Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
Proud Leadership for Pennsylvania Schools
Superintendent Evaluation: the basics
A Sample Tool Developed by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
There are three primary reasons to evaluate the superintendent: alignment, communication, and accountability. And now added to these reasons of effective practice is the fact that annual evaluations are now required by state law.
A sound evaluation process will align the organization’s goals with its expectations for its chief executive. The first step in the superintendent evaluation process should include goal setting for the organization and an agreement on the measures that will be used to determine progress in achieving the organization’s goals.
Goal setting and the role of the chief executive in moving the organization toward those goals involves substantial conversation among the members of the team of ten (the nine board members and the superintendent). Formal annual goal discussions focus this conversation and help to insure that the goals are shared and reasonable. It gets everyone working on the same things. One important function of the evaluation is to prompt and focus this conversation.
It is much easier for the leader to lead and for the board to hold the leader accountable when the goals are clearly articulated, agreed upon and accompanied by agreed-upon objective performance measures.
Who Should Evaluate?
The superintendent should be evaluated by the full board sitting as a board. When the board acts on the superintendent’s evaluation, as in everything else the board does, it speaks as a corporate body, not as nine separate voices.
The setting of the district’s goals, the communication of expectations and the evaluation of performance are uniquely functions of the full board acting as a board. It is not
appropriate to delegate these functions to a few members, such as to a board officer, or to a committee of the board. Nor is it useful or fair to merely average the rating scores of each board member to develop a composite. The board needs to work as a body and speak with one voice in evaluating the superintendent.
As important as the result of the evaluation itself, is the discussion that occurs when setting objective performance standards, annual goals and objectives and then when actually conducting the annual evaluation engenders between the board as a whole and the superintendent about the direction of the school district and the role of the superintendent in leading and supporting the rest of the organization in moving the district toward its strategic goals. This discussion should be scheduled as the only agenda item for an executive session of the board.
When Should the valuation occur?
The Pennsylvania Public School Code requires that the superintendent’s employment contract include a timeframe for the Board’s annual written evaluation of the Superintendent. The specific dates for accomplishing each step in the evaluation are less important than the board and superintendent setting a schedule and keeping to it.
Many boards and superintendents tie the goal-setting and evaluation to the school calendar and fiscal year. In this model, the goals for the following year would be set in January, as the board is beginning to set goals and allocate resources in the district’s preliminary budget. Another important consideration is the timing of when state testing, school performance profiles and other data generated by the state, College Board and other sources becomes available. There may be time set aside quarterly or mid-year to discuss progress toward achieving the goals with a formal written evaluation in November before the process starts again in the new year. (This schedule also recognizes that new members may join the board in December and it allows those who set the goals to evaluate performance against them and allows the new members to participate in new goal-setting.)
How Should the Evaluation Proceed?
As discussed above, the board and superintendent should have an extended conversation about performance expectations, development of objective performance standards, and the evaluation process and instrument. This should occur prior to employment and be reduced to writing in the employment contract. Boards are now required to post on the district website the mutually agreed to objective performance standards developed for the superintendent and assistant superintendent. The important thing is that such conversation happens, and that it happens well before the period for which the superintendent will be evaluated.
The discussion should lead to an agreement upon:
- when annual (or multi-year) district goals and superintendent performance standards will be updated or set
- the specific evaluation methodology and instrument
- when the board will conduct its evaluation
- the information and data that will be used in conducting the evaluation (i.e., a portfolio maintained by the superintendent, district/school student performance data, school performance profiles, district management results, completion or progress on specific major projects such as school construction, program revisions, grade realignments, or input from other sources such as a “360 degree” survey). Identification of the kind of data that will be used upfront, will lessen the common tendency to make judgments based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence that may not reflect more common practice.
What Should an Evaluation Instrument Include?
The board and superintendent should agree on the instrument that will be used to organize and communicate the evaluation. A sample is attached. It was developed by a team of PASA members with the help of Peg Portscheller, an educator and consultant from the Leadership and Learning Center. The team looked at a number of instruments that were being used in Pennsylvania to evaluate superintendent performance. The team also looked at the growing body of literature on superintendent evaluations, work being done in other states, particularly in Iowa, and at the AASA and ISLIC standards. The team borrowed extensively from these sources to develop the sample. The items in this sample are consciously aligned with the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership standards.
Each standard is followed by a number of indicators that would reflect success in meeting the standard.
In addition, to meet the 2012 statutory requirement that the Superintendent’s annual evaluation include assessment of mutually agreed to objective performance standards-- Standard 9 – Objective Performance Standards, has been added to the model.
Before adoption by any board and superintendent, the evaluation instrument should be reviewed carefully by the team often. The instrument may be adapted to meet unique needs and challenges of the district. It is expected that school boards and superintendents will, at the beginning of each goal-setting and evaluation period, freely add and delete indicators as appropriate to align it with district goals for that period. The evaluation of each standard is assessed against the indicators. The indicators are designed to make the standard more concrete and identify the kinds of things that would be accepted as evidence of having met the standard. It is expected that were will be objective, measurable or observable evidence from among the indicators that the standard has been met (or not met.) We suggest that board use a Likert scale of 1-4 in rating a superintendent’s performance against each standard.