Measuring Principal Performance: How Rigorous Are Publicly Available Principal Performance Assessment Instruments?

Christopher Condon and Matthew A. Clifford

School principals are second only to classroom teachers as the most influential school factor in student achievement. For the lowest-performing schools, strong leadership—including setting and maintaining direction—plays a key role in turning around schools’ performance and improving student outcomes. Assessing the performance of principals is essential given the position’s critical role. AIR researchers reviewed eight publicly available formative assessments of principal performance, focusing on the tool’s approach, time requirement, content and construct validity, and reliability.

Of the eight tools reviewed, six were developed more than ten years ago. Given the emphasis on instructional leadership, accountability, data-based decision making, community involvement, and other well-documented changes to the school principal position in the past ten years, it is possible that older measures do not capture essential features of the position. The review also highlighted the differing approaches to assessing school principal performance. Some assessments focused on the principal as a change facilitator, while others concentrated on the role of instructional leader or influencer of school-level systems.