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Evaluate Principals, Too

Measuring Up

In the ongoing push to fix America’s public schools, policymakers are overlooking principals, argues Andrew J. Rotherham, who writes Time.com’s education column School for Thought. As more attention is being paid to how teachers are evaluated, Rotherham says, principals should also come in for closer scrutiny. They “play a critical role” in education but are “evaluated almost as an afterthought.” The best principals can help attract and retain the best teachers, while the worst can have an opposite effect.

Various rules and regulations, including seniority systems, can leave principals with scant real control over staffing and budgets. And, he admits, some of the best principals know how to bend and even break rules to help their teachers help their students. But how do you evaluate principals who have to rely on deft slight-of-hand to be effective? Indeed, Rotherham writes, principal evaluations, like those for teachers, aren’t easy to do, and he cites a recent report that says most of them are essentially worthless. Moreover, even when bad performers are identified, he says, it’s not always easy to oust them.

Rotherham says one solution is in a new report by the nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools, which suggests four broad principles to improve the leadership capability of principals. Among them: evaluating principals largely on student outcomes and ensuring that evaluation systems are regularly updated and upgraded. Yet, changes that would give principals more support yet hold them more accountable, will require greater political will by federal and state policymakers, he says.

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One Response to “Evaluate Principals, Too”

  1. “evaluating principals largely on student outcomes” must also include the social climate of the school (such as the amount of bullying, the treatment of schoolchildren like convicted felons, … ), but no one is even looking at ways to measure that.

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