Assess principals fairly, group says

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A national organization is calling for caution while Congress debates what constitutes a highly qualified principal.

As the debate over the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act continues, some in Congress have called for bonus pay for principals based on NCLB test results.

The debate centers on the definition of a highly qualified principal. While NCLB defines highly qualified teachers, it doesn’t define highly qualified principals. The draft calls for paying principals up to $15,000 extra for working in high-need schools and offering principals up to $4,000 in bonus pay based on student improvement tests.

“I’m afraid Congress in its myopic view will only use Adequate Yearly Progress as criteria, which is only one test on one day. It’s grossly unfair to take one test, administered one time, and use that to judge principals.” NASSP executive director Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi told Education Week magazine.

Education officials in Minnesota aren’t fazed by the talk in Washington. Minnesota requires principals to have a license, so they are already highly qualified, said Joann Knuth, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.

“Minnesota principals must meet rigorous qualifications to receive licensure. My guess is that, at this point, Minnesota principals would exceed expectations,” she said.

Rather than defining highly qualified principals using test scores alone, NASSP suggests using other criteria to gauge principal performance, including examples of a student’s accomplishments, senior projects, end-of-course exams and assessments aligned with high school and college entrance requirements.

NASSP also suggests evaluators consider other factors:

* Self-assessments

* Supervisor site visits

* School documentation of classroom observations, faculty agendas, etc.

* Climate surveys

* Teacher, other school staff, parent, and student evaluations

* Teacher retention/transfer rates

* Opportunities for student engagement through co-curricular and extracurricular activities and rates of participation

The criteria should be developed at a district level, Tirozzi said. “It’s up to school districts to decide who conducts the assessments. There are a multitude of other factors that should go in to gauging principals — the superintendent has to have a system that is fair and equitable.”

NASSP also recommends Congress provide $100 million to recruit and train highly effective principals. It also suggests the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards work with principals to develop a uniform certification process similar to National Board Certification for teachers.

Knuth recommends Minnesota lawmakers require principals and directors of charter schools be licensed just as public school principals are licensed. “They should demonstrate the competency to be principals,” she said.

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