A state task force assigned to examine ways to improve the evaluation of school administrators met in Waukee Thursday. Troyce Fisher with the School Administrators of Iowa led the task force discussion.
Fisher says they want to move from improving the evaluation of administrators into improving the effectiveness of the people in those jobs.
“That’s huge, and what we’ve done here is look at the whole purpose of evaluation is to improve the performance of any administrator. And so we’re looking not only at the instruments and process and standards and criteria and evidence that would say whether or not a principal or other administrator is in fact working at a level we expect, but also then saying so what are the system supports that are necessary for that administrator to bump up his or her performance,” Fisher told Radio Iowa.
There’s a debate over the use of standardized tests in measuring teacher performance, and that same issue comes up when talking about how well a school administrator is performing. Fisher says, like the teacher evaluation, the evaluation of administrators has to look at many issues.
“And of course a principal is a little bit distant from direct contact with students, so their work has be concentrated on helping the teachers get better in their work,” Fisher says. “So we’ve done a lot to say what measures would there be that would say teachers are working together, collaborating, using data, getting into each other’s classrooms talking about best practices, comparing which teachers are getting results, which are not, on a whole range of measures, not just standardized tests.”
The task force discussed several things that might help with an accurate measure of how schools are performing under an individual administrator. “How we’re gonna measure creativity, collaboration, problem solving, communication skills that all the 21st Century global economy employers say ‘that’s what we’re looking for in our workers.’ Absolutely the basics, but well beyond the basics, because other countries are figuring out the basics, we’ve got to figure out how to add value beyond those basics,” Fisher says.
Another issue that surfaces when evaluating administrators is looking at the district as a whole. There are some districts and schools that are growing rapidly, while there are other small rural districts where an administrator has several titles.
“That’s where the devil’s in the details, about how to say, how can we remove the barriers from those people in our smaller districts where they can’t possibly begin to be an instructional leader and the bus driver and the superintendent and at the same time not expect less of them. Because the kids in those districts still need the same level of achievement as the students in any other district,” Fisher says. “And that’s part of our dilemma in Iowa.”
Fisher says they hope to include an evaluation of the support systems into the overall evaluation of the administrator. “Span of control of many principals in Iowa is somewhere between 30 to 50 people, and that’s huge. So, it’s less a question of accountability per position than it is accountability for level of responsibility. And that’s where we have to get to,” Fisher explains.
The Department of Education’s Administrator Evaluation Task Force is one of several set up by lawmakers to review the best way to make changes in the education system. The task force will have final recommendations ready in October, and they will then be put together with the recommendations of the other task forces to go on to the legislature.