School of Thought: Skinner!

There is plenty of talk about teacher evaluations these days, but you can’t forget about school leaders, too.  That’s the topic of my column this week at TIME:

There’s been a lot of talk lately in the media — and a lot of blood shed in the policy arena — about how to evaluate teachers. Suddenly, after years of inattention, everyone is scrambling to figure out the best way to hold teachers accountable for student outcomes. Yet when teachers’ unions complain about an imbalance between teacher and principal accountability, they have a point: principals play a critical role in student learning, but they are evaluated almost as an afterthought. Unfortunately, the attempts to assess their effectiveness are no better than for teachers, and in some ways worse. The end result is a educational leadership system that baffles people in the private as well as the public sector. The Army “is very clearly up or out,” says James Wilcox, a former Army officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot who is now CEO of Aspire Public Schools, a network of high-performing charter schools in California. But in public schools, he says, “it’s up and stay.”

4 thoughts on “School of Thought: Skinner!

  1. Edward Pauly, Direcor of Research and Evaluation, The Wallace Foundation

    It’s now widely recognized that leadership is second only to teaching among all school factors contributing to students’ learning – and there is no evidence of success in turning around failing schools without an effective principal.
    With that in mind, in 2005, after meeting with state and district leaders, The Wallace Foundation recognized the pressing need for a reliable and valid assessment of school principals’ performance and commissioned a team at Vanderbilt University led by Dr. Andrew Porter (now dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania) to create the first rigorously validated principal evaluation – and they did so. It’s the Vanderbilt Assessment for Leadership in Education (VAL-ED), and it was recently compared in a study by the independent Learning Point Associates to 19 other assessments. VAL-ED was found to be psychometrically rigorous, with solid validity – and was the only assessment found to have high reliability. VAL-ED adds important information to the story told by test scores – including information on the principal’s performance on improving instruction, strengthening the curriculum, and holding himself/herself and teachers accountable for results.
    Wallace has released an overview of the issues in “Assessing the Effectiveness of School Leaders: New Directions and New Processes,” available as a free download from Wallace’s Knowledge Center.

  2. Kenneth Kastle

    No one should be permitted to make statements like the following without citing the supporting evidence: “It’s now widely recognized that leadership is second only to teaching among all school factors contributing to students’ learning.”

    This has been and continues to be the major problem in the national conversation regarding the purposes and functioning of our nation’s public schools. Educationists such as the writer of this quote fill the media with unsupported statements they assume to be factual but only serve to muddy the waters and obfuscate the conversation.

    Please Eduwonk, demand that your contributors and respondents provide evidence and support for the statements they make on the blog. Readers, do not accept anything written on this blog or in any other media unless the writer supports his/her statements with credible evidence (i.e., evidence that is not just the research of the writer).

    p.s. Isn’t it informative that professional educators have been pushed to the side in the ongoing discussion as though they cannot contribute anything meaningful and acceptable while professional think tank types rule the day?

  3. Excited Neuron

    “It’s now widely recognized that leadership is second only to teaching among all school factors contributing to students’ learning – and there is no evidence of success in turning around failing schools without an effective principal.”

    Say what?

  4. Tim Henrich

    In Texas things are pretty good but Governor Good Hair keeps trying to use the money to make up for the bankruptcy caused by our no tax policy – except for homeowners then we take it in the shorts.

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