Panel: Evaluating Principal Quality and Measures of Effectiveness

Friday, November 9, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Hoover - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Jason Grissom, Vanderbilt University
Discussants:  John Papay, Brown University and Roddy Theobald, American Institutes for Research

The Right Match: Reconstructing Principal-Teacher Fit
Peter Goff, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Elementary Principals and Longer-Term Student Outcomes
Jeffrey Schiman1, Steven Rivkin2, Lauren Sartain3 and Andrew Morgan2, (1)Georgia Southern University, (2)University of Illinois, Chicago, (3)University of Chicago

Principal Quality and Student Absences
Brendan Bartanen, Vanderbilt University

School leadership is second only to teacher quality as the most important school-level input to student learning (Leithwood, Seashore, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). Despite increasing emphasis on principals’ potential to improve school quality, there is little understanding of the various facets of principal effectiveness. Principals’ responsibilities span multiple areas, including administration, organizational management, instructional programming, and relationships with personnel inside and outside the school, (Horng, Klasik, & Loeb, 2010) as well as physical facilities and student behavior (Goldring et al., 2009). Evaluating principals on all of these dimensions—in addition to isolating their impacts on student outcomes—is challenging. This panel tackles issues of effectiveness and measurement by examining multiple aspects of principal quality across a variety of contexts.

Husain’s paper explores the extent to which the District of Columbia Public Schools’ high-stakes school leader evaluation system accurately captures principal quality, especially as it relates to teacher quality and student outcomes. At a time when states are implementing rigorous principal evaluation systems, her work describes one such tool that is currently in use, while establishing its validity as an effective measure to evaluate principals.

Principals’ ability to affect student outcomes though human capital management may also depend on principal-teacher fit. Goff uses data from Wisconsin to examine whether teacher effectiveness varies by matches between principal and teacher types. His findings suggest that principals can identify teachers who would be successful under their leadership, helping to improve student outcomes at their schools.

Beyond issues of principal quality, few studies examine how school leaders affect various outcomes. As principals have largely indirect effects on student outcomes, estimating such effects is challenging. Specifically, the impact of principals on students is largely mediated by teachers, making it difficult to identify the principal’s contribution to student outcomes. Schiman and colleagues use longitudinal administrative data from Chicago Public Schools to evaluate elementary school principals’ contributions (value-added) to student achievement, as well as longer-term outcomes, such as college enrollment and persistence.

Bartanen’s paper makes the case that principal effects on non-academic outcomes may be larger than achievement outcomes, as principals have more direct influence over the former. Despite this, almost all existing studies of principal effects focus on student achievement. His work uses data from Tennessee and employs a two-way fixed effects model to isolate the contribution of individual principals from other school-level factors. Specifically, he estimates principal value-added to student attendance, and examines whether principals who improve student attendance are also those who increase achievement.

Importantly, these papers use rich longitudinal data from multiple contexts (DC, Wisconsin, Chicago, Tennessee) to address a largely under-researched though highly policy-relevant topic. By evaluating measures of principal quality as well as how principals can and do affect different student outcomes in the short- and long-run, this panel sheds light on the multidimensionality of principal effectiveness. In doing so, it provides policymakers with information on how to successfully design evaluation systems, and measure and affect principal effectiveness, all with the goal of improving teaching, learning, and student outcomes.

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