Assessing Educational Leaders: Evaluating Performance for Improved Individual and Organizational Results


Douglas B. Reeves

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    For James


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    Preface to the Second Edition

    In the first edition of Assessing Educational Leaders, I claimed that leadership evaluation was a mess. Our research revealed that the evaluations of educational leaders were frequently inconsistent, ambiguous, and unrelated to the strategic objectives of the school system—and that was when evaluations happened at all. In almost 20 percent of the cases we studied, leaders had never been evaluated in their present position. Finally, we found that the longer the tenure of leaders in their current position and the greater their responsibilities within a school system, the less likely they were to receive accurate and constructive evaluations. The response to these findings from a broad range of educational leaders, policymakers, advisers, and researchers suggested that it was time to update the book, add new resources for readers, and provide case studies of success.

    In this new edition, I offer evidence that a growing number of school systems are making significant improvements in their leadership evaluation procedures, providing models for the educational world to consider. Moreover, researchers and scholars offer practical insights into the key distinction between evaluation of leaders—a process sometimes fraught with politics, subjectivity, and relationship-poisoning judgment—and assessment of leaders—a process designed to provide feedback that will improve leadership performance. That distinction is at the heart of the new content in this edition, including

    • Principal Evaluation Rubrics (Resource E), an exceptionally creative contribution to the field by Kim Marshall, leadership coach for New Leaders for New Schools and the editor of The Marshall Memo ( Marshall not only brings a singular grasp of educational research to this project but provides the most practical method of principal evaluation I have found.
    • Hallmarks of Excellence Leadership Research (Chapter 10), a cutting edge leadership assessment and coaching tool designed to provide confidential feedback to senior leaders.
    • Planning, Implementation, and Monitoring (PIM) Research (Chapter 11), revealing the specific actions of educational leaders that are most linked to improved student achievement.
    • Examples of real-world applications of the Ascension Parish Leadership Professional Growth Matrix found in Resource F.

    While the new evidence in this edition offers some cause for optimism about the potential for improved leadership assessment, there is also considerable cause for caution. First, in the United States alone, we are about to witness a leadership turnover of unprecedented proportions, with the American Association of School Administrators (Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, & Meyerson, 2005) estimating that more than 40 percent of school leaders will be eligible for retirement within the next four years. Worse yet, the schools and districts most in need—poor, urban, and exceptionally challenging—are those least likely to retain effective leadership. Even among the nation's leading urban school systems, according to the Council of the Great City Schools, superintendent tenure averages only 3.1 years (2006), and cases of urban schools and districts with revolving doors in the executive suite are common.

    Some of these challenges are systemic—high-need schools and districts can burn leaders to a cinder with unsustainable hours and extraordinary stress, and therefore higher turnover might come with the territory. But many of the challenges causing leadership turnover are self-inflicted wounds. In particular, boards of education place demands on superintendents and, in turn, superintendents place demands on subordinate leaders, that range from the unreasonable to the ridiculous: The superintendent reprimanded by the board for failure to attend the right service club meetings; the principal called on the carpet for attending the birth of twins rather than the right basketball game; the academic dean raked over the coals for requiring a student to participate in a reading intervention that prevented a failure but irritated an activist parent. If this book can be reduced to a single sentence, it is the following: Leadership assessment must be focused on effectiveness, not popularity.

    Improvements in student assessment are a hallmark of the past two decades of educational research and practice. From a tradition dominated by multiple-choice tests and norm-referenced assessments, the work of Wiggins (1998) and Wiggins and McTighe (2005), Darling-Hammond (1997), Stiggins (2000), and Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, and Chappuis (2004) have brought authentic assessment and assessment for learning into the mainstream. It is therefore deeply ironic that the part of the educational establishment where advanced degrees predominate—building administrators and senior leadership—has failed to keep pace in the use of assessment that is designed to improve performance. If first-year teachers provided feedback to students in a manner that was ambiguous, inconsistent, and unrelated to performance goals, then their jobs would be in jeopardy. But if elected officials and administrators with terminal degrees commit the same offenses with their evaluations, then the too common reaction is resigned acceptance. Thus this edition of Assessing Educational Leaders is a clarion call to action. We should expect no less of policymakers and senior administrators than we require of novice teachers—evaluation, assessment, and feedback that is accurate, specific, and clear. Most important, we must change the fundamental purpose of assessment of leaders, following the pattern of recent changes in the assessment of students. The purpose of assessment is not to rate, rank, sort, and humiliate. The purpose of assessment is to improve performance. Only when leadership assessment achieves that goal will this book have achieved its purpose.

    Douglas B. Reeves

    Salem, Massachusetts

    January 2008


    Collaboration is the hallmark of any worthy endeavor. My colleagues at The Leadership and Learning Center are my constant source of intellectual challenge and stimulation. In the past year in particular, they have inspired me with their commitment and determination. Eileen Allison played a major role in support of the National Leadership Evaluation Survey. She gathered examples of leadership evaluations from school systems throughout the nation, searched the Internet with dogged determination, and lent her unique blend of persistence and gentility to the project, moving it from concept to reality. Cathy Shulkin transferred thousands of pieces of data from survey responses to the computer and thus made my life much easier. The survey respondents, whose candor made me fully recognize just how awful leadership evaluation is, deserve my particular appreciation. In addition, hundreds of superintendents and personnel directors shared their leadership evaluation forms, knowing full well that they might be critically examined. I hope that the constructive suggestions in this book justify the risk that they took in sharing their work with me. Every example—even the ones I excoriate—represents a triumph of learning over secrecy, and for that I am most grateful.

    Rachel Livsey of Corwin Press provided encouragement and support, as well as extremely helpful suggestions on the manuscript. Esmond Harmsworth of Zachary Schuster Harmsworth Literary Agency once again channeled my ideas into a completed book. Rachel and her colleagues challenge their authors to accept the advice of blind reviewers. These reviewers, whose contributions are almost invariably anonymous, deserve public credit in the case of this book. Dr. Libia Gil, Dr. Susan Kessler, and Suzanne Fonoti provided insightful, challenging, and much needed editorial advice. They confronted my prejudices and challenged my assumptions. They are more than editors and reviewers; they are good teachers, and there is no higher compliment I can offer. Toni Williams provided far more than the copyediting with which she is credited, but provided clarity and common sense where my original manuscript failed on both counts. Challenging authors is a difficult but necessary task, and readers can thank Toni for those moments in which they say, “I think I've got it.” Despite the help of so many insightful colleagues, I remain responsible for the text. The failings in the pages that follow are more likely to be due to my obstinacy rather than their failure to offer good advice.

    Footnotes are always inadequate to acknowledge the intellectual debt an author owes to others. My thinking on leadership evaluation has been particularly influenced by five people. Charlotte Danielson's (2002) pioneering work in teacher evaluation has had a profound and widespread impact on improving teacher evaluation. My fondest wish for this book is that it can do for leaders what Danielson has done for teachers. Linda Darling-Hammond, perhaps the preeminent scholar of teacher research of our age, has provided the intellectual structure and passionate advocacy that may yet transform teaching into the profession it must become. Her work is the example that those seeking to professionalize educational leadership must follow. Grant Wiggins has transformed the way we look at student assessment from a merely evaluative exercise into an educative one. The clarity, rigor, and constructive approach he brings to assessment of student performance represent the ideal toward which we should strive in leadership assessment. Robert Marzano has forced every leader to supplant opinions with research, prejudice with fact. In choosing the ways in which we evaluate leaders, Bob reminds us that our illusions of what great leaders look like must be replaced by the reality of what great leaders do. Mike Schmoker has wisely focused on the power of teachers and leaders at the building level. His careful documentation of school success in the most challenging of circumstances reminds us that diligence, focus, and building-level leadership are more powerful than grandiose visions and perplexing strategies.

    Most of all, I am indebted to my daily encounters with some of the nation's best organizational leaders in education, business, and government service. Some of these leaders are named, but many of them are anonymous in the pages that follow, particularly when I dissect their failings. The willingness of these leaders to discuss not only their successes but their vulnerabilities is a mark of courage and confidence. Their ability to embrace accountability rather than fear it sets an example for us all.

    This book, as with the 23 that preceded it, is written at the sufferance of a family who tolerates my absences and preoccupations. They are, most of the time, as happy to have me cheering on the sidelines, helping with homework, accompanying music practice, listening to their tribulations, or offering encouragement as they are to have me arrive so late in the evening that I can offer only my silent companionship. Their pictures, notes, and love sustain me through every journey. I am fortunate beyond words that they do not conduct the rigorous evaluation of me that I recommend to readers in the pages that follow. Shelley, Alex, Julia, James, and Brooks teach me many lessons: Fifty is beautiful, teenagers can be fun, tears are made to be shared, and childhood is brief. James, the young man to whom this book is dedicated, among the world's more worldly fourth graders, recoils at my fond recollections of his first years of life. During every midnight cry and noontime expression of wonder, he taught me more than I could possibly teach generations of my own students. His tenacity and tears, his toughness and tenderness, and above all his decency and generosity, are models I strive to emulate. Along with his mother and siblings, he defies Wilde's maxim that the lessons most worth learning cannot be taught. For the rest of my life, I will try to be a student worthy of these wonderful teachers.

    The contributions of the following reviewers are gratefully acknowledged by Corwin Press:

    Libia Gil, PhD

    Chief Academic Officer

    New American Schools

    Alexandria, VA

    Suzanne “Chris” Fonoti


    Cromer Elementary School

    Flagstaff Unified School District

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Susan Kessler, EdD


    Williamson County Schools

    Franklin, TN

    About the Author

    Douglas B. Reeves, PhD, is the president of The Leadership and Learning Center an organization that works with governmental organizations and school systems to improve standards, assessments, and accountability systems. The author of more than 20 books and many articles, he is the author of the best-selling Making Standards Work, now in its third edition. Other recent books include The Daily Disciplines of Leadership: How to Improve Student Achievement, Staff Morale, and Personal Organization (Jossey-Bass, 2002), The Leader's Guide to Standards: A Blueprint for Educational Excellence and Equity (Jossey-Bass, 2002), Reason to Write: Help Your Child Succeed in School and in Life Through Better Reasoning and Clear Communication (Simon & Schuster, 2002), and Holistic Accountability: Serving Students, Schools, and Community (Corwin Press, 2002). He has twice been named to the Harvard University Distinguished Author's Series and is the recipient of the Parent's Choice Award for his writing for students and parents.

    Beyond his work in assessment and research, he has devoted many years to classroom teaching with students ranging from elementary school to doctoral candidates. His family includes four children ranging from elementary school through college. He lives near Boston and can be reached at

  • Resource A: The Leadership Performance Matrix

    Resource B: National Leadership Survey Results

    Respondent Characteristics

    The National Leadership Survey was conducted from March to September 2002 with a nonrandom sample of 510 leaders from 21 states. The average respondent had 11.4 years of total leadership experience and an average of 4.9 years in their present position. While 18 percent of leaders had never been evaluated, the remaining respondents had been evaluated, on average, within the past six months.

    Leadership Perceptions

    Narrative Explanations: Best Evaluation Experiences
    • In a previous school district, the principal had 10+ years experience in my subject field. This principal came to class 5 times for 15 minutes, unexpectedly, sat through an entire class, and then made his evaluation. His comments were more real and helpful than any other evaluation and I learned to be a better teacher.
    • Engaged in a point by point discussion of evaluation criteria.
    • I had very positive written evaluation as an assistant principal in another district. Receiving the Ohio Hall of Fame Award for my school from the Ohio Elementary Principal Association was a great successful experience. Personal comments from parents and teachers.
    • Evaluator was familiar with my work in the field, which allowed for a true understanding of my abilities and performance with district personnel.
    • Setting goals and action plans. Use continuous improvement process.
    • Our district uses Charlotte Danielson's evaluation program. By focusing on each domain I have greatly improved.
    • A collaborative approach based on my goals and clear expectations for the performance responsibilities of the position. We used data from my experience and job performance and data from my supervisory experience and system perspective to cocreate the evaluation document. As such the written document and the experience were more valuable than if they had been entirely by myself or entirely by my evaluation.
    • I can remember some experiences as a teacher that helped my self-esteem but were not specific and therefore NOT helpful for improving my teaching.
    • I was well prepared for my evaluation. I knew that my evaluation was going to be based on the goals that were written over the summer. I had created a binder organized by goals. The evaluation went very smoothly.
    • Last year I had my staff fill out a leadership evaluation form on my performance. I used their recommendations to formulate some of my goals.
    • My evaluation is a way that I can affirm that I am doing my best for students, and I feel I am best at being with students while they are at school.
    • Discuss with superintendent my goals for the year related to our strategic plan, the board goals, the superintendent's goals and our leadership team goals—these are all related to Baldridge Initiative criteria. I'm looking forward to our exit evaluation at the end of the year.
    • I have an extremely supportive superintendent. I value the one-on-one time with him during the evaluation process.
    • As a principal, my former superintendent not only adequately and consistently evaluated performance but also gave one a feeling of personal value, warmth, and success. In other words, not only were there data to indicate completion of goals but also a narrative regarding overall participation and importance to the organization.
    • Evaluation was constant interaction and was not necessarily formal.
    • Specific references to strengths, things to work on. Also specific, reasonable ideas of how to improve—offers to provide resources, mentors to help with a problem. Assurances that it is okay to “let some things go. …”
    • We are a small organization. We do not have a lot of formal evaluations but we discuss strengths and weaknesses openly and correct or rethink processes all year long. Our communication is very open and honest. I can say “I screwed up” and know that we can all learn from this.
    • The superintendent worked with me on a monthly basis in the school setting. We evaluated monthly newsletters, staff evaluation forms, and the building environment. Staff input was sought, along with these monthly evaluation sessions, to formulate a final evaluation.
    • Having to list all my goals for the year and being reviewed by my supervisor. These same goals were reviewed at mid-year and finally at the end of the year. Keeping these goals in front of me and focused I feel was valuable.
    • My most successful evaluation experience was my last evaluation. My administrator complimented my strengths, while giving constructive criticism. She offered suggestions as well.
    • My superintendent focused on my talents and strengths. Although I have areas to improve, he clearly wanted me to focus on my talents and strengths to make improvements and manage my weaknesses.
    • A comprehensive narrative evaluation was given in March of a year in which the superintendent (because of special projects, programs, etc.) had spent a great deal of time in my building. He was able to be much more specific (and positive) than usual.
    • Very first evaluation as a supervisor: When we interviewed you and hired—who is she, where did she come from—by the end of the year same questions except where have you been. … Not well written but conveyed we couldn't believe our luck in finding you and seeing progress this year.
    • When I was a teacher and allowed to choose a project to work on (portfolio), I actually did research that was helpful in my job.
    • My first year as an administrator, my secretary gave the superintendent specific examples of my daily work. She was trying to be helpful because I had only been visited twice. The secretary's notes were references to my positive attributes.
    • Informal statements (written/verbal) shared with me by staff, community members, students, parents, and supporters that have been both critical and positive.
    • My last evaluation was more narrative and included district and personal goals.
    • Good positive feedback for strengths and solid concrete examples for improvement.
    • In my current position, my supervisor is very collaborative. Our division has a plan and my evaluation was based on that.
    • First evaluation in present position helped to establish clear expectations and area of future focus. Present evaluator (Superintendent) knows what she wants and is not shy about expressing expectations.
    • I was allowed to build on the positives, meaning I listed projects that I was in charge of and the steps I took to accomplish the goal (end product).
    • I have been lucky with having a director that is accessible to me and my school and who supports decisions and out of the box activities that I have tried. When she needs to advise me of something I need to do or haven't done, she does it in a nonthreatening way and provides the guidance and help that we need to make the change. It motivates me to follow the district's lead when I can still have the freedom to lead my staff on the journey in a way that we are all engaged in the learning that leads us on that road. My evaluator helps me do that.
    • The feedback I received—specific—has helped me to understand the district culture and enabled me to modify my behavior and expectations to fit the organizational culture and be more productive.
    • My most successful experience being evaluated as a leader was my first year as our assistant principal. The person supervising me was the principal of the school, a person with whom I had contact on a daily basis. This contact allowed me to ask frequent clarifying questions and to receive timely feedback. I felt that the principal scaffolded my learning for me across the entire year, as she worked to make sure that I gained the required knowledge to be successful at this particular school.
    • Two hour meeting—me and the superintendent to discuss progress on measured district progress—what worked, what plans do I have to improve for next year.
    • Allowing me to fit my yearly objectives (only after the first year when I knew the job responsibility) and then a year-end follow-up with my reflections. These were used as the basis for the supervisor's final evaluation.
    • When I had an opportunity to self-evaluate as part of the process.
    • Balanced evaluation between what I do well and what needs are for growth—my self-evaluation as part of evaluation—examples related to comments.
    • In a previous district in Illinois, we developed goals based on the goals and vision of the district. This was useful, positive, and kept me focused on what was important. My current district has a checklist that doesn't match anything.
    • The ability to actually see that I have made a difference in process or a person. Giving back and mentoring a team of people. I am new to the teaching profession, but have been in leadership training and development positions.
    • I participated in drawing up the guidelines for my own evaluation, which was merged with district guidelines as well. Evaluation was clearly based on job description so I knew exactly what was expected of me and whether or not I fulfilled the guidelines.
    • I facilitated a group of social science teachers who came to monthly meetings and went back to their campuses and shared their experiences. The end of the year reflection piece was very complimentary toward my work with them.
    • Conversationally oriented evaluation.
    • Feedback, encouragement, support.
    • My principal and I defined daily, which gives immediate positive feedback and areas for focus.
    • I worked at a particular school where the principal operated as a dictator. He single-handedly made all of the decisions and instilled fear in all of us. He chose not to interact with staff or students, so we only saw him where there was a problem … or when it was time for your evaluation. This man was extremely impressed with my teaching and was very complimentary. Although I did not consider him to be an instructional leader, I was comforted by the fact that he issued me a compliment. It boosted my confidence … and I pushed myself to continue to learn, grow, and improve in my instructional practice.
    • I was given my evaluation sheet (blank) in advance. I filled out my own evaluation and submitted it to my evaluator. Ideally, my supervisor would have used her form and mine to lead a discussion and then after the discussion fill out the final evaluation meshing the two documents. In reality, my supervisor merely copied my own words, signed her name, and submitted it.
    • My past evaluation outlined our division's accomplishments for the year and my involvement in these accomplishments. What made this successful to me was that my evaluator was aware of and appreciated our accomplishments. She also put the accomplishments in context, which gave them extra value. We then discussed our next steps together in a very positive environment.
    • Specific feedback … constructive criticism is helpful … honest assessment from all stakeholders, students, parents, administration, district … ongoing assessment …
    • Assistant Principal … (2) attended four sessions, (3) power standards, importance of writing, celebrating success, (4) fewer announcements and reports at meetings—more time for staff development.
    • The most successful experience has been when I've set the goals for which I would be evaluated and received feedback on these.
    • Using the portfolio when I had to identify my visions and goals. The goals had to be based on student and teacher needs identified by data analysis.
    • For the most part, all evaluations have focused on positive aspects of my performance as it related to the integration of technology.
    • Currently I experience weekly coaching in which I am able to ask questions, set goals, etc. The annual evaluation is then written with my input.
    • Discussions of the evaluation and areas of concentration for the next year.
    • Completing the process of evaluation in meeting the district's requirements for evaluation.
    • Reinforcing what was positively accomplished and not just suggestions.
    • My most successful experience was being promoted from [assistant] principal to principal. Being promoted for doing a good job as a leader was a great experience.
    • My most successful experience involved clear descriptions of my strengths and areas to improve as a leader. It was very informative. However, the reason I feel it was successful was because I respected the person who was completing my evaluation!
    • The person evaluating me was able to cite specific examples of what he had observed me do or not do. The person evaluating me was honest. I was able to ask questions and ask for feedback about specific actions or decisions I had taken, and my evaluator gave me practical suggestions and feedback.
    • To reinforce the goals and objectives of my position.
    • I had a close working relationship with my evaluator. The day-to-day suggestions, interactions, and comments were more valuable than the formal evaluation.
    • I only received a narrative evaluation. My experience was rather neutral. There were no specific checklists or portfolios requested or used. My superior told me I was doing a good job but not formally.
    • As an assistant principal, I was never evaluated! I begged for it because I learn from good effective feedback!
    • I am told that I am very approachable and have a calming nature.
    • I felt confident that I was doing a good job in my role as a leader when I was given the current position. Until that happened I really didn't know if others thought I was doing a good job prior to that.
    • The establishment of goals.
    • I appreciate the annual conference with the building principal to review my performance and set goals for the following school year.
    • Genuine, sincere criticism.
    • I have never had a successful evaluation experience. From the time I was a teacher, to guidance counselor, to principal, to superintendent, my evaluations have indicated my performance was exemplary. Never in 28 years have I received constructive feedback specific to an area where my performance was inadequate or ineffective. I am not perfect. I could benefit from constructive criticism and/or direction.
    • A conference was held early in the school year at which goals were formulated and discussed with the superintendent. A formal written evaluation followed.
    • Very positive comments on evaluation. Positive comments from students, parents, staff.
    • My experiences have been very similar. They have been rather general in nature based upon vague guidelines. All of my experiences have been positive to date.
    • Years ago—meeting with the superintendent. To discuss focus, goals, and improvement. Goals were established and work toward the success of goals—improvement of my skills was focus.
    • Feedback on a situation where the evaluator felt improvement could be made. It focused my attention to the area, and I feel I became a better administrator.
    • Relating the corporation and school goals to accomplishments made during the year.
    • When all the various aspects of my job were addressed.
    • Creating a portfolio to be presented during my evaluation.
    • Direct, practical feedback—no ambiguity.
    • Informal process was MUCH better.
    • Rich discussions and true focus on achievement.
    • [My best evaluation experiences are] when I have been in an evaluation meeting. Where my supervisor shared with me areas that he saw a need for growth and then discussed strategies with me. We also spent time discussing areas in which I have grown professionally over the last year.
    • Seat evaluation that was based upon quality criteria. Subordinate evaluation—if truly confidential it can be brutally honest and enlightening, particularly patterns that emerge.
    • Increase in students’ achievement as demonstrated by test scores or successful demonstration of learning.
    • I really have had good evaluations but none have helped me think about areas that I could explore for my own personal growth. I have had to seek my own growth decisions from my own view, which might not be as effective in real growth.
    • Being uninformed of my leadership skills that I brought to the table.
    • When my evaluator was someone I respected.
    • When I set an ambitious goal and met it—and I could share the efforts and successes.
    • Monthly “feedback sessions” with supervisor; weekly communication (verbal, written, email) between staff members.
    • It was a self-evaluation based on goals I set myself related to students’ outcomes.
    • When I had input as to the direction the school system was going.
    • Evaluation was based on the goals that I had submitted. These goals had been edited by the principal.
    • My principal selected me to take a leadership position in our elementary school as the Literacy First Educator. This was very complimentary of my professionalism and effectiveness.
    • My first evaluation I was rated “exemplary” in “Learning for Excellence” because of raised test scores. However, while I appreciated the rating, the original “assigned focus” of my position wasn't in that area.
    • (1) Setting goals collaboratively with the board in the summer/fall. (2) Review throughout the year with updates and continuous communication. (3) Summative analysis collaboratively accomplished with the board.
    • Our school system's evaluation process is on a goal setting basis and is not geared toward growth.
    • Positive reinforcement of success.
    • I was asked to evaluate myself and state short and long term goals for my positions.
    • These were taken to the evaluation conference where my evaluation was compared to that of my supervisor. From there, we discussed my goals with questions and input from my supervisor. The tone of the conference was professional, positive and supportive.
    • The evaluation form included a narrative outlining strengths.
    • Having specific goals and then being evaluated is always positive because measurable growth can be easily determined.
    • Writing professional goals, documentation and self-reflection.
    • Was asked if there was an area that surprised me, where there was any discrepancy … gave me a chance to say “I didn't perceive myself in that light, so what were you noticing that made you rate me at that level” (my self-expectation was higher than evaluator).
    • Personalized to my school, position, and goals for performance, A sharing of what I do well, as well as those items needing attention.
    • Moving forward with technology and library–media center philosophy in their goal setting. Library media specialists can profoundly influence school climate, collaboration and literacy.
    • The significance and usefulness is dependent on the effectiveness of my evaluator.
    • Working collaboratively with my superior to achieve academic and effective school goals tied to district goals. Together, we were a success.
    • When given specific feedback on strengths and weaknesses.
    • Leadership evaluations are based on meeting goals determined by myself. Several years ago my evaluator worked with me in a negative way to choose these goals. Time was taken at the end of the process for both of us to reflect on how goals were met, what was learned, etc.
    • When reflection and self-evaluation, aligned with goals for my performance, were a major part of my evaluation.
    • The Agency that I worked for used Personal Growth Plans that were linked to Agency and personal goals. These plans were reviewed 3x a year with a peer. At the end of the year they became a part of my professional portfolio. This was a wonderful way to motivate and perpetuate professional growth. The Agency used the work of W. Edward Deming as the basis for the evaluation system.
    • Through the cognitive coaching process I was afforded a preobservation conference where outstanding questions were asked of me and influenced my desire to grow.
    Narrative Explanations: Negative Evaluation Experiences
    • I currently have a principal who is a former band teacher (I teach physics) doing my evaluations. He has been to one of my classes. Though his evaluation was positive, it doesn't mean much to me for personal improvement. Learned how to get a good evaluation (dog and pony show).
    • To appease a few anonymous letter writers, the superintendent and Union official invited everyone to come to my office and a schoolwide award was presented to the teachers in my absence.
    • Using “perceptions” only as a measurement of effectiveness.
    • My beginning teaching—1970—the principal did not like my bulletin boards and my students’ posture!! No word about my teaching/curriculum.
    • The worst experience in a sense was to receive no evaluation at all. This message was, “You are not important enough to take my time to give you an evaluation.” The second worst experience was an evaluation never getting any input from me, never scheduling a progress or evaluation conference. He just wrote a minimum document, sent it to me, told me to sign it and return it by a certain date.
    • I received satisfactory and higher evaluations (4 out of 5). I was asked to resign and told that these “good” evaluations really didn't mean anything—even though they were written and signed, I was told they weren't truthful. The 5th evaluation was satisfactory and at the bottom the principal wrote “please don't share this with her.”
    • Being evaluated as an assistant principal by a principal that was very vague and uninspiring!
    • Little discussion—no evaluation of goals, accepted my report with little review.
    • Most have been positive.
    • Simply accounting of data as it related to goals created by me and the evaluator.
    • Checklist and certain positives and negatives “picked” out as strengths and weaknesses.
    • 1. Vague broad compliments—“Everything's great.” 2. No suggestions of what to do to help: “Gee, that's a tough one. I don't know what to do either.”
    • Criticized for asking for placement in a particular building. Notations of insubordination were placed in the final evaluation because I did not agree with the superintendent's decision … And years of not being evaluated at all!
    • Nothing in particular. Generally I have felt rather empty when no suggestions were given to me for improvement. Whenever evaluations are all positive and no suggestions for improvement, it leaves no motivation for growth and improvement.
    • Administrator evaluations are all the same with 1 sentence specifically related to my building leadership.
    • Evaluations were not based on frequent observations and dialogue—it was based on asking other personnel in the administration office their input—then wrote it based on mostly that. This entire process was not done with my awareness.
    • The superintendent explained that every administrator this year is receiving an “unsatisfactory” mark in a certain area because he felt that area was a weakness district-wide.
    • Checklist—three levels, everything marked down the middle. Narrative that was generic, so it included things wanted everyone to do—but as an individual already doing them—but not acknowledged!
    • No formal evaluation for 7 years.
    • As a new principal, I would have appreciated and grown professionally if I valued the evaluation process. My evaluator knew little failures or successes. Process was just that—a task that had to be completed. No standards/performance goals communicated.
    • Most of my evaluations were based on a friendly conversation—”Everything appears OK in your classroom, therefore keep it up.” There was little to no goal setting, professional dialogue, etc. …
    • No feedback.
    • While I was an assistant principal, I did not receive an evaluation for 3 years. I was never sure what the principal wanted.
    • An evaluation which was a “pat on the back” but not related to expectations or results.
    • Some circumstances and acknowledging the blunder on personnel areas.
    • Last year wasn't the worst; however, one notation on the evaluation was bothersome. In essence, I was told not to talk to other directors regarding school site issues.
    • I worked with a very ineffective principal. As the coordinator, then assistant principal, I had a lot of responsibilities. I was in charge of Categorical Budgets and some others.
    • Professional Director, new teachers, etc. The only time the principal gave me feedback was when she felt threatened that the staff came to me for decisions or that I knew more about programs, budget, etc. than she did. Although I learned much and had tons of responsibilities—it wasn't because of her guidance but lack of it that gave me the experience.
    • Really none—only when the process of evaluation has “felt” not real—only done to satisfy an organization's request.
    • My worst experience being evaluated as a leader is my current year—my first as an elementary school principal. The person supervising me is an assistant superintendent, a person with whom I have few contacts. I feel that I do not have frequent access to this person for clarifying questions and for feedback. I feel as though I am expected to know exactly what to do in every situation. There is no scaffolding of learning and I am required to seek out knowledge and information on my own from many sources. In this environment, I do not feel that the final evaluation that I will be receiving will be at all meaningful or helpful.
    • No evaluation at all—no feedback given to assist my performance.
    • Only occurred once—but following the end of year evaluation which was positive, and then an abrupt change of perception … within a 30-day period (driven by 2 specific incidents).
    • Changing jobs mid-year and having objective for my job no longer apply—not knowing what to work for.
    • Generally, when I knew what was being said was not truthful from evaluator—really just done as an “exercise” and not trying to give me honest feedback.
    • Currently, a checklist is used and it doesn't correlate to anything. Since I was used to setting goals in a previous district, I still do that for myself! All my evaluations have been very positive—just not useful or growth producing.
    • Working with a project team who was not on the same page—didn't have the same objectives from the beginning of the project. The team had not been brought together as a team—too many separate agendas—I wasn't able to bring them together as an effective team.
    • I've been in this position for 10 months without any kind of a quality evaluation of my performance.
    • During a goal setting process I was asked to modify my goals. In essence, my supervisor's goals were imposed upon me. I cannot remember them—they were set 8 months ago.
    • Student teaching—I was evaluated on my wardrobe not my teaching!
    • “This doesn't apply to you, but I have to do it anyway” stated by more than one principal.
    • No formal evaluation.
    • Most evaluations have been very generic. Administrators simply check “Professionally Competent” in each category. This does not give me specific feedback. It doesn't inspire me or help me set goals. Evaluation in its formal sense seems only to be an isolated process completely disconnected and unrelated to my instructional practice. Furthermore, I've not yet had an administrator whom I consider to be an instructional leader. They are so disconnected from the classroom reality that they can't properly advise me. …
    • I was called in to a cold office, sitting across the large desk from a stern principal. She handed me an evaluation with the areas (which I had never seen) already filled in. When I could give proof that the evaluations were not accurate, the supervisor (principal) agreed that her evaluation was not accurate. She didn't change the comments, but did add one sentence at the end of the entire evaluation that unsuccessfully attempted to address the discrepancy.
    • As a middle school principal, my Superintendent told me the new high school exit exam coming the following year was going to be highlighted in the media as an indictment of feeding middle schools and what did I plan to do about that? She offered no reflection, thoughts or ideas. Just the challenge. It was scary. I went to the high school district.
    • Too general … Wait until the end to tell you what you should be doing, instead of ongoing assessment. …
    • My “worst” experience was not receiving any evaluation in 2 different school districts as a principal.
    • I got an excellent evaluation—but my evaluator and I never discussed any of the areas I was evaluated on.
    • I was accused of several things without being given an opportunity to present my case. I was called abrasive and told that there was a “rap sheet” going around the district about me and that nobody wanted to work with me. It was very painful and handled very poorly.
    • Not being evaluated in a timely manner, skipped a year.
    • My evaluations are passive in nature and often grounded in rumor or speculation rather than facts or performance of leadership. The process lacks substance, support, or motivation for leadership growth.
    • When a superior lied.
    • My evaluator made it clear that everyone being evaluated was “satisfactory.” There was no acknowledgement of my accomplishments because it might make others look bad.
    • I know I am not perfect and sometimes my evaluations do not specify my area of weakness.
    • I guess it would be—not being evaluated at all!
    • Post-evaluation conference that literally consisted of …“You are doing a great job—keep up the good work!”
    • I have been noted as not being able to make a timely decision.
    • Not being evaluated.
    • I haven't had a bad experience, just no feedback as to how to do an even better job.
    • Not being evaluated for 15 years.
    • It was positive, but did not note anything special or meaningful.
    • Haven't had one!
    • I was verbally told, “Not to worry … You're doing a great job.” I almost forgot the time a principal had me complete an evaluation instrument for my position, and he signed it.
    • Not being evaluated.
    • Evaluation was vague. I'm glad it was good—but—I also know areas that I can improve on and would like specific feedback on those areas.
    • No “formal” evaluation contact during the year. Form was given to me by appearing in my mailbox. I signed and returned it.
    • Once per year—lots of build up and stress—would rather be evaluated 2–4 times/year.
    • Had completed instrument in my mailbox with note attached—never actually sat down for pre- or post- and was never observed.
    • Evaluated by someone with a very narrow agenda.
    • Very little interaction with evaluator.
    • Where I was called to the office to sign an evaluation but there was no dialogue at all concerning my performance.
    • I've not had that experience.
    • During an evaluation conference I was told that certain deficiencies needed to be addressed that had never ever been mentioned before. Had I known there was a problem, it would have been addressed.
    • As administrative intern—principal said he “could fry me.”
    • Not having one for 2 years and then being held accountable for a performance I had no knowledge about.
    • I was evaluated by someone who never visited my building except to see my goals and at the end of my goals.
    • Initiative was totally from me—follow up was just an acknowledgement that I had met supervisor's criteria. It was not at all threatening and also not helpful—just another task.
    • This year when my supervisor asked me to work with two of my co-workers to evaluate each other. We basically completed our own evaluations and then signed each other's forms.
    • My evaluations have not been good or bad, just not meaningful tools for growth.
    • No real problem in being evaluated.
    • Being evaluated by a Principal that was totally incompetent.
    • Characteristics were checked off as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory—period.
    • After carrying the majority of the responsibility for academic achievement the previous year (by a different administrator, who was promoted, by the way), I was told there wasn't a sufficient gain; therefore, I was only proficient in the area of “learning for excellence.”
    • Form completed in isolation by the board and then presented to me as a number. That number was what determined the rate of merit pay.
    • No specific feedback from presentation of my evaluation to Board—I feel we should be allowed to participate in this presentation.
    • The evaluation form was left on my desk and I was asked to sign and return it to my supervisor.
    • I was handed the form to sign—there was no discussion.
    • I have not had a bad experience during evaluation.
    • The Stephen Covey Leadership Workshop evaluation as a leadership survey was not effective. Since a variety of people were surveyed and the result was a compilation, it was impossible to discern possible problems or to find out specific weaknesses.
    • Brief, “you're great,” sign here, when I felt like I had experienced a very unfulfilling year with very little new growth.
    • Supervisor spends time during the evaluation. Completing the form. Then, nothing positive is mentioned. Therefore, an impersonal process—stated at the beginning that they were in a hurry.
    • An evaluator who just goes through the process with no end in mind. It was just something that needed to be done.
    • At this time I don't have a “worst experience” and I hope this never becomes a negative or non-productive process.
    • No feedback.
    • My other 9 evaluations as an administrator have been a joke. I write the goals with no discussion, and then at the end of the year I mark whether or not goals were met and then evaluate and sign off on them. These have been my discussions.
    • When I had to complete my own evaluation form and that was the evaluation! I value frequent specific reinforcement rather than summative evaluation.
    • I was fortunate in not having one!
    • This was when an evaluator was clearly not confident about his level of understanding, so he had me articulate what I felt the observation should reflect.

    Resource C: Leadership Evaluation Survey

    The Center for Performance Assessment is conducting research into the nature of leadership evaluations for a forthcoming book by Dr. Douglas Reeves, Assessing Educational Leaders: Evaluating Performance for Improved Individual and Organizational Results to be published by Corwin Press in 2003. Your responses are completely confidential and will be an important part of this research. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    Resource D: The Gap Between what Leaders know and what they do

    Resource E: Principal Evaluation Rubrics


    Rationale and Suggestions for Implementation

    • These rubrics are organized around six domains covering all aspects of a principal's job performance:
      • Diagnosis and Planning
      • Priority Management and Communication
      • Curriculum and Data
      • Supervision and Professional Development
      • Discipline and Parent Involvement
      • Management and External Relations

      The rubrics use a four-level rating scale with the following labels:

      • 4—Expert
      • 3—Proficient
      • 2—Developing
      • 1—Novice
    • The rubrics are designed to give principals an end-of-the-year assessment of where they stand in all performance areas—and detailed guidance on how to improve. They are not checklists for school visits. To knowledgeably fill out the rubrics, a principal's supervisor needs to have been in the school frequently throughout the year; it is irresponsible to fill out the rubrics based on one visit.
    • The Proficient level describes solid, expected professional performance; no principal should be ashamed of scores at this level. The Expert level is reserved for truly outstanding leadership as described by very demanding criteria; there will be relatively few scores at this level. Needs Improvement indicates that performance has real deficiencies—nobody should be content with scores at this level—and performance at the Does Not Meet Standards level is clearly unacceptable and needs to be changed immediately.
    • When scoring, take each of the 10 criteria and ripple up and down the four levels (for example, reading the descriptions for item “a.” at Expert, Proficient, Developing, and Novice), find the level that best describes performance, and swipe the whole line with a highlighter. This creates a vivid graphic display of overall performance, areas for commendation, and areas that need work (see sample on pages, 184–185).
    • Evaluation conferences are greatly enhanced if the supervisor and principal fill out the rubrics in advance (using the highlighter approach), then meet and compare scores one page at a time. The supervisor has the final say, but the discussion should aim for consensus based on actual evidence of the fairest score for each criterion. Supervisors should go into the evaluation process with some humility because they can't possibly know everything about a principal's complex world. Similarly, principals should be open to feedback from someone with an outside perspective—all revolving around whether the school is producing learning gains for all students. Note that student achievement is not explicitly included in these rubrics, but clearly achievement scores are directly linked to a principal's leadership. The role of student results in evaluation will be for each district or governing board to decide.
    • Some supervisors sugarcoat criticism and give inflated scores for fear of hurting feelings. This does not help principals improve. The kindest thing a supervisor can do for an underperforming principal is give candid, evidence-based feedback and robust follow-up support. Honest scores for all the principals in a district can be aggregated into a spreadsheet that can give an overview of leadership development needs for the district (see page 186 for a sample).
    SOURCE: Copyright Kim Marshall 2007. Permission granted for educational purposes.
    A. Diagnosis and Planning

    The principal:

    B. Priority Management and Communication

    The principal:

    C. Curriculum and Data

    The principal:

    D. Supervision and Professional Development

    The principal:

    E. Discipline and Parent Involvement

    The principal:

    F. Management and External Relations

    The principal:

    Evaluation Summary Page

    Sample Page Using Highlighter Approach to Scoring

    The principal:


    Resource F: Ascension Parish Leadership Professional Growth Matrix1

    Scoring by major domains and individual leadership dimensions occurs by adhering to the following protocol:

    • Assess or evaluate the administrator on whether the descriptions in the tables that follow can be observed as stated. Judgments about one dimension may not apply to the next, and administrators need to be careful to score each cell of each dimension of each domain individually and based on evidence of criteria statements.
    • Domain scores (e.g., 1.0 Student Achievement or 9.0 Professional Development) are determined by examining all the categories assessed and by determining which category represents the preponderance of evidence supporting and substantiating the designation. Definitions of Exemplary, Proficient, Progressing, Not Meeting Standards, and Preponderance of Evidence are provided on pages 209–210 following the Ascension Parish Leadership Professional Growth Matrix.
    • Dimension scores (e.g., 5.5 Communicates effectively for change) require demonstration of all the positive attributes contained in the narrative description, encouraging administrators to deepen their effectiveness and continuously improve.

    1. Used with permission from Patrice Pujol.

    Task Force End Statement

    Ascension Parish was looking for an evaluation system that could be aligned to the continuous improvement model they were creating for school improvement. They also were cognizant of pending transitions across administrative levels and were interested in a professional growth model for administrators that reflected best practices and promoted collaborative relationships between supervisors and those supervised. They recognized the potential in AEL for greater focus, reciprocity, and the ability to be proactive in developing leaders. Finally, they were interested in a framework that would challenge the veteran and novice alike, recognize differences, and build on leadership strengths.

    • Performance Dimensions
      • Exemplary. This designation represents more than excellence or even achieving at higher levels than other administrators. Scores at this level represent performance that not only meets the rigorous and challenging expectations of proficient performance, but clearly demonstrate a systemwide impact that has influenced Ascension Parish schools in a way that will benefit staff and students for the foreseeable future. It does not represent perfection, but Exemplary means the administrator has gone beyond the requirements of his or her position to build capacity in others for the benefit of the entire organization.
      • Proficient. This represents a high degree of skill and accomplishment in the particular domain or dimension. This designation means the administrator has demonstrated excellence in meeting Ascension Parish's high expectations for performance. It means that the administrator consistently meets the expectations of the Parish in the dimension or domain. It is a designation that is not achieved automatically because someone achieved it last year, but something that requires dedication and focus each and every year of an administrator's career. Although veteran administrators are more apt to demonstrate proficiency in specific dimensions or domains just because of the cumulative effort and wisdom of their experience, the standards are challenging enough to require very high quality performance year after year, at levels set by the profession of administrative leaders in Ascension Parish.
      • Progressing. This designation represents performance that demonstrates appropriate effort but limited evidence that the skills and attributes have become established for the administrator. An administrator may be doing an excellent job of pursuing proficiency, but has yet to see the prescribed changes in faculty performance or communication structures or student achievement to warrant Proficient. It means the administrator is focused in the right direction but will need to demonstrate a number of attributes before achieving proficiency in those areas. It will be rare for any administrators, even expert veterans, to complete the cycle without some areas scored as Progressing. New administrators or those new to Ascension Parish will earn Progressing designations on some dimensions simply because it takes time and familiarity to lead faculties, staff, and students to make changes. This designation points administrators toward the standard of proficiency, providing focus and direction to their efforts and to continuous improvement.
      • Not Meeting Standards. This designation represents a level that is unacceptable and requires immediate attention and monitoring. It may mean that the administrator tries to do everything without delegating (see dimension 7.3) or it may mean the administrator has not viewed the need to develop potential leaders from within his or her staff (dimension 7.2). Scoring at Not Meeting Standards for these dimensions does not mean the administrator needs to be removed from his or her position, but it does mean these areas need to be addressed now. On the other hand, some dimensions are much more serious when a Not Meeting Standards is observed, such as Dimension 2.5 (administrator honors the time and presence of others), where Not Meeting Standards may mean disrespectful behavior toward others and a pattern of being late and unprepared for meetings. These issues also need immediate intervention, but further demonstration of such behavior would certainly warrant progressive discipline that could lead to dismissal.
    • Louisiana Leadership Standards. The Matrix conforms very closely with the Louisiana Leadership Standards, as they are referenced within the Matrix. The Matrix addresses each standard with explicit, observable acts of leadership that actually provide clarity to the standard that is not there without the Matrix. Administrators can rest assured that pursuing proficiency on the Ascension Parish Leadership Professional Growth Matrix more than meets the expectations for leaders in Louisiana, providing very clear expectations and a guide for continuous improvement.
    • Legal Aspects of Evaluation. This Matrix does not replace all the existing legal elements of the evaluation process, including due process, progressive discipline, and notification. The Matrix does, however, provide a candid and transparent look at performance that benefits a marginal employee by providing accurate feedback early and avoiding the surprise (shock) of a post hoc evaluation conference at the end of the school year. The Matrix is about improvement and the framework ensures that everyone involved in the process knows where performance is now and where it needs to be in the future. The relationship of supervisor to supervisee is designed in the framework to change from a referee to a coach, and the relationship for the administrator being supervised changes from someone being judged to a participant in improvement.
    • Preponderance of Evidence. This is a professional judgment about the holistic performance on each of the nine domains based on the quality and relative strength of the scored dimensions.

    Preponderance of Evidence is not a numeric average, but an overall assessment of performance informed by the scores. For example, if a domain (e.g., 4.0 Decision Making) has four dimensions scored as Progressing, Exemplary, Not Meeting Standards, and Proficient, it would be poor professional judgment to consider that individual Proficient because of the Not Meeting Standards designation, and the behavior may be serious enough on the dimension that is Not Meeting Standards that even a total score of Progressing would be an inappropriate and even irresponsible assessment. A score of Progressing with immediate attention to the dimension not meeting standard is a much better professional judgment. At the same time, scores of Progressing, Progressing, Progressing, Proficient, and Proficient in 1.0 Student Achievement may warrant a Proficient score because of the importance of dimensions 1.1 (describes gains and closing of learning gaps) and 1.2 (using data to make decisions about instruction). Hence, the framework relies on the administrator to candidly and continually self-assess his or her performance and the supervisor to be equally well-versed in best practices and educational research to determine preponderance of evidence.


    The process is designed primarily for improvement:

    • Improved performance for the administrator being supervised because the Matrix offers precise, identifiable, and measurable performance targets to pursue.
    • Improved performance for the supervisor because of the obligation of reciprocity, or advocacy for the person being supervised to succeed.
    • Improved performance for the school and system because the Matrix is transparent about its expectations for candor, integrity, collaboration, and respect for every student and every employee.
    • Improved performance for teachers, because the Matrix clearly illustrates to faculty the unique and considerable challenges of leadership in schools today.
    • Improved performance for the Board of Education because the characteristics of successful leadership provide the school system a unique window into practices that work and leadership practices that do not—a research goldmine regarding leadership that has been unavailable to school systems until now.


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