New Framework for Principal Evaluation Challenges National Model

A new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) argues that principal evaluation systems should not be based only on student achievement gains, but on the quality of principal leadership and performance.  Additionally, principals and other school-based leaders are being left out of education reform discussions.

The report, called “The Ripple Effect,” also noted that many professional principal organizations and researchers have defined principal effectiveness by the principal’s knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior that overall produces a certain quality of leadership style.

Key qualities for successful principals include time management, modeling ethical and professional behaviors, showing initiative and persistence, engaging in ongoing professional learning and reflection, using data to inform strategy, judiciously allocating human and financial resources, and censuring compliance with district, state and federal policy.

The report also observes that in many ways policy efforts have outpaced research on principal effectiveness and evaluation design.  This has led to a situation where teacher evaluation systems are being applied to principal evaluations, and therefore the principal evaluations are too heavily focused on effectiveness measures that “don’t capture the entire role of a school leader.”

To be useful, principal evaluations should also focus on measuring work quality, school climate, and instructional quality—aspects directly influenced by school leadership.  Principals are the second most influential factor on student achievement after teaching quality, and therefore as policymakers strive to design principal evaluation systems, they need to be sure they are using multiple measures specifically targeted to school leadership.  Failure to do so will result in invalid measures and little progress towards improving schools.

To read the full report, please visit

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