To manage principals, keep focus on competencies of job, study says

iStock_000021923625XSmallBusy superintendents and district administrators often send principals an implicit message about how they will be supervised:  “Do your job and I won’t bother you unless something goes wrong.”

In the current era of principal accountability, that hands-off approach no longer works, says a recent article in AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice.  It’s important to keep the principal focused on results and improvement while steering away from negativity and criticism. The article describes an updated version of an oft-cited management approach that is described by B.M. Harris and B. J. Monk in their book, Personnel Administration in Education (1992).

Desired competencies

This approach depersonalizes performance reviews by directing the attention of the supervisor and principal to the “desired competencies” of the position rather than to the strengths and weaknesses of the principal.  The authors developed an updated version of this3-step process  to reflect the current emphases on the use of data and standards and on building partnerships.

The 3-step process as originally described is as follows:
• Determine the competencies desired
• Describe the expected performance in terms of the desired competencies
• Make judgments or decisions based on the  closeness of fit between the desired and described leadership competencies.

The updated version of the model has 4 steps:
• Create and maintain a supervisory relationship based on trust
• Determine the competencies desired from research-based leadership standards
• Describe performance in terms of the desired competencies by collecting data    using multi-dimensional approaches
• Make judgments and decisions based on   the closeness of fit between the standards   and principal performance as supported by the data

“Interpersonal trust is the glue of day-to-day life in the supervisory partnership between a principal and evaluator,” the researchers write.  “Trust is also a necessary foundation in evaluation, a process laden with emotional overtones and risks.”’

For administrators who are interested in working with this management approach, the researchers write, the first step is for the supervisor to accept the philosophy that evaluation is most effective when it takes place in the context of collaboration, trust, and respect.

“Conceptualizing a System for Principal Evaluation,” by Mary Lynne Derrington and Kellie Sanders, AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 2011.


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