Studies show that principals have a strong effect on school culture, teacher quality and satisfaction, and policy implementation—but existing principal evaluation systems too often lack transparency and consistency.

Recent research shows that good principals in K-12 schools can create dramatic improvement, particularly in the lowest performing schools—but the consistency, fairness, and value of current principal evaluation practices are questionable.

An overview of current research on principal evaluation, introduced July 14 at a National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) conference, provides guidance to state and district efforts to evaluate principals more effectively.

Despite the potential for successful principal evaluations to improve schools, improvements in principal evaluation systems are “long overdue,” according to the report “Designing Principal Evaluations Systems: Research to Guide Decision-Making” by co-authors Matthew Clifford, senior research scientist at the American Institutes of Research (AIR), and Steven Ross, professor of education at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Research and Reform in Education, in collaboration with NAESP.

“It’s important now [to develop better evaluation systems], because with Race to the Top (RTTT) and other evaluation initiatives, evaluation of teachers and principals have become more in the public eye,” Ross said.

According to the report, previous studies show that principals have a strong effect on school culture, teacher quality and satisfaction, and policy implementation, but existing principal evaluation systems too often lack transparency and consistency.