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New Guide Released for Creating Principal Evaluations

The National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality has released a "practical guide" designed to help states and districts create meaningful principal evaluation systems.

The guide is based on research into the current state of school leader evaluations as well as lessons learned from evaluation designers. It takes its readers through eight steps, from creating goals for an evaluation system, to selecting the measures that will be used, to evaluating the system after it has been put in place.

Matthew Clifford, a senior research scientist at the American Institutes for Research and one of the authors of the guide, said that principal evaluation systems are often built on the same framework as systems that measure the effectiveness of teachers. "Often, we are lumping educators together, when in actuality, the jobs are quite different," Clifford said. In addition to his work on the guide, Clifford is the main author of a brief on principal evaluations called "The Ripple Effect," which synthesizes the current state of research into principal effectiveness.

Clifford said that the guide can be thought of as a toolbox for the facilitators guiding the creation of an evaluation system. "The Ripple Effect" report goes in depth on the underlying reasons why those tools are meaningful.

This guide from the federally funded comprehensive center and AIR is the latest effort in creating meaningful ways to measure a school leader's effect on his or her school. The Obama administration has tried to steer the discussion, saying in its 2010 blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that states define what it means to be an "effective" or a "highly effective" principal. Also, the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals announced last year a joint effort to help states create evaluation tools that would provide school leaders both trustworthy feedback and opportunities for growth.

All of these efforts fit together, Clifford said, but the continuing challenge is in making sure that evaluation systems fit into a local context—thus, the creation of the guide. "We want to make sure that district and state priorities for improvement are considered in the evaluation systems," Clifford said. Working through the process should help states and districts create "valid, reliable, and politically supported evaluation systems."

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