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Tying Superintendent

Performance to Teachers,




Many states currently are focused on developing systems for teacher and principal effectiveness and evaluation. These systems are aligned to key requirements created by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for No Child Left Behind state waivers and Race to the Top grants.

One of the most notable requirements is the use of student academic growth as a significant factor in evaluating teachers and principals. While the extent of student achievement has not been exactly defined, most states are using growth as a factor in an index that weighs student growth between 30 and 50 percent.

In Kentucky, we have heavily involved teachers and principals in developing our evaluation systems, and our focus has been on teacher and principal effectiveness rather than bottom-line judgments. By promoting professional learning and growth, we believe we will have a major impact on student learning.

Missing Components
While states have been busy at work on evaluation issues, they largely have overlooked two important performance systems — the evaluation of superintendents and school boards. As Kentucky’s education commissioner, I have been pushing hard to align the evaluation of superintendents with the work happening on teacher and principal evaluation. Based on my experiences as an administrator in South Carolina and a superintendent in two North Carolina districts, I am convinced the alignment of evaluation systems from the classroom to the boardroom is essential in making systemic improvement.

In North Carolina, the state board of education aligned its system by establishing clear standards for teachers, principals and superintendents and then implementing statewide systems of assessing performance for each level. In Kentucky, we took this model and leveraged the No Child Left Behind waiver and the Race to the Top grant to launch teacher and principal systems and require local boards to use key components of a statewide superintendent evaluation system that’s tied to their teachers and principals.

Kentucky passed legislation 23 years ago requiring the state department of education to approve local school board plans for measuring the performance of their superintendents. The state department of education is using this requirement to establish clear expectations for student learning and fiscal management as part of the annual superintendent evaluations.

The required fiscal goals were adopted in response to several widely publicized school district audits by the state auditor that revealed significant fiscal mismanagement by superintendents and local board members. These goals include such traditional measures as a balanced operating budget, a required 2 percent reserve, an annual “clean” audit and approved facilities plans. Also stipulated is a public review of the results from each school district’s biannual working conditions survey related to facilities and resources.

The student learning goals are directly linked to the Kentucky Board of Education student learning goals in the state strategic plan. These goals include the measures used in our No Child Left Behind waiver and Race to the Top grant. There are specific annual and five-year targets for improvement in college/career readiness, proficiency in language arts and math, achievement gaps, graduation rates, teacher/principal effectiveness, and program reviews in non-tested areas.

The annual and five-year targets are developed by the state for each district based on their current performance. The annual goals are published for each school and district on our school/district report card, which is accessible on the Kentucky Department of Education website (www.education.ky.gov).

By requiring every local school board to review the district’s annual performance on fiscal measures and student learning, the state wants to ensure alignment of teacher, principal, superintendent and local board performance. We also want to ensure school boards address what they should.

Too often, local board members focus on single agenda items and fail to provide specific feedback to superintendents about expectations for student learning. By annually reviewing performance on fiscal and learning goals, it should be evident to board members where they need to focus resources. It also should be clear to superintendents where they need to concentrate their attention.

Modeling Behavior
Our work has been met with some support and with some criticism. We continue to work closely with the professional associations representing school administrators and school boards, yet our state board of education has made it clear what they now expect.

The state board modeled the behavior it expects of local school boards through its evaluation of me as commissioner of education. The board established clear expectations for transparency by providing as a public document the annual goals and the annual summative evaluation of the state commissioner. Guided by a vision of college and career readiness of all children, the board is committed to an alignment from the classroom to the boardroom that features continuous improvement, accountability for results and transparency.

Terry Holliday, a former district superintendent, is commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education in Frankfort, Ky. E- mail: terry.holliday@education.ky.gov. Twitter: @kycommissioner


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