A study of the relative importance principals and their supervisors assign to criteria used to evaluate principals

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The critical role of the principal in school leadership and school improvement, as highlighted in the research and in the plethora of national reports on education, has increased demands for principal accountability. While it is known that principals must handle many varied expectations relative to their job performance and that clear, mutually understood criteria are essential to effective evaluation, there is little evidence that the perceptions of principals and their supervisors relative to the evaluation criteria have been adequately explored.

The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions of principals and their supervisors relative to the importance of criteria used to evaluate principals. Specifically, the study addressed the extent to which area superintendents in a large suburban school system differed in the relative importance they assigned to performance standards used to evaluate elementary versus secondary principals, the differences in relative importance principals and their supervisors (area superintendents) assigned to these standards, and the extent to which principals were able to predict the relative importance their supervisor gave to the various standards.

A descriptive survey method was used in this study. The population consisted of 120 elementary principals, 41 secondary principals, and four area superintendents. Respondents were asked to assign 100 points to eight county-adopted performance standards to indicate the relative importance they attached to each. Descriptive statistics (frequencies and means) were used to report results.

The major findings relative to the school system studied were: (1) that there was little variation between and among principals’ supervisors in the weights they placed on the various evaluative standards, (2) that supervisors, elementary principals, and secondary principals had similar perceptions of differences in the relative importance of the eight generic performance standards, (3) that principals and their supervisors were closer in their expectations relative to the importance of the evaluative standards than most principals thought they were, and (4) that there were few differences among principals based on any of several demographic variables studied.