Smart principals know that
capitalizing on teachers’
leadership and instructional
strengths is smart leadership.
performance, we simply can’t begin to improve principal
What’s Wrong with Principal Evaluation?
The good news about traditional principal evaluation is that
it doesn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that it doesn’t help,
either. The following scenario is typical: A supervisor walks
through a building, talks to a few teachers and students,
meets with the principal in his or her office, and—assuming
that few parent complaints have landed on the superintendent’s desk—they’re finished.
This kind of practice falls far short of evidence-based,
meaningful evaluation. Unfortunately, even though principal performance is recognized as a vital factor in improving
student achievement, schools rarely measure or document it
effectively (Westberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling, 2009).
Principal evaluation, on the whole, does not differentiate
among poor, average, good, and excellent principals—nor is
it growth-oriented or accountability-based.
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One comprehensive study of principal evaluation practices
in the United States indicated that although states and districts focus on a variety of performance areas (such as management, external environment, and personal traits) when
evaluating their principals, they often neglect “leadership
behaviors that ensure rigorous curriculum and quality
instruction” (Goldring et al., 2009, p. 1), such as creating a
culture of learning and professional behavior. The study also
found that principal evaluation is usually based on instruments of unproven utility, psychometric properties, and
Another problem is that principal evaluation often suffers
from the same grade inflation that afflicts teacher evaluation.
Too many contemporary principal evaluation systems are
nondiscriminating and do not allow for shades of gray: Prin-
cipals are rated as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with
the vast majority rated in the former category. Other common
flaws in principal evaluation include
n Absence of meaningful and timely feedback.
n Lack of consequences.
n Absence of clearly communicated criteria and standard
n Failure to enhance principal motivation and improve per-
formance (Reeves, 2005).
n Nonalignment of evaluation instruments with profes-
sional standards, which can produce role conflict and stress
as principals struggle to decide where they should focus their
attention (Catano & Stronge, 2006).
It’s true that many districts throughout the United States
have developed excellent principal evaluation systems. But the