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Leader Evaluation and Professional Learning

In previous posts I have mentioned I worked at The Wallace Foundation prior to joining Learning Forward. One of the projects I had an opportunity to participate in at Wallace was the development of the VAL-ED principal assessment instrument, which Wallace commissioned and Vanderbilt University developed. For those unfamiliar with VAL-ED, I invite you to visit the Discovery Education website for an overview of the instrument. As the Discovery website explains, VAL-ED is a research-based evaluation tool that measures the effectiveness of school leaders by providing a detailed assessment of a principal's perceived performance. VAL-ED, which is also a 360-degree assessment taken by the principal, teachers, and principal's supervisor, focuses on learning-centered leadership behaviors that influence teachers, staff, and most importantly, student achievement.

Last week I was reintroduced to VAL-ED through a webinar hosted by Discovery Education and led by Joseph Murphy, one of the instrument's principal investigators. The webinar reminded me of what I believe are two very important truths. In this era of educator effectiveness, schools and school systems must pay attention to the evaluation of leaders, as well as to their professional learning. More specifically, leaders should be given the same opportunities to improve their practice as the teachers they support. We know from the work commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and others that leadership is second only to effective teaching among all school-related factors that positively impact student learning.

For those who will be joining Learning Forward in Anaheim for the 2011 Annual Conference, you'll have several opportunities to hear from districts that have focused their attention and resources on leader evaluation. One such opportunity is the pre-conference session "Promoting Effective School Leadership Through Evaluation and Continuous Improvement." This session will highlight the leader evaluation efforts of two districts: St. Louis Public Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools. In addition to developing a deep understanding of the instrument through an interactive discussion led by district personnel, Wallace Foundation and Discovery Education staff, and a representative from Vanderbilt University, participants in this pre-conference session will also have the opportunity to take a portion of the assessment, which will be rated onsite by Discovery staff.

During the conference, the team from Gwinnett County will also share information about their approach to leadership development and support. Gwinnett was recently named one of The Wallace Foundation's principal pipeline districts and will receive resources to strengthen its already well-developed leadership development and support system. A panel session on Tuesday titled "How Districts can Grow and Support a Pipeline of Highly Effective Leaders" will give the team from Gwinnett an opportunity to share information about their approach to leadership.

For those interested in leadership issues, you'll find many other useful sessions during the Learning Forward 2011 Annual Conference in Anaheim, Dec. 3-7. Key emphases at this year's conference include:
• Measures of effective teaching and teacher evaluation;
• Links among professional learning, effective practice, and increased student learning;
• School and system leadership;
• The Common Core State Standards; and
• Learning Forward's recently released Standards for Professional Learning.

Browse the entire program to see what else the Learning Forward conference has to offer.

Frederick Brown
Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward

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