School Leader Preparation for Teacher Evaluation: An Examination of Authentic Experiences and Meaningful Assessment Open Access
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The demands for improvement in educator preparation as well as the need to revamp teacher evaluation policies are both part of the ongoing dialogue on school improvement. Various reports have illuminated the need for school leaders to be more effective in evaluating teachers. However, literature on school leader preparation does not thoroughly describe how programs prepare aspiring school leaders for this role reflecting, in part, that priorities in policy, research, and practice are not necessarily the same. Research has also pointed to aspects of preparation that are under sharp criticism, including clinical practice and mechanisms for assessing aspiring school leaders. Integrating these important elements, I explored authentic experiences (including clinical practice and other in-class activities) and assessments of aspiring school leaders in an effort to build knowledge in the field about preparation for evaluating teachers. In this case study of a school leadership preparation program at one university during fall 2013, I looked at a few of the courses that focus on teacher evaluation at one campus location. Research methods included document analysis, observation, and interviews/focus groups with various stakeholders. Findings from this study illustrate various practices that focus on preparing aspiring school leaders for teacher evaluation. Faculty member experience, guest speakers, and site visits to schools were features that participants described as practical for providing a solid foundation. Authentic experiences geared towards teacher evaluation primarily included clinical practice embedded in courses and simulated experiences in class. Another takeaway was that discussions with faculty members and peers provided aspiring school leaders with input on their abilities to evaluate teachers. By design, performance evaluation and reflective practices were primarily used for a broader set of school leader skills. Data indicated how the preparation program provided various opportunities to build competencies related to teacher evaluation such as interpersonal and technical skills. Based on these findings, I offer recommendations for the program (such as using more performance evaluations) and for future research (such as tracking perceptions of preparedness over time); I also developed a few recommendations for P-12 schools.