Director of Assessment & Accountability talks about proposed changes to South Dakota’s accountability system.

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Rapid City embracing model principal evaluation system

This story is the third in a three-part series on the continuing development of South Dakota’s model principal effectiveness system.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, South Dakota public school districts will be required to have a principal effectiveness system in place. Under the model system, principals receive both a professional practice rating and a student growth rating. The two separate ratings are combined into one summative rating.

The Rapid City Area School District is one of 12 districts participating in this year’s pilot of the model system.

Opportunity for meaningful evaluation

Rapid City Assistant Superintendent Katie Bray sees it as a tremendous opportunity, asking, “Does this become an exercise in checking the boxes? Or, do we turn this into something that really gives a principal an opportunity to reflect on his/her practice?”

Bray, who supervises 23 principals, is striving for the latter.

She believes the state of South Dakota has provided good tools: rubrics, training and technology. Now she is putting those tools to work for the needs of her district.

The pilot program only required five Rapid City Area principals to participate, but the remaining 18 were also willing to participate when they realized how closely the model system aligns to the system the district had already been developing.

Spurring conversation

At the beginning of the year, Bray and the principals mapped out what their focus would be each quarter. Every quarter, Bray completes a 90-minute evaluation with each principal and the focus area shapes their conversations.

When she learned her district would be participating in the pilot, Shannon Schaefers says, “Knowing that it was a growth model, I was excited about that.”

Schaefers is the principal of Grandview Elementary in Rapid City, and says discussion with Bray often makes her realize many of her daily activities already align with the framework’s expectations.

Bray says that realization is one of the great strengths of the model system: “Then, things they [principals] do become more purposeful because they connect them to an expectation. They begin to be able to define their practice better.”

Dissecting the model

Under the model system, the professional practice rating is based on the South Dakota Framework for Effective Principals, developed by several work groups, including the South Dakota Commission on Teaching and Learning. The framework includes six domains and 22 performance components. These domains include both those pieces of a principal’s job that surround instructional leadership and school improvement, as well as those duties related to the daily management and operation of a school.

The domains of the framework include:
1. Vision and Goals
2. Instructional Leadership
3. School Operations and Resources
4. School, Student and Staff Safety
5. School and Community Relationship
6. Ethical and Cultural Leadership

A principal’s student growth rating is primarily determined by the percentage of teachers under his or her supervision who earn a student growth rating of Expected. This measure accounts for 75 percent of a principal’s student growth rating.

The secondary measure of a principal’s impact on student growth requires a principal, in cooperation with the district superintendent, to set school-level growth goals based on available state accountability data (SPI or AMOs). In years when such data is available, this measure accounts for 25 percent of a principal’s student growth rating.

Click here for training handouts, webinars and more.

Contact Carla Leingang at the South Dakota Department of Education, (605) 773-4638, with any questions.