Evaluating Teachers and Principals

By Naomi Dillon

In the ongoing and increasingly tense debate about how to improve public schools and the outcomes of students, teachers have come front and center. And, small wonder, research has consistently shown that teachers are the No. 1 school factor when it comes to advancing student learning.

Thus, we’ve seen a flurry of policies and programs enacted in recent years that seek to highlight this relationship, most notably in the way teachers are evaluated. NSBA’s Center for Public Education Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull documented this in his recent report, “Trends in Teacher Evaluation.”

Few people, teachers among them, would argue that previous evaluation systems were good at providing useful and timely feedback to help improve instruction. However, the same also can be said of how schools evaluate principals, which research suggests is the second most important school factor in student achievement.

Principals, as much as anyone else in a school system, are the ones putting into place the district’s vision for educational excellence. They do this through selecting qualified and effective teachers to join their ranks, by creating a culture that supports continuous improvement and collaboration, and by getting the necessary resources to align big-picture goals with everyday realities. They also advocate for change when there is a mismatch.

These are principals at their best and most effective. Just like teachers, they increasingly are being judged by the academic progress their students make.

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