Principal evaluation: The next big reform?

Design challenges

Once you have determined what expectations principals in your district must meet, you must then design an evaluation system that will provide you with the information you need to determine if principals are indeed meeting those expectations while also providing data on opportunities for growth.

If there is one thing we have learned from reforming teacher evaluation, it is that it is not easy. We are continuously faced with hard decisions about what matters most.

In designing and improving principal evaluation systems, there are a number of questions to consider:

  • What are the characteristics and actions of effective principals? Which leadership framework will we utilize, or build? How do we articulate everything about a good principal or prioritize what matters most?
  • What else should be included in a principal’s evaluation? Student achievement, feedback from stakeholders, climate and culture?
  • How will we gather data to assess a principal’s effectiveness? Multiple observations – how many and what is involved in an observation?  Artifacts? Growth data?
  • How do we ensure the system is built to grow a principal’s practice? Given that the evaluator will not likely be present at the school on a regular basis (as opposed to a principal with the teachers they evaluate), how do we ensure that the process can indeed be leveraged for on-going conversation on growth versus an activity to provide an “effectiveness score” to the principal?
  • How do we evaluate those in leadership positions who are not the principal, given their job responsibilities may be different than those of the principal? APs, deans, etc.?
  • Who will evaluate principals and how will we ensure that they are equipped to effectively evaluate effectiveness across multiple campuses? How will we calibrate principal evaluators to ensure evaluations are both fair and reliable?

These questions are critical to the conversation, and represent the many facets of this process that need to be considered when designing such evaluation systems. And while we cannot attempt to answer all of these questions here, they represent the complexity of implementing an evaluation system that works.

What we do know is that it is critically important to ensure deep engagement of teachers, school leaders, and principal supervisors in the design, implementation, and revision of educator evaluation systems.

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