With the changes handed down from the state concerning district evaluations, Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder presented the board of education with a proposal for handling principal evaluations that will apply to all school administrators.
The presentation was given at the Nov. 27 board of education meeting.
“There are requirements that the board must approve an evaluation rubric,” Schilder said. “We are required to pick a rubric by Dec. 31, and more regulations will be coming in February.”
These new evaluations would apply to all principals, assistant principals, supervisors and executive directors.
According to Schilder, the superintendent conducts the evaluations based on a rubric that has to be adopted by Dec. 31, with a pilot program to be implemented by Jan. 31.
As for the components of the evaluation system for principals, Schilder said, the state has mandated that 50 percent should be on professional practice, broken down into 40 percent on performance and 10 percent on human capital management responsibilities.
“And when I evaluate a principal, 10 percent must be focused on the person’s ability to hire and fire,” Schilder said.
From there, the other 50 percent is measured on student performance, with 35 percent being aggregated school-wide student performance and 15 percent being student performance.
Schilder said student performance includes the NJASK tests for elementary and middle school students, as well as the HSPA for high school students. The final assessment, he said, is on student performance on subjects that are not on state assessments.
“The state has not defined any further how that becomes implemented, how we observe the principals and how that translates into all these percentages,” he said. “We are waiting for February for more direction from the state.”
But, Schilder said, school-specific goals must focus on targeted areas of need for students, including a review of past student performance results.
As for the criteria rubrics themselves, Schilder said, the Department of Education has approved nine models that can be used for principal practice evaluations.
“We are not permitted to just go out and pick any model,” he said. “There are nine models that are state vetted.”
From the recommended models, Schilder said, he is recommending the use of the Marshall Principal Evaluation Rubric.
“It was one of the leading contenders to begin with of the nine, and we feel it will best meet our needs,” he said.
Schilder said the committee that was put together to choose a model agreed that this one has the clearest language and the clearest evaluation form, and provides a commons sense approach to working with the principals.
“It is robust, focuses on meaningful and evaluative discussions and is research-based,” he said.
And, Schilder added, the program is free to use.
“That is not the main reason we chose this one, but it happened to be free and that gives us some flexibility,” he said. “I asked the commissioner what would happen if the district selected a model and changed its mind, and he said we could make that change.”
“It is a problem if we invested $30,000, but if we haven’t spent a cent and if we decide to change, it’s fine,” he added.
Some of the reasons for choosing this rubric, Schilder said, are the fact that it is aligned with state standards, it’s succinct despite having 60 indicators, it has descriptive language and there is a clear distinction between ratings provided.
“It says the superintendent should sit with each principal at the beginning of the year, and keep an eye on the most important drivers of teaching,” he said. “The superintendent must be in the building often, and have these types of conversations with principals often.”
According to the rubric, Schilder said, he would rate the principal with indicators concerning meetings, ideas, development, empowerment, support and other indicators.
“It’s not a negotiation, just a conversation,” he said. “I do an evaluation summary page, and then there is an overall rating with a formula.”
The key to successful implementation of the plan, Schilder said, is transparency and clear explanations to the principals up front.
“Principals need to self assess and give examples of their performance,” he said. “There will be frequent school visits.”
But one of the biggest differences between the current model and the new plan, Schilder said, is the issue of subjectivity. Currently, he said, the district has no indicators for evaluating principals, and the new model has 60.
“It is very subjective [what we have now],” he said. “That is going to be a focus of discussion between me and the principal.”
In addition, Schilder said, in the current model, student achievement is embedded in one domain, and in the new model it is embedded in all sections.
“And I get into the buildings often, but I don’t always get in to see the principals,” he said. “Now the focus of my visits are going to be a little different. There are going to be evaluative conferences with the principals each time.”
From here, Schilder said, he is hoping to get a board motion on the proposal at the Dec. 18 meeting, and the committee will continue working in January to iron out all the details and apply the requirements from the DOE.
“First we will see what the state is requiring and then we will go from there,” he said.
Still, Schilder said it is disappointing to be waiting on criteria and information that is expected to come in February when districts are required to pick a rubric by the end of December.
“We have 13 pilot districts operating on 60 indicators, and they just got started and we have no information,” he said. “Yet, we are supposed to pick by Dec. 31. This is completely backwards.”
But, Schilder said, he does believe this process will lead to better evaluations.
“I will be a better evaluator, and this is more robust, more specific, more consistent,” he said. “We will have meaningful conversations.”
At this point, Schilder said, they will choose a rubric and continuing moving forward.
“I am very troubled by the process, but I do believe this will lead to me being a better evaluator,” he said.