Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Sharing Craft Knowledge: The Soul of Principal Peer Assessment

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Sharing Craft Knowledge: The Soul of Principal Peer Assessment

Article excerpt

Two school principals sat in the corner of a school library on a late November eve, engaged in a passionate conversation about improving their professional leadership skills. This dialogue opportunity, duplicated by several other principal teams participating in a Principal Peer Assessment model, was the outgrowth of a concept I originally presented during the summer of 1993 to Gabriel Cortina, then Region Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

My motivation for a different process was that the district-mandated evaluation system (Stull process) did not encourage the professional growth of principals. The Stull Evaluation process was both mindless and meaningless to anyone who desired to achieve true professional growth. I wanted to create a vehicle to tap the bank of collegial talent present in our administrative leadership community. To do so would require reinvention of the existing assessment mechanism and visionary, top-level district leadership.

School principals deserve a forum to promote the sharing of the priceless, qualitative, reflective knowledge they possess about their craft. Intelligent study of how to improve the principalship within our ranks can unleash a megacommunication that allows participants to explore vast new territories of professional development. The thrust of this megacommunication is to promote optimization of the learning process.[1] The creative approach of peer assessment offers some hope for the contemporary beleaguered principal. Some success with teacher peer-assessment ventures has been well documented.[1] Why couldn't it work with school principals?

* Blueprints for a New Ark

Dr. William Ouchi, formerly of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Robert E. Wycoff, Chair of the LEARN (Los Angeles Educational Alliance to Restructure Now) initiative and President Emeritus of ARCO (the oil co.), introduced the original concept of a New Skills Profile for school principals as co-chairpersons of a LEARN sub-committee in the spring of 1993. They produced a written skills profile that was, to the best of my knowledge, never seriously considered for implementation by anyone in our school district. This excellent document sat nestled on a printed page in a LEARN manual doomed to utter obscurity, until I chanced upon it.

I was intrigued by the idea of employing many of these skills as learning tools for an unprecedented peer-assessment process for school principals. Properly inspired, I augmented the original profile items with some ideas of my own and conceived of a framework for implementation aligned to Total Quality Management (TQM) practices.

A team of principals was formed to establish parameters for activation. The agreed-upon procedures were then presented to Cortina and the initial steps for peer-assessment procedures were initiated for the 199394 academic year. The main emphasis was for principals to construct some personal meaning for their professional development for the year. Now enjoying its fourth year of operation, over 50 school principals have participated in this basic model in our school district.

* Climbing Aboard the Ark

The revised New Skills Profile areas of craft knowledge are charted below. These were deemed as essential skills by my "development team" for principalship in the 21st Century:

Principal New Skills Profile

Knowledge of Best Teaching Methods Leadership Budgetary Competence Networking Skills Technological Literacy Teaching Communication Application of Best Leadership Practices Conflict Resolution Skills Diversity Skills Systems Thinking Disciplines Total Quality Management Principles

With the able assistance and stewardship of Cortina, exemplary principal practitioners (Master Practitioners) were nominated and incorporated in the first cohort. The initial cadre of volunteers willing to enhance their professional skills with the new assessment practice numbered 18. …

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