With the scope of accountability narrowing on the principal’s office, there is increased interest among policymakers to link school outcomes to high stakes decisions for principals, including performance-based pay. Although research indicates that principals are second to teachers in the school impact on student achievement, there are many questions of how to assess leadership outcomes and what are the best measures. Another major concern is how to utilize leadership assessment for principal professional development. Taking stock of a decade of investment in school and district efforts to support practice and build knowledge about school leadership, the Wallace Foundation recently posted a paper that outlines some new developments in leadership assessment.
The Wallace funded projects summarized include the innovative Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-ED), which is designed to assess leadership behaviors in a 360 degree format, and other targeted tools that can be used to assess aspects of leadership practice. This piece and other sources available from Wallace are well worth exploring by school leaders or policymakers interested in educational leadership.
The paper raises a number of provocative questions about the state of leadership assessment, what the work has uncovered to date and the terrain yet to be mapped. What is adequate evidence to reliably capture principal practice? How might this evidence vary across school and district contexts? Who is best positioned to judge principal performance? What outcome data is appropriate and how can it be used to inform both summative and developmental purposes? Is behavioral evidence alone adequate to measure leadership affects? What weight should be given to principal’s human capital management strategies versus the current focus on instructional leadership? And, is 360 degree feedback sufficient for summative decisions? These are just some of the areas that this work has begun to address and that call for more answers.