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Learning from Bold Investments

July 11, 2018 5 minute Read by Eva Myrick Chiang, Anne Wicks
As we implement our Principal Talent Management Framework with four school districts across the country, we are quickly learning and adapting our strategy.

The results of the Gates Foundation’s efforts to redesign teacher evaluation captured the attention of many, including ours. We recently began testing our Principal Talent Management Framework with four school districts to improve how school districts recruit, support, and retain highly effective principals. At the George W. Bush Institute, we try to learn quickly – from our own work and from that of our colleagues in the field. The lessons presented in RAND’s report about the Gates Foundation’s program reinforce our early assumptions about what it will take to do this work well.

First, more is not always the answer. We have already seen that complexity, tempting as though it may be, will hinder execution. Second, no matter how beautifully designed your intervention, system wide implementation must be deliberate and specific or impact will be muted at best.

In our four school districts, we began with a focus on how principals are evaluated.  As we dove into diagnostic data with the district teams, we wondered if we should encourage our districts to adopt new evaluation systems. We know that no perfect evaluation system exists so we did not have a slam dunk recommendation to offer. We also know that selecting and onboarding a brand-new evaluation system is an overwhelming enterprise.  In a world of limited resources—people, time, and money—this is a serious consideration.

Before districts begin investing in improving their evaluation tools and systems, we started with two simple questions:

  1. Is our current evaluation tool at least 80 percent effective?
  2. Are our educators, staff etc. utilizing the tool and system at least 80 percent effectively?

We found that our four school districts felt their tools were 80 percent effective, but could use some supplementing.  For example, including a student growth measure resonated as a concern across all four districts. And most importantly, all districts identified that how they were using their evaluation tool was resulting in a process that felt compliance-based and disconnected from the real work of principals each day.

The school districts immediately took steps to make sure that their principal supervisors were rating the principals who reported to them similarly; to rethink the timing of the overall process to make better use of the tools that already exist; and to determine how to communicate the reasoning behind these efforts to principals. We’re still early in this work, so we’ll see what happens, but we, and our district teams, are excited about these changes.

We know through our research there are specific elements that improve principal evaluation systems and lead to positive changes in districts. The Bush Institute will release a “Principal Evaluation Guidebook” this fall that compiles our research on four key areas that improve principal evaluation systems, including:

  • Aligned leadership frameworks that provide an overarching organization of competencies, indicators, and performance rubrics (or, said another way, a common and specific definition of highly effective school leadership)
  • Multiple measures of data that can be triangulated to get a clear picture of performance
  • The evaluation process is understood to be living, breathing work – not compliance work. It is expected that all the players are consistently normed, and the timing and components are revised through regular iteration to reflect what we learn along the way.
  • The evaluation process equips principals and their supervisors with opportunities to understand a principal’s true performance and improve or support that performance accordingly.

This work is complex, but we are eager to continue sharing successes and adapting our initiative as we go. We applaud the Gates Foundation for their bold efforts to test what works and are thankful for the opportunity to learn along with them. We are firmly committed to the discipline of using effective implementation practices to help districts make meaningful change that sticks over time, and we are firmly committed to sharing what we learn with our colleagues in the field as we go.


Author

Eva Myrick Chiang
Eva Myrick Chiang

Eva Myrick Chiang, serves as Director of Evaluation and Research for the Bush Institute. She also works on the School Leadership Initiative and provides support in other areas of the education reform initiative as well.

Prior to joining the George W. Bush Institute, she taught pre-k through college level students in a variety of teaching roles in private, public, and charter schools, and her passion is teaching students to read. She has been a trainer of teachers, and most recently she held the position of Director of Education in the central administration office of an urban charter school. 

Eva received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University, and received a master's in teaching with an emphasis on reading education from Texas Woman's University. Eva also earned her law degree from Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. She is currently finishing her doctorate from Southern Methodist University. 

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Anne Wicks
Anne Wicks

Anne Wicks serves as the Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute.  In this role, she develops and oversees the policy, research, and engagement work of the Education Reform team. 

Before joining the Bush Institute, Wicks served for five years as Associate Dean for External Relations at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education.  In addition to leading a team with revenue, communications, and engagement goals, she supported Dean Karen Symms Gallagher on a variety of special projects including the launch and early growth of Ednovate Charter Schools.  She currently serves as the chair of PMC Support, a supporting organization for Ednovate Schools.  Over her career, she has held management and resource development roles at organizations including Teach for America, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, and Stanford University. Anne holds a B.A in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University (during which she taught 8th grade social studies), as well as a M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. A former captain of Stanford's women's volleyball team, Anne was part of three national championship teams, two as a player and one as an assistant coach. 

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