Examples for AdministratorsSupporting Research

The Principal:
Leadership, Development and Evaluation

Chapters in this document:
Instructional Leadership What is Your Level of Expectation? How Can This Happen? Reform Resources

The evaluation of personnel starting with the screening for hiring through retirement is the most important role for the principal than the role of evaluator. Whole books are written describing valuable means of improving the evaluation process. Some people argue that evaluation has two different functions. Formative evaluation is done to identify strengths and weaknesses of a teacher to improve the teacher, the teaching and most importantly to improve student learning and achievement. Formative evaluation allows for open discussion, constructive feedback and opportunities to commend outstanding teaching performance as well as guide growth in needed areas. Summative evaluation is the process of identifying teacher competency for the purpose of selection, hiring, and recognition. Formative evaluation also identifies areas of deficiency or lack of competency and a means in which a teacher can improve in those areas to reach or exceed competency. And the last purpose of summative evaluation is to provide legal documentation of how and why the district is recommending that employment of a teacher (non-tenured or tenured) should be terminated for lack of competency. (Danielson et al. 3-10)

Staff development people may argue that effective staff development can only take place outside of the summative role; that only colleagues and master teachers, not administration, can guide a teacher in growth. The reasons being that the principal/the administrator cannot be fully trusted because of the summative role and the responsibilities their position entails. Many principals believe quite differently and are saddened by the view of the "us versus them" concerns. Many principals entered the principalship to create a cohesive environment focusing on growth, on improvement so that everyone might serve the students in their areas of responsibility in a stronger manner. While in a perfect world a school district might try to provide all staff development guidance outside of the principal's supervision, the reality is that legal dictates of each state requires a process of evaluation based upon the summative nature. As important, most local, state, and national teacher associations rightfully bargain and lobby for clear summative evaluations as a means of guaranteeing the teacher's right and protection to due process.

The goal and search for due process legally dictates that a teacher must clearly understand the expectations for meeting the minimum level of competency, that the teacher must be given time to reach the minimum level of competence and that a clear plan or path to guide the improvement of the teacher must be provided by the evaluator of the teacher. If the principal/evaluator is legally required to guide the growth and development of the teacher(s) in most need, why shouldn't the principal be a leader that encourages and guides the growth in all teachers? After all isn't the title "instructional leader" supposed to be synonymous with the term principal?

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Instructional Leadership

The Wallace Foundation sponsored a study, entitled How Leadership Influences Student Learning, that indicates that the principal, who is an effective instructional leader, is the second greatest influence in student achievement with the first most influential being the classroom teacher. The report also said that instructional leadership should be a term that is clearly defined. Leadership might best be identified as providing a clear focus developing the school's mission, managing and guiding the instructional focus and by promoting a positive learning climate. (Leithwood et al. 2-5) Actions over the past ten years have helped identify the mission and improvement plans of schools and districts. No Child Left Behind has been an integral part of assisting principals in defining the goal and mission of the school. A positive school climate is an area that falls into a managerial role that most principals work hard at providing. However, the role of principal in managing and providing clear instructional focus with teachers is much more difficult for principals to accomplish. Some might believe that this is accomplished under the NCLB requirements. While the standards and assessments required under No Child Left Behind can identify areas for needed growth and where content expertise and understanding must be increased, identifying assessments and standards does little to better equip teachers to connect with students and to help students connect with the content. Parents expect that teachers are to know the content and then have the ability to bring that content alive for the student. How teachers connect with students and how they connect the students to the curriculum is to be evaluated by the district that teachers serve. (O'Shea 92-104) While empirical data measuring student achievement may identify student strengths and needs, the principal is expected to understand, the science and art of teaching pedagogy to the level that they can lead teachers in their efforts to improve instruction while helping students address their needs.

In 2003, McREL published a document that studied the impact of leadership on student performance. In this study it identified that the principal who understands the role, purpose, and implementation of instructional leadership has a positive effect of 10 percentage points on student standardized testing. But how does one gain the understanding of what instructional strategies might be employed. How does the principal demonstrate the changes that need to be made without becoming a hindrance in the change process? (Waters et al. 3-9) Balanced leadership: What 30 years of research tells us about the effect of leadership on student achievement.

A problem arises in this issue because of assumptions made about the qualifications that principals bring to their office and the support provided to principals once they reach that office. The assumption is that with their advanced degrees together with their experience, principals have a deep understanding of instructional pedagogy so that they can coach teachers across the broad spectrum of instructional strategies that make a difference in the teachers' classroom performance for students. However the topic is very broad and in reality principals often start out expecting teachers to teach the way that the principal felt most comfortable. Instructional interventions, classroom management techniques, lesson planning, student engaging techniques, and beginning and closing learning sessions are all areas that have research backing proper practice yet may look extremely different due to the personality and teaching styles of individual teachers. While teachers may apply the research strategies to fit within their personalities sometimes principals don't understand how that might be done and yet maintain the integrity of the strategy being applied. If the principal is not aware of the research then they may expect to have the teacher manage the learning just as the principal did when he/she was teaching; or because of their lack of understanding of the research base they may allow the teachers to use instruction that does not match the research at all. An example of this might be evident in the area of "closure." When a class is closed according to research, students end the learning time by stating, identifying, or summarizing what they learned during the lesson. A principal unaware of this research and the difference that closing a lesson might have when students restate what they learned or understood in the lesson will often take a closing to be effective when students state or tell what they did in class rather than sharing what they learned in class. Students can always restate what they did in class, that is easy, but a higher level of understanding must be present in order for students to be able to explain what they learned during the lesson.

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What is Your Level of Expectation?

The purpose of the observation/evaluation process is to identify strengths on which a teacher's skill might build and to build competency in areas of concern. One might look at it as Jim Collins says in Good to Great it is putting the right people on the bus and then putting the right people in the right seat on the bus.

People concerned with a teacher might say, "Why don't they (school officials) get rid of that one teacher. Everybody knows that teacher retired ten years ago but he/she just hasn't cleaned out his/her desk. Other people might say, concerning the same teacher, this teacher is the best teacher my child ever had. He is the reason my child became an engineer. Both statements can and usually are correct in the minds of the speakers.

So how do you speak to these people especially if the district is taking action with this long tenured teacher? What would you say to the critic when the district just promoted that teacher to head-football coach? What would you say to the proponent of the teacher if the district seeks to remove that teacher?

While we all know that specifics cannot be shared or an individual personnel decision discussed, hopefully you can provide the same clear and honest answer to both groups, "all decisions concerning advancement or concerning discipline of an individual teacher are grounded in the evaluation process of this district."

The evaluation process is the one guide where the district works with the educator to identify how he or she might grow, and all teachers should grow no matter how good they are or how close to retirement the teacher might be. Most states dictate the core of the evaluation process. Some states require that each district have their evaluation process approved through the state department of education.

While almost all evaluation systems are required to pass the legal requirements of the state there is a huge difference in the expectations the district has for their evaluators. While the evaluation system of the district may hold high expectations for the teachers, there are often times where evaluators lower the expectations for teachers that have been in the district for a time, or contribute to the district due to their activities outside the classroom, because of the disruption that comes from identifying a teacher who is not meeting the standards of the district, or just because the teacher is a nice person. (Platt et al. 3-5) If those excuses influence the determination for a district to provide teachers not meeting the standards set for instruction a means to grow and improve, then that district, that building principal, or that evaluator is lowering the performance expectations for all teachers and for the students as well.

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How Can This Happen?

If the plan is approved and if principals are trained on how to use the evaluation instrument then how can it be that principals can lower the standards and expectations in the district? It may happen because principals and evaluators either don't know the strategies that need to be applied or they doubt their ability to coach a teacher to become a better instructor. It might happen because the principal just doesn't want to rock the boat. It might also happen because the district fails to provide the principal with the tools needed to help educators grow to a level of competence.

When educators start in that new role of principal a great change takes place. A broader vision is required. A different kind of discipline and understanding of self is required as the teachers who were your friends and colleagues before now respond to you in a different way. Decisions that were so easy to comment upon before now have a broader implication. A new kind of courage, resolve and understanding of mission is required. Some even believe that principals should take time to develop a personal mission statement that will help the educator remember what expectations he/she holds and believes. (Daresh et al. 16)

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Reform

Change is so difficult. Due to the manner in which innovation is brought into schools some teachers have an attitude that they can outlast any change that comes into the building. After all they've seen trend after trend come and go and they've outlasted them all. That is no longer possible. Our country cannot abide by that. Our schools must change so that we reach all students so every child has the opportunity to a rich, rigorous, and digital curriculum. A rich, rigorous, and digital curriculum is needed to help our students compete in the new digital economy. Principals are the key figures in seeing this change take place. Principals must guide our teachers in gaining the skills and understanding of the need for these new curriculum changes. Principals must provide evaluation of the programs, teachers and curriculum. (Quinones et al. 1-3)

People dealing with a digital commodity will have a much greater opportunity to participate in the world economy than those dealing with a production based commodity. (Enriguez). People who have the ability to solve problems in a digital world will be more employable than those who are not. With competition coming from foreign lands in numbers never seen before America's student body must have greater understanding of not just using the digital technology but also the creation of digital technology (Friedman). Changes of this magnitude are going to require principals to grow differently and faster than ever before. These changes are going to require principals that can coach teachers differently and yet hold all teachers to high expectations in their classroom performance. These changes are going to require the principal to move evaluation from an event done and marked off a list to a process that serves as a bridge to staff development that strengthens all teachers. These changes are going to require the principal to be a person of integrity holding every teacher to high expectations for student performance and confronting those who are not meeting those expectations by providing a workable plan for growth. (Platt et al. 3-5) And these changes are going to provide wonderful opportunities to serve America's families and students like no time before.

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Resources:

Danielson, Charlotte, and Thomas L. McGreal. Teacher Evaluation to Enhance Professional Practice. Alexandria: ASCD, 2000.

Daresh, John C. , and Marsha A. Playko. Beginning The Principalship: A Practical Guide for New School Leaders. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, Inc., 1997.

Leithwood, Kenneth, Karen Seashore Louis, Stephen Anderson, and Kyla Wahlstrom. "How Leadership Influences Student Learning." Learning from Leadership Project (2004): 2-5.

O'Shea, Mark R. . From Standards to Success: A Guide for School Leaders. Alexandria: ASCD, 2005.

Platt, Alexander D., Caroline E. Tripp, Wayne R. Ogden, and Robert G. Fraser. The Skillful Leader: Confronting Mediocre Teaching. Acton: Ready About Press, 2000.

Quinones, Sherri, and Rita Kirshstein. An Educator's Guide to Evaluating the Use of Technology in Schools and Classrooms. 2nd. ed. Washington: U.S. Department of Education, 1999.

Waters, Tim , Robert J. Marzano, and Brian McNulty. "Balanced Leadership: What 30 Years of Research Tells Us About the Effect of Leadership on Student Achievement." (2003): 3-9.