The ability to evaluate school principals and decide whether to renew their contract is one of the most powerful tools that members of Local School Councils (LCSs) hold. 

Overlooking a critical tool

The annual principal evaluation needs to be taken very seriously, as the stakes are extremely high. Unfortunately, only 36 percent of eligible LSCs completed the annual principal evaluation last May. One LSC was forced to revote on the principal contract renewal—changing the vote from renewal to non-renewal—because they had skipped the cumulative, end-of-contract evaluation. This caused an enormous upheaval that negatively impacted the school community for several months.

Many principals across the city expend great effort to stack the LSC with members who will rate them highly and who will renew their contracts without taking the time to conduct a thorough principal evaluation. This practice flies in the face of decades of school improvement research that “consistently shows that the principal’s leadership is the single most critical force that shapes all aspects of [a] school’s effectiveness” (CPS LSC Resource Guide, page 187).

Recent changes to principal evaluation

How well do you think the parents and community representatives on your school’s LSC understand all of the 28 criteria in the principal evaluation and can collect evidence to substantiate scoring each one from 1 (unsatisfactory) to 4 (distinguished)?

CPS recently updated the Principal Professional Practice Evaluation Form. There is now a lot more emphasis on being inclusive and supporting students, staff and school community as they are—embracing everyone’s uniqueness and diversity. The words “trust” and “collaboration” permeate the new evaluation form. Staff voice, sense of community and retention are much more prominent. These are all important changes.

Evaluation should spur growth

If the parents and community representatives on your LSC never hear from the staff, then they’re basing their entire evaluation on limited input. They are only considering their own interactions with your principal and the principal report given at each LSC meeting, which is often organized as a checklist for evaluation (in an attempt to positively influence it).

The purpose of the annual principal evaluation is to improve professional practice. It is designed with the acknowledgement that no principal is perfect and there are always opportunities for growth. A large number of current principals are brand new to the position, having only worked as assistant principals before, and thus obviously need help and support to do the job effectively. CPS even recommends that LSCs and principals conduct feedback sessions to discuss their rating and identify specific areas for improvement.

April LSC elections are key

With the power to renew a principal contract, LSCs can significantly change the direction of their schools. So why are so few participating in this critical process? You can help change this paradigm. Encourage parents and community members to fill existing vacancies because lack of a quorum prevents LSCs from conducting principal evaluations and other important business.

Get ready to elect strong candidates to the next LSC on report card pick-up in April. And please make sure you read the LSC Resource Guide, take the principal evaluation training module, and attend the monthly LSC Gatherings hosted by CTU and the LSCs 4 All Coalition. If you need help with your LSC or PPLC, please email SarahRothschild@ctulocal1.org.