New evaluation system for district principals

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education approved a new building administrator evaluation system and handbook which, pending approval from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, would make the district the first in the state to adopt the latest Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.

The evaluation system utilizes the 10 standards, which were created by a national committee in 2015, in order to analyze a principal’s performance.

“We contacted the department to ask if there were any other districts who had embedded the new standards,” said Assistant Superintendent John O’Brien. “They said no, and they are very interested in looking at ours now and we suspect the state will be asking us to help other districts.”

Next year, the district will also be including charter schools in principal evaluations for the first time, O’Brien.

“It’s good practice to, after a few years, make sure that your system is based on the most recent standards,” he said. ” I think the new standards are more student-centered in terms of how a principal’s performance and leadership abilities improve student performance and overall school performance and this is kind of a trend in education in general.”

The standards include guidelines on mission, ethics, cultural responsiveness, operations and management among others. The Effective Leadership Committee took these standards and organized them into four domains, attaching a rubric for each domain.

“The biggest issue our committee members had to wrestle with was taking these 10 standards and then deciding which domain they appropriately fit under,” O’Brien said. “It was a really cool dialogue.”

The first domain is “Vision, Culture and Climate.” Domain two is “Teaching and Learning,” which O’Brien said is the “meat and potatoes” of principal evaluations.

Domain three is called “People, Systems and Operations.”

“(The principal) can be great as an instructional leader but if you can’t manage your budget, can’t manage disciplinary issues or have poor connections with community resources … if that domain is missing, then the school won’t function” O’Brien said.

The fourth domain is titled “Professional Responsibilities,” which can be shown as a principal’s desire to improve their craft, to have accountability paired with aspirations, O’Brien said.

“And each of these four components has a very detailed and expansive rubric,” O’Brien said. “That drives the evaluation process and is helpful to the principal when they’re trying to get to the next level. They can look at the specifics in the rubric and think, ‘Alright, if I do this, then I can get to that distinguished level.’”

The evaluation system has been approved by the Board of Education and will be submitted to the Department of Education and Early Development by the end of this week, O’Brien said. He is not expecting any delays in approval.

The committee to create the new standards was composed of district principals, a parent representative and board members, in addition to O’Brien.

“I was more of an observer,” Board of Education member Lynn Hohl said during June’s meeting. “I don’t have the expertise that the principals and administration has, but even the part of the process that I understood, I fully appreciate the efforts and I think it is a good document.”

O’Brien expects for state approval to turnaround quickly, with professional development and training on the new system for principals to begin in August.

Reach Kat Sorensen at

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