In some school districts, performance evaluations of principals are a yearly exercise in compliance, described by one principal as amounting to roughly the following: “You do a great job. Sign this.” What’s missing are ideas about how the principal might improve his or her efforts.

The six school districts in a Wallace Foundation effort to develop a larger corps of effective principals are seeking to change that picture, according to this article in the May 2017 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine. Their aim is to use principal evaluation and the procedures for carrying it out to help improve principal performance. Revamped assessments on which the principals are rated are now tied closely to the districts’ standards for principals. Moreover, the evaluations are carried out by supervisors who work closely with the principals throughout the school year, helping them recognize their strengths and offering guidance to overcome weaknesses. The result, as one principal told researchers, is that he no longer thinks of performance reviews as “this big evaluation,” but as “an ongoing conversation” about his goals and his progress toward them.

The article examines in depth how this new approach is playing out in one of the Wallace-supported districts, Hillsborough County, Fla., which encompasses the Tampa area. There, says an assistant superintendent, evaluation has been changed from “something we did at the end of the year” to a “growth tool” for principals.

 Points of Interest

  • After six school districts changed their principal evaluation to make it a tool for principal growth, rather than a compliance exercise, 85 percent of principals said they found the assessments worthwhile.
    6 districts change #principal evaluation to growth tool; 85% of principals deem new tack "worthwhile."
  • In revamping principal performance evaluation, six school districts are also working on “calibration,” ensuring that evaluators are all assessing their school leaders in the same way.
    A key to sound #principal evaluation: "calibration," or ensuring assessors all rate school leaders in same way.