You Say Summer, We Say… School Leader Evaluation!

Sarah Morgan, Kelly Gleischman, Carrie Irvin
July 10, 2019

Happy summer, everyone! You may be thinking about pools and popsicles, but when the end of the school year rolls around, we are reminded that it’s time to evaluate the head of your school! (Well, ok, we think caps and gowns too.) One of the most important responsibilities of the board of a public charter school is to evaluate the Head of School. Boards are ultimately responsible for the academic, operational, and financial health and success of the school, yet they do not (and should not!) manage the day-to-day operations of the school, hire the staff, or teach the students. When you sit in the governance seat, the Head of School evaluation process is the board’s most powerful opportunity to exercise effective oversight and hold the school accountable for academic, financial, and operational success.

However, this is really hard! Board members aren’t at the school every day, and most of them have, in fact, never run a school. It can be difficult to gather enough data in a timely way to really know what’s working and what’s not. Plus, board members are busy! We hear from many of our partners that boards often struggle to conduct a professional, thorough, comprehensive evaluation that provides a clear and accurate picture of how well the leader is performing in their job, and that gives the leader actionable, timely feedback on their strengths and areas for growth.

We believe the sector needs a reframe around Head of School evaluation. The point of independent governance at the school level is shared responsibility for leadership. The Head of School manages the school; and the board, made up of experienced volunteer members of the community with relevant skills and expertise, provides oversight. Effective evaluation is the fuel that makes this relationship work. Evaluation should be embraced as a positive, productive process meant to support the Head of School in growing as a leader. And it should not be optional – it should be considered the most important part of the board’s role to ensure that ultimately schools are serving students in the highest quality way.

Today, Education Board Partners (the nonprofit formerly known as Charter Board Partners) and EdFuel are thrilled to announce the release of a new Head of School Evaluation Toolkit.

Our two organizations joined forces to bring EBP’s deep expertise in charter school governance and EdFuel’s deep expertise in helping education organizations recruit and retain top talent to bear on this pressing need in the education sector.

We partnered on this work because we care about ensuring that Heads of school receive ongoing, actionable, meaningful feedback and because we feel strongly that this area should be the top priority for boards, as it is the most powerful lever to improve outcomes for students, attract and retain top school leaders, and exercise effective and responsible oversight. We also know how difficult this work is, and our hope is that this toolkit gives boards valuable information, support, and templates for implementing an equitable, streamlined, meaningful evaluation process for their Heads of school.

The evaluation process allows the board to provide professional, constructive, thoughtful feedback to the school’s leader about their strengths, challenges, and development opportunities. Every professional deserves this kind of feedback; it’s truly necessary for leaders to develop in ways that ensure the school has the leadership it needs to drive student success. An effective evaluation process allows the board to:

  • Develop clear performance measures and goals every year so the Head of School’s work is aligned with and supports the school’s strategic direction;
  • Assess the leader’s ability to perform the core competencies of the position and to meet agreed-upon annual goals;
  • Identify proactively when the leader is not on track to meet their goals, and provide support, professional development, and timely feedback to help them improve;
  • Recognize and reward successes, which helps retain strong leaders;
  • Provide an opportunity for the leader to reflect on their performance;
  • Create a transparent structure for communicating about performance regularly and routinely throughout the year;
  • Ensure that the board brings an equity lens to its oversight role through assessing potential diversity, equity, and inclusiveness gaps in areas such as:
    • Composition of school staff demographically
    • Student outcomes across lines of difference (e.g. race, socio-economic status, gender, and special education needs)
    • School culture and satisfaction of staff across lines of difference

Our toolkit offers:

  • A clear and streamlined process for boards to use in evaluating the school leader’s performance
  • A list of data sources boards should tap to ensure they have full information about school and leader performance
  • Templates for the board’s evaluation and the leader’s self evaluation
  • Guidance around gathering input from parents, staff, and stakeholders
  • FAQs
  • Links to helpful resources/organizations

Let us know how you’re using the toolkit by tweeting us @EducationBoardPartners and @EdFuelOrg, and feel free to reach out if we can be helpful in supporting you to implement this essential, exciting, and challenging work.