The Opportunity of Superintendent Evaluation

By Phil Gore, PhD, Division Director of TASB Leadership Team Services

Superintendent of the Year and staffNot only is an annual superintendent evaluation a legal responsibility of a school board, it is also an oppor­tunity for a board to hone its focus on student achievement. Research suggests that regularly evaluating the superintendent’s performance based on student achievement data can help improve student learning. On the other hand, a cursory, arbitrary, or antagonistic evaluation of the super­intendent is not likely to help improve student performance in a school district.

Effective superintendent evaluation is neither subjective nor personal. It is based on facts and preestablished criteria for performance evaluation. That cannot happen unless boards work together with the superinten­dent to establish clear and objective expectations.

eXceptional Governance (XG) means school boards are focused on student learning. This helps boards avoid get­ting involved in the operational details of the district that are the concerns of hired staff. Board focus is then aligned to the desired aim of improv­ing student performance.

The board maintains this relentless focus on improving student achieve­ment by establishing goals with the superintendent that include specific learning targets for students. When these goals are clear, focused, and included in the evaluation of the superintendent’s performance, im­provement can be expected.

XG boards agree together in ad­vance with the superintendent about what they will evaluate him or her on during the next period, and they don’t wait a year to share concerns about the direction or outcomes of the superintendent’s performance. Evaluative discussions occur through­out the year as XG boards are talking periodically with the superintendent about performance—his/hers, the district’s, and the students’. These regular conversations about a super­intendent’s performance are more likely to occur when a board has a clear and agreed upon annual calen­dar for performance evaluation.

Research supports the valuable practice of communicating the superintendent’s goals for improving student learning to the community. When these goals are visible and high profile on the district website and publications, the entire district— including families and community members—has the opportunity to support these goals. That support is important, and the alignment of administrator goals with teachers and students in the classroom is what brings this all together to improve the likelihood of success for each and every student.

Focus, alignment, transparency, and accountability can transform a routine evaluation exercise into a tool of eX­ceptional Governance that improves student learning in the district.

For more information on eXceptional Governance and how your board can benefit, visit tasb.org/xg or e-mail phil.gore@tasb.org.

This bulletin, produced by TASB Leadership Team Services, examines research and shares philosophies to inform and
promote exceptional governance within school boards across Texas.