I have a really great principal.
I’m not just saying that because I have a sense of loyalty to the school and the staff or because I like him and his Star Trek suit. (Which I do.)
I’ve lived in multiple states and taught at multiple schools. I’ve encountered many principals from mediocre to strange to bad to great. He really is one of the good guys.
Our elementary school is on tribal land. About half of our students are on free or reduced lunch. Our principal maintains a strong, positive relationship with the tribe and the community. He builds coalitions with a terrific PTSA, with volunteers and coordinators, with classified and certified staff. If we are all rowing our canoe in the same direction, he is the one calling out the rhythm.
In the past my principal has come by my classroom nearly every day, often twice a day. He comes in, sits down and soaks in a portion of a lesson, interacting with the students, asking questions, interjecting his own comments. When it comes time to write an evaluation of my teaching, he has a wealth of direct observation to draw on—he knows what my classroom looks like and how I interact with my students.
Well, in the past he had that.
This year nearly half the teachers in the school are on comprehensive evaluations—or, as I’ve dubbed them, the “Bataan Death March Version of TPEP.”
My principal has all the same job expectations he’s had in previous years, but this year the time he is spending on evaluations has quadrupled. (At least quadrupled.)
I have watched the energy drain out of him this year.
He still comes to my room, occasionally, once in a while, for a quick pop in and pop out. I know he wants to stay longer, but he doesn’t have the time. He’s off and running to the next room.
I know how driven he is to do a stellar job, but something has to give. If he must do evaluations and they take so much more of his time than they did in the past, how does that affect the rest of his job? What gets short shrift or what gets eliminated because there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
Principal burn-out is a national issue. Take a look at the article Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover. Two of the primary causes driving principals to leave their jobs are
- excessive workload and managerial tasks that prevent more meaningful instructional leadership efforts and
- personal costs—long hours and the physical and psychological toll.
I know my principal would enjoy more meaningful instructional leadership efforts than ensuring all the TPEP evidence is collected and all the TPEP paperwork is complete for all the teachers on the comprehensive evaluation form this year. Obviously, that’s another thing he would love to do. If he had time.
How could we make evaluations take less time? We have a handful of National Board Certified Teachers on staff at our school. Wouldn’t it make sense to exempt all the NBCTs at our school—all the NBCTs in the state—from the comprehensive level of evaluations for the term of their National Board Certification? After all, NBCTs have to undergo a rigorous certification process. It’s an objective review at a national level, far more extensive and impersonal than any local administrator could hope to manage. TPEP is, in many ways, redundant for the NBCTs.
If NBCTs were exempt from the comprehensive evaluations, my principal could do the focused form with all the NBCTs in the school for the ten years of their certification period. It would take those comprehensive evaluations off his schedule for a decade.
Principals in general might get more supportive of teachers who wanted to pursue National Board Certification since their certification would mean shorter evaluation forms in the future and reduced work load for the principal!
Having NBCTs on the focused form for the length of their certification would be an added incentive for teachers too, giving teachers another reason to do the difficult work of pursuing National Board Certification.
Meanwhile, there is no solution in sight.
The legislature created the more rigorous teacher evaluation system to make sure all the teachers in the state met high standards. Wouldn’t it be ironic if, in their effort to create more perfect teachers, they destroyed their principals?