Report suggests new system for principal evaluations

As a result, teacher evaluation systems are being applied to principal evaluations, and principal evaluation designs focus too heavily on effectiveness measures that don’t capture the entire role of a school leader.

“Principals have voiced concerns that educators are being evaluated on effectiveness measures that they do not fully understand, and therefore cannot hope to address through changes in practice,” notes the report. “Although appealing in its simplicity, the focus on principal impact relies on new and complex statistical models to determine principal effectiveness.”

The report concludes that measuring principal effectiveness is very complex and requires multiple measures. To be useful to principals, evaluation should also focus on measuring the aspects they directly influence: principals’ work quality, school climate, and instructional quality. Over-reliance on one set of data, such as student test scores, runs the risk that high stakes decisions about principal effectiveness will not be valid.

It also describes how principals’ work has changed over time, and the new demands on principals’ time and attention. In the authors’ assessment: “Today, we are asking principals to be instructional leaders, a role that encourages them to deeply engage with teachers in student learning issues, while also asking them to retain traditional roles. We have added more work to principals’ already overflowing plates.”

Principals are key players in the education arena, with their work impacting 3.4 million teachers and 55 million k-12 students in the United States. As the report notes, principals are the second most influential factor on student achievement after teaching quality, and principals with strong leadership skills and effective practices often run successful schools in which teachers feel supported in their work and student achievement is high.

Diann Woodard, president of the American Federation of School Administrators, said the report “only confirms what school leaders have experienced first-hand for years. When principal evaluations are based solely on student achievement, namely test scores, our leadership abilities and years of classroom experience are suddenly diminished to a number that reflects what a student faces each day at school and at home; a number that lacks the integrity to define what our jobs truly demand of us.”

The report comes as states are offered waivers to opt out of NCLB AYP requirements, which subjects schools to an escalating series of sanctions if students fail to make AYP. NCLB requires principals and teachers to be evaluated on test scores, although the terms for the waivers also contain these requirements. Since the announcement, 11 states have been approved for waivers, with more than 30 currently waiting for their waiver applications to be approved.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at