Idaho’s principal evaluations get mixed reviews

A national research group says Idaho should do more to evaluate its school principals.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recently released its nationwide rankings of state principal evaluation systems. The study focused on two areas: principal effectiveness and evaluations and observations.

  • Principal effectiveness: Idaho ranked with eight other states in “nearly meeting” the NCTQ’s goal to help states “meaningfully assess principal performance.”
  • Evaluations and observations: Idaho ranked with 11 other states in meeting only a “small part” of the NCTQ’s goal to help states “require annual evaluations with frequent observations of all principals.”

NCTQ managing director of state policy Elizabeth Ross said Idaho is neither a positive nor negative outlier when it comes to principal evaluations, but she emphasized room for improving an “increasingly important” area of accountability.

“Every state should be laser focused on (principal effectiveness),” Ross said. “Research increasingly demonstrates how important a strong school leader is, particularly in terms of student achievement.”

State Department of Education spokeswoman Kristin Rodine said the SDE has confirmed the report’s factual accuracy. Rodine added that acknowledging the report’s accuracy does not mean the SDE agrees with its findings.

“SDE has no proposed rule changes or legislation concerning principal evaluations,” Rodine said.

What’s in the report

In nearly meeting the NCTQ’s “principal effectiveness” goal, Idaho earned points for the following:

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  • Requiring student achievement to count for 33 percent of a principal’s evaluation rating.
  • Requiring a principal’s professional practice to be assessed on the use of evaluations and other “formative feedback mechanisms.”
  • Requiring a principal’s professional practice rating to include either parent input, teacher input, student input or a portfolio.

Yet a lack of mandatory improvement plans for “less-than-effective” principals kept Idaho from fully meeting the NCTQ’s principal effectiveness goal.

“Idaho should adopt a policy requiring principals who receive even one less-than-effective evaluation rating to be placed on structured improvement plans,” the report notes. “These plans should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies, and describe how and when progress will be measured.”

In the “evaluations and observations” category, Idaho earned points for requiring annual principal evaluations. However, the lack of requirements to both track the number of times a principal is observed and a formal certification process for principal evaluators contributed to Idaho’s status as meeting only a small part of the NCTQ’s evaluations and observations goal.

The findings:

Click here and here for comparisons of how Idaho stacks up against other states in the NCTQ’s nationwide review of principal evaluations.

Click here and scroll to page 43 for administrative rules governing principal evaluations in Idaho.

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