Perceptions of Principal Learning: Exploring the Connection of the Association of Washington School Principals Leadership Framework and Principal Evaluation
Hammond, David Edward
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Educational research over the last decade has identified the role of the principal as the instructional leader within the building as an essential contributor to improved teaching (Honig, 2012; Leithwood & Mascall, 2008). Despite the urgent need to improve the evaluation process for principals to support building level instructional leadership, the current body of research connecting principal professional learning to principal evaluation is thin (Davis et al., 2011; Goldring et al., 2009). Today, professional evaluation standards must measure and improve practice while fostering an atmosphere of continuous learning. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to investigate the perceptions of principal evaluators and principals of principal professional development and the connection that may exist between principal professional development and the Association of Washington School Principals’ (AWSP) Leadership Framework. This study explores the changes districts are making as a result of the new AWSP Leadership Framework, a four-tiered rubric-based model. Two research questions guided this study: (a) how have principal evaluators and principals perceived the AWSP Leadership Framework; and (b) how have the changes in principal evaluation influenced principal evaluators’ practices concerning principal professional development? The findings analyzed principal learning as a result of the implementation of the AWSP Leadership Framework. Three themes emerged as a result of principal evaluator interviews, principal interviews, and a review of documents. The first theme focused on creating structure to support the principal as the instructional leader. The second theme was guiding the focus for improvement of principal practice using a researched-based, four-tiered model for principal evaluation. The third theme involved seeking to understand principal's needs for professional development. Collectively, the findings highlight the need for relevant learning guided by research-based criteria to ensure principals are developing the skills and attributes needed to continue to evolve as instructional leaders. Further research is needed on the long-term effects of a rubric-based evaluation model. The AWSP Leadership Framework’s specific language and components of self-reflection and goal-setting offer district leaders the unique opportunity to surrender some of the more traditional aspects of principal professional learning. The data suggests a shift to a more principal-driven evaluation process.