Why Professional Support for Principals Is Essential

idea light bulbBuried in the debate over teacher evaluation is a nagging concern about principals. The burden of carrying out teacher-evaluation activities falls squarely on the shoulders of these school administrators. They have to observe teachers—often multiple times per school year—and complete a rubric about the instruction; they also need to complete a post-observation conversation with each teacher. These activities, while essential to improve education, are a radical shift in principals’ responsibilities, which have historically focused on administrative tasks rather than instructional support.

Principals are feeling the change in their scope of work. In a recent national survey, 69 percent of principals said their responsibilities had changed in the past five years, and 75 percent said their job had become too complex.

We reviewed studies from a number of states that collected data on the pilot implementation of new teacher-evaluation systems to see how principals responded to their increased responsibilities. Specifically, we reviewed implementation studies from Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Chicago, as well as a report that surveyed districts in Maryland, New York, and North Carolina. These districts received federal grants through the Race to the Top initiative. Our review confirmed that principals are struggling with their new responsibilities.

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