A Comparative Study of Principal Performance Evaluation in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Toler, Benita Burke
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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) makes unprecedented demands on states, school districts, and schools to raise academic achievement and to improve low-achieving schools. Many believe that schools are only as good as the principal leading the school. There is evidence that the format and processes used in principal evaluation often vary from one state to another, and even among school districts within a state. The purpose of this study is to examine the status of principal performance evaluation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The study reviews and compares all school divisions' descriptions of principal evaluation systems, information collection strategies, and schedules for information collection and evaluation of principals. The primary purpose of this study was to describe the evaluation process for principals in the Commonwealth of Virginia. An attempt was made to (1) find out what procedures school divisions used to evaluate principal performance, (2) determine how the evaluation process varied by divisions type (i.e., suburban, urban, and rural), size and location, (3) find out the structures in place for high-performing principals to share effective practices, (4) determine the strategies used to support principals who are evaluated as needing improvement, (5) analyze documents that cover policies and procedures governing principal evaluation, and (6) to present a summary and analysis of data with implications for further research. This study was conducted first by analyzing a questionnaire regarding assessment practices currently being used by school divisions received from 91 school divisions; second, by examining the principal evaluation documents returned by 61 of the responding school divisions in Virginia; and third, by gathering data on how principals are recognized for outstanding performance, or supported if they need improvement. The demographics of school divisions represent 1,407 principals and 812,211 students. An extensive review of literature was conducted to explore principal evaluation and its effect on the quality of education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The information accumulated through the literature review, the questionnaire data and the document analysis resulted in findings that profile a comprehensive view of the status of principal evaluation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The findings of the study indicated that there is agreement among researchers and policymakers that an evaluation process must be in place in order to have effective principals and thus effective schools. The data in this study showed that more than half of respondents (67%)had procedures in place for regularly reviewing and revising principal evaluation procedures. However, 33% of school divisions did not have procedures in place. This is a sizable number, and a matter of concern, since principal evaluation has been mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1972.
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