Leadership by the Standards: Constructing a Principal Evaluation Protocol Based on the NSBECS

By Kiely, Thomas J. | Journal of Catholic Education, Spring 2019 | Go to article overview

Leadership by the Standards: Constructing a Principal Evaluation Protocol Based on the NSBECS


Kiely, Thomas J., Journal of Catholic Education


One of the anticipated results of the wider adoption and use of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools (NSBECS) has been the call for different tools aligned to the NSBECS. Multiple (arch) dioceses and schools have endeavored to construct such tools for their own use. In the state of Wisconsin, the Catholic Conference has aligned their entire accreditation process with the NSBECS in a effort to guide Catholic schools towards excellence in all areas of school self-understanding, programming, and management. In 2016 Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee created a task force of principals and other school leaders under the direction of Associate Superintendent Susan Nelson to craft a Teachers' Evaluation Framework based upon the NSBECS and the other best practices on teacher evaluation currently in use. I had the good fortune to serve on this task force that completed its work in 2018. Dr. Cepelka then asked me to engage school leaders and others in the field of leadership evaluation to create a similar tool/ framework for principal evaluation. Last October at the Catholic Leadership Summit in Jacksonville, Florida I presented a Principal Evaluation Protocol to an audience gathered at the Summit. The tool is the result of wide consultation and a deep reading of the NSBECS and other literature on job evaluation in both Church and secular circles. This article describes the construction of the Principal Evaluation Protocol with a particular emphasis on the utilization of the NSBECS as the guiding document in the process.

In the summer of 2017, a group of administrators from across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gathered at Marquette University at the Institute for Catholic Leadership to discuss the task of evaluating principals from the perspective of growing in their professions through a formative encounter with the letter and spirit of the NSBECS. These administrators represented Catholic elementary and high schools; urban, suburban, and rural schools; archdiocesan, Dominican, Jesuit, and School Sisters of Notre Dame institutions. They also represented various tenures of experience in Catholic schools, in public schools and in business, While each viewed the the task at hand through a particular lens, they coordinated around shared narratives of their own history of being evaluated and evaluating others. These discussions led to a solid sense of how to use evaluation as a tool for professional development, and not simply as an excercise of personnel review and a tool in the dismissal process. Considerable brainstorming occurred around the behaviors and zones of administrative oversight that were most attached to an effective princicipal's work. In addition, the need for useful feedback, review, support, and continuing education was emphasized. While the presidents at the table spoke from their experience as reviewers of serving principals, the other participants in the discussion agreed that the role of the reviewer needed considerable training and support. There was no consensus of how to develop reliable reviewers in the case of a school that did not have a chief executive solely serving the school. Suggestions from third-party external reviewers to Catholic university personnel emerged, but since the group was not charged with solving this issue, the matter was set aside for future consideration by another group.

The group considered several initial texts in an effort to establish a set of parameters within which to conduct discussions. The first text was The National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools (NSBECS) and the benchmark rubrics associated with school leadership, specifically, benchmark 1.3; all the benchmarks for Standard 4; all the benchmarks for Standard 6; benchmark 9.1; benchmarks 10.1, 10.7, and 10.8; and all the benchmarks for Standard 13. As a point of comparison Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) (formerly known as the ISLLC Standards) were also examined. …

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