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Superintendent Evaluations

The Importance of a Rubric’s Performance Indicators in a Superintendent Evaluation

December 5th, 2016

Superintendent Evalutation

A superintendent evaluation offers an opportunity to keep the district’s leadership team healthy and the conversation focused. The superintendent evaluation and expectations of the superintendent of schools should be clearly defined so as to mitigate any ambiguity regarding expectations or what constitutes an “effective” or “high effective” superintendent.

To achieve this clarity of expectations with a common language, it is imperative that the school board utilizes a well-developed superintendent evaluation instrument. As one might assume, not all superintendent evaluation instruments are created equal. This fact leads to a natural question: how do you determine what constitutes a well-developed evaluation instrument?

A critical characteristic of an evaluation instrument is found in the leveled rubric and, more importantly, the descriptors of the superintendent competencies also known as performance indicators. These defined performance indicators of a rubric serve a number of important purposes within an evaluation instrument and process.

Clear Expectations

Performance indicators within an evaluation rubric establishes clear expectations of what constitutes an “effective” or “highly effective” superintendent. These expectations are essential for both the superintendent and the school board members. For the superintendent, it provides clarity of the evaluation expectations and leaves little to no mystery as to how the school board will evaluate the superintendent as well as what constitutes “effective” performance. For individual school board members, an internal agreement with clear expectations as defined by the performance indicators allows the board to have a shared perspective for each of the superintendent’s competencies included within the evaluation. Essentially, utilizing the same operational definition of “effective” practice reduces subjective opinions as to what defines “effective” practice.

Common Language

Performance indicators provide the superintendent and the school board members with a common language. This common language is important when discussing the competency expectations or superintendent performance. This common language, coupled with a shared perspective, also supports the school board members with the ability to speak as one board with one voice.

Achieving Effective Performance or Earning Points?

The common language found within the performance indicators also keeps the conversation focused on words and language. If an evaluation instrument is void of performance indicators within the rubric, then you are left solely with a subjective word such as “effective” or, even worse, merely a number on a Likert scale of one to four. If tasked with labeling a superintendent as “developing” or “effective,” without performance indicators, how do you know what label to use? Likewise, if a Likert scale is employed and the superintendent receives a “3” on a competency, the natural question is what constitutes a “3?” How is that different from a “2” or a “4?” This is somewhat a rhetorical question as the answer is completely subjective. Expectations in a rubric must be clearly defined by performance indicators otherwise any label or grade would be completely subjective to that specific board member.

On a side note, it is also important to utilize words and language rather than points when discussing the evaluation of the district’s leader. As a highly functioning, well-educated, and experienced educational leader, a superintendent can aspire to being “highly effective” in each of the competencies included in the evaluation. Leaders aspire to ideas and words contained in performance indicators but can a leader hold a similar or equal aspiration for earning a number on a scale such as a “4?” I don’t believe that to be true.


A well-developed and quality superintendent evaluation instrument must include descriptors or performance indicators which describe the levels of performance. Otherwise, the instrument is immediately flawed as it is grounded in subjectivity; what one board member might think is “effective” another board member might believe is “developing,” while another see the work of the superintendent as “highly effective,” and so on.

An alternative to adopting a superintendent evaluation instrument with defined performance indicators is having the school board develop their own performance indicators which describe the rubric’s leveled performance. For anyone that has undertaken such a task of rubric design and development knows that it takes a significant level of expertise coupled with a depth of knowledge as well as a substantial investment of time. From my perspective, few boards have the time to undertake such an initiative.

A quality superintendent evaluation has clear expectations, a common language and an approach that supports the growth of the school leader and meaningful conversations with the leadership team. If this is the outcome of an evaluation, it seems difficult if not impossible to achieve this without using an evaluation rubric with defined performance indicators.

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