ERIC Identifier: ED312775
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Peterson, David
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Superintendent Evaluation. ERIC Digest Series Number EA 42.
Superintendents are the only school-district employees not supervised by
another professional. Teachers are evaluated by principals, and principals are
evaluated by superintendents. Can board members evaluate superintendents? Do
superintendents need to be evaluated?
The answer to both questions is "yes." Certainly a superintendent, the
district's CEO, should receive regular and formal feedback and guidance.
Board members can provide such feedback and guidance only if they proceed
carefully and with their superintendent's cooperation.
WHY SHOULD SUPERINTENDENTS BE EVALUATED?
districts evaluate their superintendents for legal reasons. Some state laws
require it, or it may be part of the superintendent's contract. In any event,
formal assessment provides a basis for evaluating weak areas and rewarding
satisfactory job performance. An evaluation offers protection from lawsuits and
criticism from both terminated superintendents and constituents angered over the
superintendent's performance and salary. However, at its best, evaluation is a
Evaluation has more subtle and far-reaching advantages, however. It enhances
communication and clarifies the board's role. "The board can govern when it
knows what its superintendent is going to do and whether it's getting done,"
notes the New Jersey School Boards Association (1987). Evaluation requires
defining what is expected of the superintendent. It requires identifying and
prioritizing the district's goals.
Effective superintendent assessment certainly benefits the superintendent. It
offers encouraging praise, instructive criticism, and suggestions for overcoming
shortcomings and problems.
Superintendent evaluation clarifies roles, expectations, and performance.
WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP IN SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATION?
should first create a policy describing the purpose and steps of the evaluation
George Redfern (1980) identifies several aspects of a solid superintendent
evaluation policy. The document should explain the purpose of the evaluation and
the superintendent's role in it. He also says the policy should explain how the
evaluation will be conducted, assert the importance of gathering evidence rather
than just opinions, and establish that superintendent evaluation is linked to
district goal setting.
Indeed, long-range planning documents are an essential part of superintendent
evaluation. So are the superintendent's job description and written policies
defining the division of responsibilities between board members and the
An evaluation policy is also concerned with less crucial issues. It must
describe how the board will determine what to evaluate, what instrument or
method it will use to evaluate, and when the evaluation's various steps will
An evaluation policy, then, cannot be written hastily. It must define and
explain all aspects of the evaluation process. Hence the evaluation process
should not proceed until it is written.
WHAT SHOULD BE EVALUATED?
Many school districts simply use
a standard checklist form to evaluate their superintendent. This approach is
quick and easy, but little else recommends it.
The performance appraisal system of superintendent evaluation is a much more
useful and flexible tool. As its name implies, it is more concerned with
achievements than personal characteristics. It also assumes that each district
will have unique goals for its superintendent. One district may focus on
improving the school's public image and funding while an adjoining one stresses
revising the curriculum or negotiating a more satisfying teacher contract.
Evaluation by performance appraisal requires board members to identify and
prioritize the superintendent's major goals before the year begins. It is
important for both board members and the superintendent to participate fully in
this process. Establishing administrative goals enables the board to assert its
policy-making powers and to exercise its legal mandate to guide the overall
direction of public schools. Yet superintendents possess special professional
knowledge about school administration and should certainly have input over what
their jobs will entail for the next year. They may also have a much more
realistic idea of what can be accomplished.
Board members, then, must be careful to formulate the superintendent's goals
carefully and cooperatively. "In performance appraisal," note Ronald Booth and
Gerald Glaub (1978a), "the school board evaluates the superintendent's results
in reaching agreed-upon goals, solving agreed-upon problems, and making
agreed-upon improvements." Alienating the superintendent by unilaterally
imposing a set of goals would defeat most of the evaluation processes' benefits.
Goals need not be numerous; many boards have found that three to five
suffice. It is certainly not necessary to include such routine duties as report
writing, unless the superintendent has been deficient in performance. Some
districts that use the performance appraisal system choose to include some of
the superintendent's personal traits, particularly ones that have interfered
with accomplishing important goals in the past.
HOW CAN THE SUPERINTENDENT'S PERFORMANCE BE MEASURED?
are often general, slippery statements that are hard to define precisely. For
example, what does it mean to "improve relations with the local media"?
Carefully formulated objectives answer such questions. They define, often with
statistical precision, what constitutes success.
Objectives, like goals, should be established before the evaluation period
begins. "The board," write Booth and Glaub (1978b), "knows what it is looking
for before it starts to evaluate." Carefully written objectives ensure that the
superintendent and board know, in some detail, what is expected of the
To use the above example, a variety of particular objectives could measure
how effectively the superintendent relates to parents. The superintendent's
objectives for that goal could include attending at least eight PTA meetings,
establishing forums at each school where parents can discuss their concerns with
administrators, and so forth. As in formulating goals, the board should listen
closely to its superintendent to ensure that objectives are reasonable. Indeed,
many boards rely heavily on their superintendents' education and experience to
establish precise, measurable objectives.
Yet even carefully written objectives cannot transform the evaluation process
from an art into a science. Board members must be sensitive to the fact that
worthy objectives can be accomplished in unethical and damaging ways and that
not all performance--good or bad--can be quantified.
HOW SHOULD THE EVALUATION BE PRESENTED?
process culminates in a meeting of the superintendent and board, but much work
should precede that meeting.
Richard Dittloff (1982) recommends that boards meet quarterly with their
superintendent to discuss progress on meeting goals and objectives. The
superintendent may, particularly at such times, request changes in the goals and
objectives. Some objectives may be unrealistic or may not be having their
intended effect. The board should not, however, quickly agree to rewrite or
discard the superintendent's objectives.
A preappraisal meeting should occur about a month before the final appraisal
meeting. At the first meeting the superintendent can present a detailed
self-appraisal and respond to board members' questions and concerns. Board
members can then compile a final evaluation, combining the superintendent's
self-appraisal with their own impressions.
The final evaluation should be in written form, though it may also be
presented orally. It should, of course, focus on how effectively the
superintendent accomplished the goals and objectives the board and
superintendent agreed on nearly a year before. Both praise and criticism should
be moderate, and the latter should be accompanied with suggestions for how to
As in all aspects of the evaluative process, the superintendent should be an
integral part of this meeting. Some boards elect to let their superintendent
lead this final discussion since self-evaluation is usually the most
The meeting should quickly be followed by one that sets goals for the next
year. Evaluation, like planning, has stages but not a true beginning or end.
Booth, Ronald R., and Gerald R. Glaub. "Planned
Appraisal of the Superintendent: A Performance-Based Program for School Boards
and Superintendents. A Handbook." Springfield: Illinois Association of School
Boards, 1978a. 87 pages. ED 154 536.
Booth, Ronald R., and Gerald R. Glaub. "Ten Exercises Toward Planning a
Superintendent Appraisal System." Springfield: Illinois Association of School
Boards, 1978b. 66 pages. ED 154 537.
Braddom, Carolyn L. "Prescription for Improvement: Make Certain Your School
Board's System of Evaluating the Superintendent Is Fair, Fast, Factual, and
Frequent." The American School Board Journal 173, 8 (August 1986): 28-29. EJ 338
Calzi, Frank F., and Robert W. Heller. "Make Evaluation the Key to Your
Superintendent's Success." The American School Board Journal 176, 4 (April
1989): 33-34. EJ 387 080.
Dittloff, Richard. "Evaluate the Superintendent." The American School Board
Journal 169, 11 (November 1982): 41. EJ 271 177.
Georgia School Boards Association. "Superintendent Evaluation: Participants
Manual." Lawrenceville: Georgia School Boards Association, 1987. 39 pages.
Lindgren, Janet, compiler. "Evaluating Your Superintendent." Sacramento:
California School Boards Association, 1985. 61 pages. ED 296 435.
National School Boards Association. "The How and Why of Board and
Superintendent Evaluation" (Leadership Reports, a quarterly publication for NSBA
Direct Affiliates, Volume 1). Alexandria, Virginia: Author, 1982.
New Jersey School Boards Association. "Evaluating the Chief School
Administrator: Fulfilling the Board's Governance Responsibility." Trenton, New
Jersey: Action Lab of the NJSBA, May 1987. 15 pages. ED 288 240.
Redfern, George B. "Evaluating the Superintendent." Arlington, Virginia:
American Association of School Administrators, 1980. 76 pages. ED 204 842.