What makes an effective school principal?


“There’s a lot of accountability without the recognition that people need to develop,” Clifford said. “Principals are increasingly being held accountable, but past principal evaluation wasn’t always tied to principal development and wasn’t always tied to principal feedback.”

Clifford said that constructive evaluation to help principals improve is key in light of recent federal policies such as RTTT and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), trends towards incentive pay, and School Improvement Grants that replace principals deemed ineffective.

“Our goal is to take advantage of [the] growing focus on teacher evaluation—we’re already beginning to see that,” said Gail Connelly, executive director of NAESP. “It’s just a matter of time before that type of principal evaluation will naturally follow.”

Ross said there is not enough research about principal evaluation, and while the research that does exist is valuable, work such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS): Standards for Principals tends to focus on recognizing and rewarding highly effective “master” principals.

“We are trying to create distinct measures and an integrated system so that novice principals and advanced, but not necessarily ‘master,’ principals can also get good feedback,” Clifford said.

While existing standards themselves are reasonable, Ross said, translating them into evaluation strategies can be problematic.

“Multiple measures of principal performance are needed in order to improve schools, teaching quality, student achievement, and of course, their own practice,” Clifford said.

According to Clifford, good evaluation strategies should address four main aspects of a principal’s performance: effectiveness as a curriculum and instructional leader; school climate factors such as teacher working condition and parent attitudes; student achievement; and observational data such as how a principal manages teacher meetings.

The report lists questions that should be considered by researchers and policy makers seeking to redesign principal evaluation systems, such as how, when, and why principals should be evaluated. More specific questions ask about differences among principals with varying levels of expertise, or leading at different types of schools.

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