98 percent of principals earn top marks on evaluations

Nearly all of Idaho’s principals earned top scores on their evaluations from the 2018-19 school year, according to a new report that is nearly identical to teacher evaluation data.

According to new data obtained from the State Department of Education, 933 of Idaho’s 951 principals earned one of the top two scores on their most recent evaluation. That calculates to 98.1 percent of all principals who were evaluated.

On Sunday, Idaho Education News reported that 98.1 percent of teachers earned top marks on their evaluations from the same school year.

Just like teachers, there are four overall scores a principal can earn on his or her annual evaluation — “distinguished,” “proficient,” “basic” and “unsatisfactory.”

Overall scores for principals broke down as follows:

  • Distinguished: 125 principals, or 13 percent.
  • Proficient: 808 principals, or 85 percent.
  • Basic: 17 principals, or 1.8 percent.
  • Unsatisfactory: One principal, or 0.1 percent.

Overall scores for teachers broke down as follow:

  • Distinguished: 3,109 teachers, or 16 percent.
  • Proficient: 15,466 teachers, or 82.1 percent.
  • Basic: 325 teachers, or 1.7 percent.
  • Unsatisfactory: 24 teachers, or 0.1 percent.

By rule and state law, student achievement must be factored into evaluations for both principals and teachers. At a time when 98.1 percent of both principals and teachers earned scores of proficient or above, just 44.5 percent of Idaho students were proficient in math. And just 55 percent of students were proficient or above in English language arts, according to results from standardized tests.

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What the report tells us, and what it doesn’t

Much of the principal evaluation data released by the SDE was redacted and unavailable to the public because of state data privacy rules. The SDE released statewide totals for principals but redacted district-level data where there are five or fewer principals. Therefore, the public has no idea how principals performed in 133 school districts or charters.

For example, the SDE reported that 98 of West Ada’s 99 principals earned overall scores of proficient, while one principal earned a score of basic. In Boise, all 75 principals earned overall scores of proficient.

But the state redacted all data for most charters and schools districts. That means it’s anybody’s guess how principals in Fruitland, St. Maries, Wilder, Notus, Parma, Mackay, Challis, Ririe and dozens of other districts and charters performed. However, because the SDE released statewide totals showing 98.1 percent of all principals scores proficient or above, it’s a safe bet that principals in those districts or charters likely earned scores of proficient or above.

How principals are evaluated

Idaho has administrative rules that govern both teacher evaluations and principal evaluations.

The state also has  an evaluation framework used to evaluate principals. There are three domains within the framework — school climate, collaborative leadership and instructional leadership.

According to state rule, “All principals must receive an evaluation in which a majority of the summative evaluation results are based on professional practice.”

The professional practice portion of the evaluation must also include one of the following — parent or guardian input; teacher input; student input; and/or portfolios.

Nick SmithFurthermore, “All administrators must receive an evaluation in which part of the summative evaluation results are based in part on objective measure of growth in measurable student achievement…”

In Boise, the state’s second-largest district, area directors handle the evaluations for principals, while principals evaluate the assistant principals, Human Resources Director Nick Smith said.

In additional to the evaluation framework, Boise area directors factor in student achievement — although more on a building-wide level than at the specific classroom level, Smith said.

For the professional practice portion of the evaluation, principals develop a portfolio that includes various pieces of evidence, such as parent surveys, student input, or the SMART goals a principal develops with his or her leadership team. There is also an opportunity for a principal’s staff to weigh in on an administrator’s performance.

Principals can also choose to include professional learning community agendas, staff leadership team minutes, school newsletters and advancement via individual determination (AVID) strategies.

In Boise, principal evaluations are not tied to pay the way the Legislature partially tied teachers’ ability to earn a raise to performance on evaluations through the career ladder salary law.

Although the evaluations don’t factor directly into pay rates, Smith said the self-reflection and collaboration involved in the evaluation process is particularly helpful to principals. That gives principals a chance to reflect on their performance and identify areas where they are excelling and areas where they need work.

“I think that’s where that teachable moment, that coachable moment comes in,” Smith said.

What others are saying

Last year, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington D.C., based research group, gave Idaho mixed reviews for its principal evaluations.

The report focused on two areas — principal effectiveness and evaluations and observations, Idaho EdNews reported at the time.

Principal effectiveness: NCTQ reported Idaho as “nearly meeting” the goals to help states meaningfully assess principal performance, joining eight other states.

Evaluations and observations: Idaho met a “small part” of NCTQ’s goals to help states “require annual evaluations with frequent observations of all principals,” along with 11 other states.

At the time, NCTQ managing director of state policy Elizabeth Ross told Idaho EdNews that every state should be laser focused on principal effectiveness.

“Research increasingly demonstrates how important a strong school leader is, particularly in terms of student achievement,” she said.

Click here and here for NCTQ’s findings and to compare how Idaho stacked up against other states in a nationwide review of principal evaluations.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed research to this report. 

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