Walking the Tightrope: Secondary School Principals' Perspectives on Teacher Evaluation Open Access
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Abstract of DissertationWalking the Tightrope: Secondary School Principals' Perspectives on Teacher EvaluationThe conflicting nature of the principal's role as a leader in the context of the school building and yet a follower within the school district organization may lead to frustration, poor job performance, and ultimately, premature principal departure. As middle managers in the school district organization, principals are wedged between superintendents who are grappling with the directives of government mandates and with meeting the needs of teachers, and teachers, who are doing the difficult day-to-day work of educating our nation's children. This duality in the principal's role is highlighted as principals implement the teacher evaluation process. Teacher evaluation has become more significant in this age of accountability, and school districts expect that principals will answer for the performance of students and teachers in their schools. Research on teacher evaluation has included the viewpoints of teachers, parents, policymakers, and stakeholders, but has not emphasized the principal's perspective on his/her role in the teacher evaluation process. This qualitative study highlights the perspectives and experiences of secondary school principals as they conduct teacher evaluations. The five major findings of this research are: 1) teacher evaluation provides principals an opportunity to demonstrate instructional leadership; 2) principals experience professional isolation in the teacher evaluation process; 3) principals are concerned about the demands on their time; 4) principals seek autonomy but not isolation in their position; and 5) principals grapple with their role as middle managers. The current pace of change to teacher evaluation policy has created challenges for state and district level policymakers as they attempt to interpret the changes and implement best practices. It is vital that policymakers understand the principal's role in the teacher evaluation process and that the principal's voice is included in policy decisions. District policymakers should consider the principal's role as a middle manager as they develop and improve job descriptions for the principalship.