The Challenges and Opportunities of Evaluating Teacher Performance in Today’s Schools

Most people agree that the job of a school principal has become more difficult and complicated. This is because people now realize that a good school needs a principal who is a good leader and can teach well. In other words, principals must do more than just make sure the school runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis – they are expected to help the school improve and work closely with both teachers and students. Even though some people are optimistic, evidence shows that few principals spend a lot of time worrying about how teachers are teaching. And only a tiny amount of the time they have available is spent actually talking to teachers about their instruction.

The good news is that principals are now spending more time working in ways that help them evaluate teacher performance. This includes gathering data to give feedback that is based on evidence. They also deal with new standards for data usage, particularly when it comes to building teacher capacity to improve their instruction. The bad news is that these changes also bring with them several challenges, including a lack of time to complete observations, the loss of relationship building moments, and reduced visibility in schools.

This means that it might be harder for teachers to get good evaluations. Many schools use both measures of teacher observation and student performance or growth when they evaluate teachers. But we do not know yet how these evaluation systems affect principals’ jobs.

What is the impact of teacher evaluation expectations on the responsibilities and status of school principals? What advantages do school principals see in undertaking a more evaluative process for their role in the school? What difficulties do principals encounter as they assume their roles while dealing with evolving teacher evaluation expectations?

Tasks that identify principal instructional leadership practices, such as having a visible presence in the school, setting goals for teaching and learning, visiting classrooms, supervising instruction, providing regular feedback to teachers, and coordinating the curriculum, mean different things to different people.

With the uncertainty of what activities should be implemented when principals visit classrooms, supervise education, and create a strong presence in their community; it has caused many disparities between how each principal executes their job duties. This lack of clear direction leaves principals to define for themselves what being an instructional leader truly entails.

No codified practice on what instructional leadership looks like. This makes it difficult for principals to establish a standard of expectations for themselves as well as their teachers. With each principal interpreting the job differently, this can lead to confusion and stress on all parts of the school community – students, parents, administrators, and teachers alike.

The challenge for principals is to balance the expectation of teacher observation with the daily functions of leading a school. Principals must build an evaluation system that produces many data points, from observations, student test scores and student surveys or other sources as well. This adds to the complexity of the job but leads to a better understanding of the effectiveness of each teacher in the school.

School principals are expected to evolve and take on more instructional leadership responsibilities. With the right guidance, principals can use data-informed instruction to provide feedback and support teachers who are struggling. At the same time, they must take into account the challenges that come with this new role in order to ensure a successful school community.

The issue lies in the fact that we approach school improvement from the viewpoint of remediation. Introduction of Leader of Pedagogy, Instructional Coaches and the like are symptoms of lack of teacher competencies stemming from poor teacher training. It is time to focus on the root causes. It is time for school principals, teachers and instructional leaders to collectively create a culture of learning and development within their respective schools.

The principal must be able to balance instruction with evaluation in order to maintain an effective leadership style that improves teacher performance and student outcomes. This can be done through collaboration, shared ownership of the evaluation process, and regular professional development for teachers. It is important for principals to recognize that their role as instructional leaders does not take away from their other duties, but rather it should add value to them.

Author: Dr Jake Madden

Jake Madden (Dip Teach; B.Ed; Grad Dip: Leadership; M. Ed: Leadership; EdD; FACEL; MACE) Dr. Jake Madden is currently the Principal, St Edward’s Primary School, Tamworth. He has enjoyed a successful teaching and principal leadership career over the last thirty years building teacher capacity through the development of learning in the contemporary world, the promotion of flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and curriculum for global mindedness. Jake is a leader in the notion of teacher-as-researcher and is widely published in this area, authoring and co-authoring books and a number of journal articles showcasing his experiences and research into leading educational change.

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