Few would argue with the notion that an effective principal is the cornerstone of school improvement. Yet efforts to develop meaningful appraisal systems for principals have been overshadowed by the intense debate and controversy over how to measure teacher performance. That focus is now shifting due to the recognition of a need to improve both systems in tandem.
A new law in Texas, Senate Bill 1383, has laid the groundwork for a better appraisal and professional development system specifically for principals. Until now, principals have been included in the appraisal of administrators in general. The new law will require the state’s commissioner of education to develop a comprehensive appraisal and professional development system for principals and report back to state policy leaders by Dec. 1, 2012, and then again in 2014.
The commissioner is expected to collaborate with a consortium of nationally-recognized experts. Such experts should be expanding rapidly as funding and research initiatives increase. Some initiatives already in the works include the following:
WestEd recently released a review of 30 years worth of studies on principal evaluation and concluded that the research base was extremely thin and that most district-developed principal evaluation systems are lacking in validity, reliability, and alignment with professional standards. As national, state, and local efforts to improve principal appraisal and development pick up speed, districts should have plenty of models and resources to guide their efforts in the near future.
Senate Bill 1383 does not require districts to use the commissioner’s new model for principal appraisal. Districts will be allowed to choose between the state model or a local system developed by district committees and approved by the board.