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Dallas to Count Student Achievement in Evaluating Principals

Starting this school year, Dallas school leaders will be evaluated under a new system that is based 40 percent on student achievement. The Texas administrators join principals from Hawaii, Chicago, and Los Angeles in getting new evaluation systems that emphasize student achievement—and that use multiple measures to gauge achievement—this school year.

The student-achievement component of administrators' evaluations will be based on a mix of measurements rather than on performance on a single standardized test. Those measures will include "college- and career-readiness metrics," scores on the state's standardized test, and the school's achievement gap, among other factors, according to a district press release. Criteria for waivers that states have received under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and for federal grant programs like Race to the Top have encouraged states and districts to require that student achievement play a significant role in administrators' evaluations. Matthew Clifford, a senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research, said that more districts are beginning to use more than one measure of student achievement in their evaluations of school leaders.

The other 60 percent of the evaluation will be based on five measures, including a survey of parents about the climate of their children's schools and improvement in teacher effectiveness.

A "concept paper" from the school district says that professional development for principals will accompany the evaluation system: "No aspect of the evaluation system for principals will be implemented without significant efforts to build the skill and capacity of our principals to be successful."

Both the emphasis on professional development and the use of more than one assessment to represent student achievement seem to line up with recommendations from the national principals' associations, which put out a report last fall suggesting that student academic growth be only one of many factors in principals' evaluations. The National Association of Secondary School Principals' Dick Flanary said that his organization favors evaluation systems that use student achievement for less than half a principal's score.

In related news, the George W. Bush Institute released a report Tuesday, called "Operating in the Dark," that says most states do not collect information about how their principals are trained and evaluated. My colleague Sarah Sparks wrote about that paper and its implications for principals and states for this week's issue of Education Week.

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