State develops system to evaluate principals

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi school districts will soon have a common process to determine strengths and weaknesses of their principals.
Districts will begin next fall to use a new principal evaluation system developed by the Mississippi Department of Education. About 20 of them will pilot it this year.
Currently, each district has its own method for assessing its administrators.
“One of the questions we asked superintendents when we did a presentation during a summer conference was how many of them were satisfied their current evaluation was improving instruction,” said Interim State Superintendent Lynn House. “Very few hands were raised.
“We are wanting to work with superintendents, principals and others to make sure this makes a positive difference.”
The evaluation will include three parts. Half of it will be based on how students perform on state tests or other evaluations. A second factor will be a principal’s score on the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education, or VAL-ED, which analyzes the skills of the administrator in six factors. The principal’s supervisor, the teachers at his or her school and the principal himself or herself will be surveyed to determine the VAL-ED score, which counts for 30 percent of the total evaluation.
The six factors include the development of a vision, sustaining a school environment that allows student and teacher growth, ensuring a safe learning environment, collaborating with faculty and community, ethical practices and an understanding of the political and social context. The final 20 percent of the evaluation is determined by whether the principal meets specific, measurable organizational goals set during the beginning of the year.
“This will be a learning experience for the principals and me,” said Adam Pugh, superintendent of the Lafayette County School District, which will pilot the new evaluation this year. “I’m excited about going through this year and seeing how we are measuring the goals we’ve set as we develop this with the principals.”
Other potential pilot districts in Northeast Mississippi are Alcorn County, Marshall County, Monroe County, Okolona, Oktibbeha County, Oxford and Pontotoc County, according to the MDE.
The results of the evaluation are intended to guide a plan for areas where a principal can grow.
“It is not an ‘I got you’ approach,” House said. “It is truly about the engagement of superintendents and principals to discuss what is working and not working and to lay out a plan of improvement.”
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com