.”


AASA plays a significant role in creating the U.S. Department of Education.

Working with the National School Boards Association, AASA produces a career development series, including "Selecting a Superintendent," "The Superintendent's Employment Contract" and "Compensation of the Superintendent."

Twenty-six state associations apply to AASA for funds for a half-time or full-time executive position.

AASA’s first Suburban Superintendents Conference is held.


The first Women District Superintendents Conference is held in Anaheim, Calif., with 47 participants.

The School Administrator is transformed from a newsletter to a magazine, and the publication begins accepting commercial advertising a year later.


Superintendent Bill Keough, a former U.S. hostage held in Iran who had been recently released, receives a standing ovation at the AASA national conference.

AASA’s first Small Schools Conference is held in Vail, Colo.

The Small School Administrator newsletter is produced quarterly and mailed to more than 8,000 school districts.


Member dues are $125 with special rates for students, retired members and professors.


AASA seeks Delegate Assembly approval to adjust dues based on increases in administrators’ salaries. The annual convention draws 17,000.

AASA plans the 2nd Study of the Representation of Women and Minorities in School Administration for the following year.

AASA publishes “The American School Superintendents 1982,” part of a continuing decennial study.

The federal LEAD bill, written by AASA, is funded by Congress to train school administrators.


Richard D. Miller becomes the fifth executive director of AASA.

Leadership News debuts as a monthly eight-page newspaper tabloid.

NASE celebrates its 19th year, having held more than 1,175 programs for nearly 47,000 administrators.

Series of Firsts: 1987-2015

AASA initiates HIV/AIDS work to develop guidelines for administrators, a slide-tape presentation and workshops.


June Gabler is elected the first woman president of AASA.

AASA creates a curriculum audit service to provide districts with an external analysis of their curriculum management system.

Gene Carter is named first National Superintendent of the Year.


AASA’s National Executive Development Program begins its second year with 26 state associations joining.

Membership grows to 18,900.

AASA’s Options for Pre-Teens initiative begins.


Conference attendance falls to 11,000.


The “1990s Study of the American School Superintendents” is published.


AASA approves Professional Standards for the Superintendency, developed by a special commission.

Executive Director Richard Miller retires, and Paul D. Houston succeeds him as the sixth executive director.


Paul Houston’s first year includes a 17-day news media tour.


AASA pursues a decade-long initiative to create healthy school environments and improve indoor air quality.


AASA launches its first website.


Leadership News goes online, providing time-sensitive information and association news


Benjamin Canada becomes the first African American president of AASA.


AASA prepares to sell its building in Rosslyn section of Arlington, Va., and move to new quarters in the Ballston section.


AASA’s Stand Up for Children initiative includes a rally on the Washington Mall.


A childhood obesity initiative offers members resources, and AASA publishes Healthy Learning News and School Governance and Leadership.


AASA’s new governance structure creates a seven-region governing body.

AASA uses an electronic legislative alert to connect members to congressional representatives.

AASA’s webcast series, Narrowing the Achievement Gap: A Work in Progress, makes professional development more accessible.


AASA’s e-pubs include Legislative Corps Weekly Report and the Journal of Scholarship & Practice.

AASA promotes systems thinking through its Center for System Leadership.

A $1.5 million cooperative agreement from Centers for Disease Control & Prevention enables AASA to address asthma, in schools.


The AASA convention in New Orleans draws 5,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Conference Daily publishes online because the only overnight printer had shut down.

AASA plays a key role in the “Ready by 21” project to improve children’s preparedness for college, work and life.


Daniel A. Domenech becomes the first Latino to serve as executive director. He is AASA’s seventh executive director.

AASA conducts more than 15 surveys on the economic impact of the recession in school districts. Surveys prove critical in development of 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 2010 Jobs Stimulus package.


AASA produces the New Superintendents’ Journal for distribution by state affiliates.

AASA’s new website design delivers more member services – blogs, podcasts and learning communities.


AASA moves into shared headquarters with National Association of Elementary School Principals at 1615 Duke St. in Alexandria, Va. Purchase share: $3.01 million.

A sponsored initiative allows AASA to promote alternative models of school breakfast delivery in 99 schools.

AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund partner on a multiyear initiative to enroll children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Coordinated school health becomes a focus for AASA’s children’s programs, undertaken with external funding.

The News of the Nation e-newsletter debuts.

AASA releases “The American School Superintendent: 2010 Decennial Study.”

AASA holds a joint Women in School Leadership Forum with its California affiliate.


AASA school discipline practices and school safety studied.


AASA’s Conference Daily, a four-day e-newsletter with a group blog and Twitter feed, wins a national award.


A rebranded AASA introduces a new logo and a new name: AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

AASA launches the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program.

AASA introduces a mobile app, including a digital edition of School Administrator magazine.


AASA celebrates 150 years.

AASA Mission Statement

AASA, The School Superintendents Association advocates for equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education, and develops and supports school system leaders.

Adopted February 14, 2018
AASA Governing Board