Principal, September/October 2011

My Two Cents

Should teachers and principals earn merit pay/performance-based bonuses? If so, based on what criteria?

No because the criteria will always be tied to political motivations
@PETERMDEWITT (via Twitter)

Teachers and principals should not receive merit pay/performance-based bonuses for student achievement. Every teacher and principal should be working as hard as they possibly can to help students achieve, be successful, and enjoy coming to school. This is what we are already hired and paid to do. If we are not focusing on ways we can do things better and improve our schools to help students, then we are not doing our job.
Amy Langworthy, Principal, Warrensburg Elementary School, Warrensburg, New York

I value collaboration, and having to “compete” for merit pay discourages this valuable practice. Everyone scrambles to claim credit for the “best ideas” and “best practices” rather than sharing them openly and enthusiastically. When teachers or principals have to compete for the limited resources in a merit pay environment, there is little incentive or reward to share with others.
Shelley Joan Weiss (Via LinkedIn), Educational Leadership Consultant, Madison, Wisconsin

Read more responses—and submit your own—by visiting the Principals’ Office blog.

Report Digest

Designing Principal Evaluation Systems

A burst of recent debate about teacher evaluations has led to calls for rigorous mechanisms to measure educators’ effectiveness. But what about school leaders? Are principals making the grade?

Research has clearly demonstrated a correlation between strong school leadership and student success—several analyses conclude that it is second only to classroom instruction among factors contributing to student learning. But there has been little research on principal performance evaluation. Until now.

In Designing Principal Evaluation Systems: Research to Guide Decision-Making, Matthew Clifford of the American Institutes for Research and Steven Ross of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Research and Reform in Education examine the landscape of principal evaluation and address the need for comprehensive guidelines.

“Principal evaluation has long held promise for improving principals’ practice, building their capacity, holding them accountable for student progress, and ensuring that they have an overall positive impact on students and schools,” write Clifford and Ross.

As it stands, many principals view evaluations as inconsistent and perfunctory, according to Clifford and Ross’ review. But, they found, several research-based, nationally recognized professional standards of practice exist, representing a major step toward developing effective principal evaluations. NAESP’s Leading Learning Communities: Standards for What Principals Should Know and Be Able to Do as well as other codes of principal standards can set the stage for new performance measures.

The report also offers recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders as they embark on the development of an evaluation framework. Such systems should be “rigorous, fair and equitable,” designed with input from principals, and connected to district- and state-level systems. Clifford and Ross also advise that performance ratings should involve multiple measures and be attuned to differences between elementary, middle, and secondary school leadership.

Besides offering these recommendations, the report also poses a list of concerns for further research, including issues of data collection and use, fairness, and scale. “Answering these and other questions may help states, districts, and others to design comprehensive, fair, and objective evaluation instruments, processes, and systems,” write Clifford and Ross.

Promising Practice

We observed that many of our kindergarten students were not familiar with many of the foods served in the cafeteria and often did not eat the fruits or vegetables they were served. To reduce waste, we designated every other Wednesday as Mystery Food Day. During announcements, clues about the day’s mystery food, such as color, texture, taste, and how it was grown, are given to students. They then write about or draw what they think the mystery food might be.

Later in the day, samples of the fruit or vegetable are delivered to each classroom. Students are shown the fruit or vegetable in its natural state (e.g., a whole pineapple or peas inside the pod) and receive a cooked and raw sample of it, which they are expected to try. Students then write or discuss what they liked and disliked. Teachers talk to students about where and how the foods grew, how they could be prepared, what animals might eat it, and so forth.

Following each Mystery Food Day, food service staff prepare and serve the selected food as part of breakfast or lunch. As a result, food waste decreased, students were more willing to try new foods, and the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten increased. An unexpected outcome was that student vocabulary increased as students learned new words to describe the foods they ate.
Teresa A. Anderson, Principal, Nicklin Learning Center, Piqua, Ohio

Learn more promising practices at

10 Action Steps Toward an Effective Pipeline from Pre-K to Grade 3

1. Better integrate and align federal policy, regulation, and funding to enable states and communities to build a coherent system of early learning from pre-K through third grade.

2. Coordinate and streamline state and local governance.

3. Expand funding for pre-kindergarten through third-grade learning to ensure that all children—particularly the most at-risk children—have access to high-quality, full-day learning experiences.

4. Ensure that funding for the full continuum of pre-K through third-grade learning is directed to programs of high quality.

5. Leverage and integrate private funding with public resources.

6. Create an aligned continuum of research-based, age-appropriate standards for young children that include a focus on social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical development, and creative learning, as well as school-related skills.

7. Develop and support an effective, well-compensated work force with high-quality teacher and administrator preparation programs, professional development, and continuing education. These educators should be versed in the full continuum of early childhood education.

8. Develop and administer age-appropriate assessments that include both formative and summative evaluations to help guide teaching and learning and to inform program effectiveness.

9. Develop state and local longitudinal data systems that include pre-K student and program information.

10. Evaluate models of early learning integration and alignment through research.

Source: Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years (NAESP, 2011)

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