Summer Camp: Chesterfield County Public Schools

Our School Leadership team is working hand-in-hand with four school districts across the country to help them find, support, and retain effective principals. This summer, the team made visits to all four school districts to check in on their progress. Third stop: Chesterfield County Public Schools.

While a challenging task, it’s important for school districts to assess their principal evaluation system—similar to a 360 review in a corporate environment— at least once a year. This is no easy feat, and to be effective it’s key to have strong leadership. Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), one of four school districts participating in our School Leadership Initiative, spent their summer tackling their evaluation system.

CCPS leaders found that tweaking their existing system would not be enough to create effective systemic change in how the district recruits, supports, and retains highly effective principals. We know that a strong principal evaluation system should help set a professional learning agenda, provide support for a principal’s personal growth, create a results-oriented culture, recognize and reward high performers, and filter out low performers. To improve principal evaluation systems, school district leaders must:

  • Align leadership frameworks to provide an overarching organization of competencies, indicators, and performance rubrics
  • Have multiple measures of data that can be triangulated to get a clear picture of performance
  • Consistently norm the evaluation process, and the timing and components are revised regularly to reflect what is learned along the way.
  • Equip principals and supervisors with opportunities to understand a principal’s true performance and improve or support that performance accordingly.

CCPS tackled these steps and prioritized which elements to address first.  Once completed, the leadership team realized there was a need to classify fair evaluation measures—assessments and data.

Each of these measures calculated ensure principals are not favored by the system simply because of which students are in their buildings. For example, if a school district only measures state assessments, one school may perform better due to student make-up versus another school in the same district.

A school district needs to consider measures that are:

  • Valid: District leaders need to consider the accuracy of surveys and the results measure the needs of the school district. In addition, districts should have a panel of stakeholders, including principals, review the results to see that the measures seem accurate and fair.
  • Reliable: District leaders build inter-rater reliability to ensure evaluators are calibrated, free of bias, and accurate.
  • Respected: District leaders must share and show how the scores are fair measurements. Continually receiving feedback on the evaluation system and demonstrating the importance of the evaluation system, are critical to maintain trust among principals. 

CCPS leaders ranked their district’s needs and how to weigh each measure based on those priorities. However, changing an evaluation system and the culture around evaluation is not an overnight adjustment. We applaud CCPS for recognizing the need to overhaul their evaluation system and use the tools necessary to begin creating change.