“One of the most common traits of a successful school is strong leadership,” writes Education Daily reporter Adam Dolge. His article, “NAESP Calls for Stronger Principal Evaluations,” reviews the results of the recently released report Designing Principal Evaluation Systems: Research to Guide Decision-Making and describes the Principal Evaluation Initiative, which was launched by NAESP and the National Association of Secondary School Principals in July.

The report addresses the great promise the an effective principal evaluation system has to strengthen the capacity of principals and their schools, even though current research raises questions about the consistency, fairness, and value of current principal evaluation practices. The report’s findings will inform the Principal Evaluation Initiative, which will develop guidelines, ensure that principal evaluation systems are informed by the best available research on principal performance indicators, and incorporate best practice into evaluation design.

Dolge connects the principal evaluation initiative with the ongoing discussion of defining effective leadership, as does Christina Samuels in her Education Week article, “Principals’ Job Reviews Getting a Fresh Look.” She writes:

In March 2010, the Obama administration’s blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act proposed that states define what it means to be an “effective” or a “highly effective” principal. Under the blueprint, states would be required to use student academic growth as an important measure of effectiveness, and they would have to ensure that effective school leaders are spread equitably among schools.

Samuels goes on to write:

Gail Connelly, the executive director of the NAESP, said that the groups want to create a process that incorporates student performance into student evaluations, but also allows support for professional development and principal mentoring.

“We’re responding to a real eagerness on the part of our principals that they be held accountable on all the things that matter,” Ms. Connelly said. That includes student test scores, but not that measure alone, she said, echoing the parallel discussion going on over teacher evaluation.

The Principal Evaluation Initiative will produce research-based guidelines for principal evaluation in the next six to eight months.

I, for one, am very excited

I, for one, am very excited about the prospect of clearer standards and guidelines for principal evaluation. As a veteran principal, I have seen employment decisions for principals over the years that are based largely on political capital and the ability to schmooze central office administrators. At this juncture, in my district, a high-performing principal at a low-income school is out of favor with our bosses simply because he functions as a voice for his students, teachers, and community. Why a principal of a school that made AYP (the only one in a district of 35 schools) should be worried about evaluation is beyond me. More objective guidelines may hold more than just principals accountable--they may root out some of the structures that have kept whole-scale improvements from taking place, starting with holding central office administrators accountable, too.

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