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South Carolina Aiming For Better-Trained Principals

Principal leadership is definitely getting a lot of attention: recently, two think tanks offered their suggestions on how a principal evaluation process could be introduced to the long-awaited reauthorization of the the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Now, South Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation that would mandate more frequent principal evaluations in that state. From the The State newspape in Columbia::

The state's deputy superintendent for educator quality, Mark Bounds, said the proposed regulations are about finding and creating the most effective school leaders. While teachers are the most important factor in students' success, principals are close behind, he said. Good ones foster a creative, energetic, positive atmosphere where students are expected to succeed, he said.

"I've never seen a school turned around that didn't have a great leader," he said.

Under one proposal, district officials would have to fully evaluate principals every other year, rather than every three years as currently required, and provide those records to the state through a new online system. Until this school year, districts only needed to tell the state evaluations were done.

The legislation appears to be generally supported by school administrators, but the concerns that they raise may be illustrative of the challenges of trying to implement principal evaluations nationwide through ESEA: namely, that an increase in staffing may be needed to do such evaluations well, and the sense that an outside entity is getting involved in local hiring and firing decisions.

According to the article, Bounds said several times that it's not the state's intent to get involved in local personnel actions, so clearly there have been some concerns there that he wanted to tamp down. Would those concerns be even stronger if the federal government stepped in to play a role in creating principal evaluation standards?

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