You are here

News Update

A New System for Principal Evaluation

Gail Connelly, NAESP executive directorPrincipals represent a major force in school systems—95,000 principals are responsible for overseeing 3 million teachers and 55 million pre-K8 students. Though they are second only to teachers in terms of school influence on student success, inconsistencies and concerns with practices for principal evaluation abound.

So, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) developed “Rethinking Principal Evaluation: A New Paradigm Informed by Research and Practice,” a set of guidelines for evaluation presented at a September Congressional briefing. This is the first time that both research and principal experiences were considered to create rules schools can use for more effective evaluations, says Gail Connelly, NAESP executive director.

The report was developed by a joint committee of practicing principals nationwide over the past two years. It identifies six key domains of school leadership that should be included in principal evaluation systems to create more successful schools: professional growth and learning; student growth and achievement; school planning and progress; school culture; professional qualities and instructional leadership; and stakeholder support and engagement.

“We wanted to pair the practical knowledge and wisdom from principals with the realities of the research,” says Connelly. “We need to create evaluation systems for principals that take into consideration the complexities of the job.”

Schools should examine their systems to make them more comprehensive and effective, says Steve Ross, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Research and Reform in Education who worked on the report. “Evaluation practices that overemphasize student achievement will probably not be fair or valid,” says Ross. Promoting professional growth and development is important, as is recognizing the improvements principals make that haven’t yet produced student achievement, he adds.

It’s also important to consider the conditions and interests of each district when developing an evaluation system, such as the number of teachers, the principals’ level of experience, and the influence of the school board, says Ross.

Principal Jon Millerhagen of Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minn., a member of the committee, agrees. “Supervisors and principals now have a place to collaboratively and collectively begin creating evaluation practices that support principals in their work and clarify a direction for schools,” he says. “I’m sure it will result in an increase in achievement and successful learning experiences for students.”

To read the full report, go to