Principals perform well in pilot test of evaluation system

Some 94 percent of participating Colorado principals and assistant principals were ranked as proficient or higher in a pilot test of the state’s evaluation system, according to a new report from the Department of Education.

But the results may not be indicative of how school leaders will perform when the full evaluation system, which will eventually incorporate measures of student growth on standardized tests, rolls out. In addition, the report included ratings for only 410 principals and assistant principals in 21 pilot districts. The state has more than 2,800 principals and assistant principals, as calculated on a full-time equivalent basis.

The overall ratings for pilot principals found 18 percent exemplary, 30 percent accomplished, 46 percent proficient and 5 percent partially proficient. No principals were rated as skills being “not evident,” the lowest category.

Although the percentage differences were relatively small, the principals received the highest ratings in managerial leadership and somewhat lower ratings on instructional leadership and external leadership (family and community involvement).

“Historically that’s we’ve asked them to do, [so]… it’s not surprising” principals rated highest in management, said Katy Anthes, executive director of educator effectiveness for CDE. Anthes recently briefed the State Council for Educator Effectiveness on the report.

Those results are similar to those for teachers evaluated under the 2012-13 pilot (see story).

Principals were the initial guinea pigs for the evaluation system. A smaller group of principals and assistants was evaluated during 2011-12, and the pilot continued with a larger group during 2012-13. This school year all principals and teachers are being evaluated under systems that comply with Senate Bill 10-191, the law that created the new system.

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“A lot of people moved up a little bit” from the first year to the second, data analyst Britt Wilkinfeld told the council. Of the 196 principals who were evaluated both years, 36 percent improved their performance, she said.

“It’s skewed toward the positive, which isn’t surprising, she said, because “it’s still very early in the implementation” of the evaluation system.

“All findings should be considered preliminary,” the report cautions, because “educators “are still learning and becoming familiar with the system, there continues to be variability in the way districts are training and implementing the system and CDE is continuing to learn from and make improvements to the system.”

The report concluded that preliminary analyses of the pilot data “indicate that the professional practice rubric [score sheet] captures multiple aspects of school leadership and differences in principal practice.” Based on the preliminary findings, “CDE continues to find evidence for reliability and validity in the” principal evaluation system.

Principal standards

  • Strategic leadership
  • Instructional leadership
  • Equity leadership
  • HR leadership
  • Managerial leadership
  • External leadership

More info on standards & elements

The pilot principal evaluations were based on professional practices and lacked half of the evaluation data – measures of student growth. When the evaluations system is fully rolled out, both teacher and principal evaluations will be based half on professional practice and half on student growth. Both sets of data will be combined into ratings of highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. Principals already can be fired at the will of their employers, regardless of evaluations ratings. But non-probationary teachers will lose that status if they have two consecutive years of ineffective or partially effective ratings.

Each of the six principal quality standards includes three or more detailed “elements” on which principals are evaluated. For instance, the managerial leadership standard contains six elements, including one for budget management.

The CDE study found that pilot principals were rated highest on such elements as commitment to the whole child, ensuring supportive environments, maximizing instructional time, fostering professional learning communities and conflict management.

Lowest rated elements were implementing high-quality instruction, setting high student expectations, creating school plans, setting instructional practices, family and community outreach and budgeting.

Other study findings include:

  • Elementary principals were rated somewhat higher.
  • More experienced principals received better ratings.
  • Principals scored better than assistant principals.
  • Female principals scored better than males, but there were no statistically significant difference based on ethnicity.
  • Principal ratings were not correlated with student demographics but were correlated with the number of points earned on a school’s performance rating.
  • Ratings were correlated to schools’ overall student growth data, but the correlation was not statistically significant for TCAP scores.
  • Principal ratings were correlated with positive responses on teacher school-climate surveys.

The department surveyed pilot principals about the evaluations both before the program started and after each school year. The surveys showed “a steady increase of positive responses,” the report said.