Evaluating School Leadership: If You Thought Teacher Evaluations Were a Challenge, Welcome to the New Federal Requirements for Evaluating Principals and Superintendents

Article excerpt

For many years now, since the authorization of NCLB, this country has been putting a tremens amount of emphasis on teacher evaluation, recognizing the teacher's critical role in children's learning--seemingly to the exclusion of all other educators who have an impact on school success. Yet we all know that the nation's 95,000 principals have a great influence over the teachers and students in their schools--not to mention the approximately 15,000 superintendents who exert influence over the entire district.

You yourself may have had the experience in your career of working under a great principal or superintendent who mentored staff and supported innovation. But then a new, less competent leader took charge. Teacher morale decreased. Innovative programs disappeared. The entire education climate was negatively impacted even though the staff and students had not changed.

So it's not news that leadership is critical to the success of schools and districts, but it is news that the federal government is including the evaluation of school leaders as a new requirement in their funding programs.

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Last month we wrote about how Race to the Top competition for districts (RttT-D) requires that applicants must annually evaluate both principals and superintendents. The proposed legislation for the 2013 budget is set to revise the Teacher Quality funding to include leadership evaluation as well. We can expect to see leadership evaluation continue to be part of any new school improvement legislation.

There is real money attached to these evaluations. In addition to RttT-D, which will grant 20 to 25 awards of $5 million to $40 million over a four-year grant period, the current FY12 budget includes Effective Teachers and Leaders State Grants that will distribute $2.5 billion. The Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund has an additional $500 million to distribute. For the FY13 budget, the Title II Teacher Quality grants are proposing three separate programs, each including principal evaluation. These include:

* Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education--$90 million

* Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy--$187 million

* Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM--$150 million

So, if you want your district to be eligible for any of these federal monies, you must be prepared to add leader evaluation to your systematic review of school progress.

What Does Leadership Evaluation Look Like?

Even though most, if not all, districts evaluate principals, there's no real agreed-upon set of criteria across districts and states for determining school-building leadership quality. As for superintendents, up to this point it's mostly the local school board who has been responsible for the evaluation, the results of which are usually not made public unless they are released as part of the superintendent's dismissal (and sometimes not even then).

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As a way to start creating a national consensus on quality school leadership, the US Department of Education (ED) is calling for every district to adopt of a set of policy guidelines and best practices that go beyond student test scores to evaluate school culture, professional growth and learning, and other aspects of the learning environment that school leaders influence.

Under the federal requirements, principal and superintendent evaluations should include multiple measures, each with a three-level (minimum) performance rubric. These measures must be used to make personnel decisions such hiring, salary increases, placement, termination, and so forth. Principals and superintendents should participate in the development of these evaluation systems.

The multiple measures that school leaders are evaluated against should be determined by the districts themselves, but the ED has made recommendations for what these criteria might include. …