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April 1, 2013
Vol. 70
No. 7

Special Report / Getting the Most Out of Principal Evaluation Systems


From RAND: Evaluations That Improve Teaching and Learning

Susan M. Gates and Laura S. Hamilton
Two recent RAND reports look at challenges and opportunities inherent in principal evaluation systems. The reports suggest that evaluation systems can improve teaching and learning when
  • Teacher and principal evaluations promote common objectives. If teachers are held accountable for raising student test scores and engaging in specific practices in the classroom, the principal evaluation system should promote these same outcomes and practices. Revisions to teacher evaluation systems often imply a need for changes to principal evaluation systems as well.
  • Principal evaluations include multiple measures of performance that emphasize improved teaching and learning. Evaluation systems should include measures of student outcomes that reflect the principal's responsibilities—for example, in high schools, they should address graduation rates and completion of rigorous coursework in addition to standardized test scores. The systems should also include direct measures of leadership activities, such as providing feedback to teachers through systematic observations.
  • Evaluations are linked to capacity-building opportunities to help principals improve their instructional leadership. Supervisors can measure principal practices using a rubric and then use that information to create individualized coaching plans that address weaknesses and build on strengths.
  • Principals have the authority and resources to take actions that will improve the quality of teaching. Districts implementing outcomes-based principal evaluation must assess whether their district provides principals with the authority and support to take the necessary actions to improve teaching quality. One crucial support is the availability of a leadership team that can take on some of the principal's responsibilities so that he or she can devote more time to interacting with teachers.
The research also suggests that district leaders can make the most effective use of information from principal evaluation systems by
  • Allowing adequate time for a principal's actions to affect student outcomes, but, in the meantime, making use of interim measures. Although many actions that principals take—such as providing constructive feedback to teachers or reaching out to families—can have a positive effect on student outcomes, improvements may take several years. Interim measures—such as establishing a student disciplinary policy or spending time with low-performing teachers—can aid districts in assessing whether the principal is on track to positively affect student outcomes regardless of what happens with student achievement in the current year.
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Addressing Challenges in Evaluating School Principal Improvement Efforts (2012) is available at Improving School Leadership Through Support, Evaluation, and Incentives: The Pittsburgh Principal Incentive Program (2012) is available at
<NOTE>Copyright © ASCD</NOTE>


<BQ> Susan M. Gates is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, and Laura S. Hamilton is senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. </BQ>


From NASSP and NAESP: What to Include in Principal Evaluation Systems

Gail Connelly and JoAnn Bartoletti
Developed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), Rethinking Principal Evaluation: A New Paradigm Informed by Research and Practice (2012) identifies six domains of school leadership that should be incorporated into principal evaluation systems:
  • Domain 1: Professional growth and learning. School leaders must actively pursue professional development activities for themselves as well as for their faculty and students.
  • Domain 2: Student growth and achievement. To avoid the narrowly defined achievement goals measured by standardized tests, principals must support broader measures of student performance, such as teacher-administered formative and summative tests, attendance rates, graduation rates, and student involvement in extracurricular activities.
  • Domain 3: School planning and progress. Performance data in this domain include engaging all major stakeholders in implementing school improvement plans and building the capacity of the school leadership team.
  • Domain 4: School culture. Principals must strive to develop a positive school culture that motivates students, teachers, and other staff to collaborate, work smarter, and take risks to achieve agreed-on goals.
  • Domain 5: Professional qualities and instructional leadership. Principals must be instructional leaders. This domain focuses on the degree to which a principal achieves goals from the previous year's professional growth plan and provides actionable feedback to help teachers improve their practice.
  • Domain 6: Stakeholder support and engagement. Principals must be able to build strong relationships within and outside the school and develop cultural competencies and communications skills that are effective with diverse populations.
The framework for evaluation also includes four focus areas that offer a road map for federal, state, and local policymakers as they rethink approaches for more effective principal evaluation. First, any evaluation system should consider context; goals and measures should acknowledge the unique character and challenges of the students and the community the principal works with. Second, it should incorporate accepted standards that can improve practice. Third, it should use evaluation to build capacity; those early in their careers should have induction feedback, whereas advanced certification coupled with professional growth plans should be part of a more experienced principal's evaluation activities. Finally, evaluation should focus on multiple measures of performance data.
Although the report provides a road map for evaluating principals, it doesn't contain specific measurement tools. The two organizations plan to produce those tools and share them widely.
<NOTE>Copyright © NASSP and NAESP</NOTE>


<BQ> Gail Connelly is executive director, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Alexandria, Virginia, and JoAnn Bartoletti is executive director, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Reston, Virginia. </BQ>


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