In 2004, Educational Leadership published an issue called Leading in Tough Times. In his article entitled Evaluating Administrators, Douglas B. Reeves, stated, “We wish our leaders to be some mythical combination of folk heroes, in which they have the insight of Lao-tzu, the courage of a New York firefighter, and the work ethic of Paul Bunyan. In the real world of school leadership, however, the relationship between demands and authority leads to results that are more prosaic.” Nine years after this article was written its relevance and accuracy are startling. We expect much from our leaders and are responsible for their continuous development.
The majority of states have adopted the six ISLLC (Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium) standards to guide principal evaluation. The new evaluation tools aligned with these standards describe detailed behaviors that may not have been articulated as clearly as are these new ones. The process must begin with an understanding of the vocabulary. Once deeply understood, the language of the rubrics can help leaders focus on decisions, actions and values that will help schools and students make progress and improve teaching and learning. This takes time.
Principal (and teacher) evaluations, if done at all, have been an annual, ritualistic event, only sometimes based on a set of stated expectations. Rarely, have they resulted in substantial feedback and deep conversations about practice. At the end of the year, leaders have reported what we think and whether we think the the person being interviewed has hit the mark. Then comes the summer and a new year of school and the memory fades or a new leader comes. Nothing has been gained.
We have a choice to make. Either we approach this new evaluation requirement as an administrative “to do” that needs to be finished and crossed off the list, or, we can learn and use the tools to help focus on leadership development and help our principals grow as leaders. This takes time.
In the November 2012 issue of Educational Leadership, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo stated in his article on teacher evaluation, “Beyond the Scoreboard,” “The key driver of teacher development isn’t accurate measurement of teachers’ performance. It’s guidance on exactly how to improve.” Replace the word “teacher” with “principal” and the statement still holds. In this attempt to move away from evaluation as a score toward evaluation as a vehicle for improvement, we have the opportunity to systematically develop our principals and teachers. This takes time.
5 Suggestions for Taking the Time
- Read through the rubric that has been chosen and especially take time to understand the difference between the performance levels. What does a principal have to do in order to move from an “effective” rating to a “highly effective” rating? What does that look like in your district?
- Begin with an opportunity for a superintendent to assess and the principal to self-assess on the rubric and compare the results. Spend time discussing those items in which there is disagreement. Those are good first talking points and can help in goal setting.
- Next agree on the places on the rubric that will be focused on during the year. No one can improve everything. Agree on the focus.
- In regularly scheduled meetings such as cabinet, keep the evaluation as a regular agenda item. Discuss what the language of the rubric means and what would constitute evidence.
- In regularly scheduled individual meetings, continue to discussion on the target areas of the evaluation and look at the developing evidence. Smaller formative discussions can help the principal improve along the way and helps alleviate work that results in little or no progress.
The Choice Point
We have an opportunity for superintendents to model the behavior they want their principals to develop. Demonstrating the evaluation process as a priority is a first step. The way a superintendent approaches the evaluation process with principals is the way a principal should at least attempt to approach the evaluation process with teachers. If we approach this evaluation process as a priority and with fidelity, we have the real opportunity to develop our building leaders. Their plates are full and they are working hard. This is an opportunity to help give school leaders more tools to develop their schools, their faculties, and create ever increasing enriching environments in which all children can flourish.
Reeves, Douglas B. (2004). Evaluating Administrators. Educational Leadership Volume 62, Number 7. pp.52-58.
Bambrick-Santoyo, Paul. (2012).Beyond the ScorecardEducational Leadership /Volume70, Number 3.pp. 26-30.
The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.