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Value Added Principal Evaluation: A Perspective on Current Practice 5/30/14

The current era of accountability in PK – 12 education in the United States has forever changed the way schools operate and measure their effectiveness in achieving their mission, which is to educate students. One of the most significant and ever evolving results of the era of accountability in the United States, involves the way that school staff are evaluated. The days of simple satisfactory and unsatisfactory ratings with little or no quantitative or qualitative evidence to back them up are gone. Rudimentary evaluation systems have given way to value added staff evaluation.

In most states value added teacher evaluation has been an emergent practice for the past three to five years. In this time states have improved their skills in weaving student achievement into the overall measure of the performance for teachers each school year. Because of this practice and many of the stipulations placed on federal PK – 12 education funding, value added principal evaluation has emerged as a natural development in the field. The result of this is that states have come up with a variety of models to meet the expectations for value added principal evaluation.

In a 5/20/14 Education Week article titled States Forge Ahead on Principal Evaluation, Denisa Superville outlined developments in the field. In her article, Superville identified three main models for value added principal evaluation in the field. They are as follows:

  •  50/50 Model—Half the score is based on student achievement. Half the score is based on principal performance on a practice rubric that is aligned to job competencies.
  • Matrix Model—A weighted percentage of the principal’s annual evaluation is based on student achievement, with the remainder based on leadership practice and stakeholder feedback.
  • Academic Competency Model—A small percentage of the principal’s evaluation is based on student achievement on standardized tests. However the principal is not allowed to receive an overall effective scored if student growth and achievement are low.

Given the new and varied practice in the field, I felt that it was important to give a perspective on my career experience working with and supervising principals. To this end, there are four major areas of practice that central office supervisors must consider when seeking to consistently and fairly evaluate principals in value added contexts. The areas of practice are student achievement, school culture, stakeholder feedback, and in the case of high school principals, graduation rates.

First, student achievement/increased learning is essential. It is the reason that schools exist. To this end, fair evaluation models must assess principal effectiveness based on student growth during the school year. Further, this growth must be a scaled measure that accounts for the progress of students in different tiers of academic achievement. Second, school culture must be considered. How has the principal impacted the way the school serves students and does business? How has the principal impacted the way staff, students, and the community interact? These are all important questions that must be considered.

Following, an assessment of how interactions within the school have changed, principals’ supervisors must make an assessment of how the total school community responds to the principal. Even in mega cities where neighbors who live in the same subdivision or on the same street don’t necessarily know each other, schools still exist within the context of the communities that they serve. To this end, the principal must be someone whom staff, parents, and community leaders can relate to. The dynamics of the relationships that principals maintain with these groups are vital to the success of the school. As a result these dynamics must be measured, and consistently maintained to promote a healthy school community.

Graduation rates are the fourth area of consideration, for those who supervise high school principals. This area is also one of the most complicated measures because a portion of what will determine a student’s matriculation rate in high school happens before the student enters 9th grade. That said, graduation rate measures need to account for not only four and five year completers but also scale the way dropouts are counted based on the nature of their exits from high school. For example, there is a big difference in a student who just stopped coming to school vs. a student who entered the Job Corps. or enrolled in a GED program. High schools need to be fairly assessed for these types of outcomes as well, specifically for students who entered 9th grade performing at a rate of two or more academic grade levels below their peers.

In conclusion, value added principal evaluation is a natural outgrowth of the current era of accountability in PK – 12 education in the United States. Also, central office staff members who supervise principals must include four main areas of practice in their evaluations when assessing principal performance. These are student achievement, school culture, stakeholder feedback, and graduation rates, for high school principals. If these four areas are considered fairly, value added principal evaluation has the potential to accurately assess principal effectiveness and provide the specific feedback that principals need for their continued professional growth.

Shawn McCollough
President & CEO

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