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Value Added for Principals?

The bottom line, and this really isn’t much in dispute, is that we do a really bad job of evaluating and developing teachers.  The most effective teachers seem so much more effective than the least effective teachers, yet we treat them all the same way.

                                                                        Researcher and Professor Douglas Harris

In regard to value added, the question has arisen whether we should be evaluating whole schools and whether value added should be a part of a principal’s evaluation.  Given national teachers’ unions’ tentative support of using standardized tests scores to evaluate teachers, the spotlight now turns to school administrators.

Evaluating whole schools and/or specific school programs is not a new idea; evaluating principals is.  Would principals object that they can’t control what teachers do when they go home at night?  Just a little joke.

Some might say that the principal can only be held accountable for the hires she has made; after all, the Principal clock principal inherits the faculty she has at first.  This is only an argument if you believe that the principal is not the academic leader and doesn’t set the standards for performance.

I always recommend that newly appointed principals meet one-on-one with each faculty member for about 10 minutes during the first couple of months of school.  Principals can find out what matters to teachers, how they perceive their job, the kids, the school, and other aspects of day-to-day life.  Equally important, the principal can begin to establish himself as a listener and as someone interested in each faculty member.  Additionally he can share some of his vision about the school and maybe even begin to see who among the faculty are the leaders.  Seems like a lot in a short meeting, but you might be surprised at how much you can learn.

Meeting with staff is just for openers.  The principal’s major job is to build a strong, caring, and competent faculty to work with kids.  That job includes setting the standards and holding people to them.  It includes mentoring new teachers and providing feedback to all staff.  And it includes building into the culture of the school a strong supervision and evaluation component.

So yes, value added should be part of the principal’s evaluation because the principal is ultimately responsible for the performance of teachers in the building.  If students in your school as a whole are not making adequate yearly progress, you as principal have to take responsibility for a large share of that outcome.




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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.