Tackling New Initiatives: How One Central Office Supports Principals In Their Efforts to Implement New Teacher Evaluation Criteria
Christensen, Douglas R.
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School district central offices have increasingly been identified as important actors in the implementation of new education policy initiatives. This qualitative case study focuses on the ways in which the central office in a mid-sized school district supported school principals in implementing newly adopted teacher and principal evaluation criteria. The study examined how the school district's central office supported principals in their planning, preparation, and implementation of the new teacher and principal evaluation system (TPEP) in Washington State. Two research questions guided the completion of this research study: (a) What types of activities took place between the central office and the principals; and (b) Did the principals perceive these activities as helpful to their pursuit of effective implementation of the TPEP initiative in their school buildings? The findings highlight the importance of central office administrators as boundary spanners in supporting the principals' development as leaders who have the capacity to enact the new evaluation criteria. Two themes emerged from interviews, observations and the review of documents. First, the use of existing district structures and relationships to support implementation at the school level was vital to the successful adoption of the evaluation criteria. This included working together as partners during the implementation and using common language from previous work within the district to achieve broadly shared understanding of the evaluation requirements. The second theme highlighted the importance of central office administrators providing everyday support to school principals. Everyday support included providing meaningful professional development; engaging in regular meetings; working and learning with the school administrators; and engaging in constant, consistent communication about the implementation of the policy. Collectively, the findings highlight how important it is that central office administrators consistently review their leadership practices with principals to ensure that they are providing meaningful structures and support. Further research on the ways in which central office administrators support principals is needed. In particular, research that focuses on how central office administrators measure their own practices relative to principal needs is urgently needed. Such consideration is particularly important as new policy initiatives demand that central office administrators create and establish effective support for school principals.