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Superintendent Evaluations

Seven Standards of Excellence in Superintendent Evaluations

September 22nd, 2017

The annual performance evaluation of superintendents remains the ideal opportunity to reflect on professional practices, celebrate achievements, and to identify both strengths and areas in need of improvement. By applying specific standards of excellence in leadership evaluation, the process transcends from an event in time to a professional development experience with focused conversations among the leadership team. The following seven standards of excellence in leadership evaluation should be foundational to achieving meaningful outcomes and results.

  1. Establishing a Defined Process
    Within a superintendent’s evaluation process exists both the accountability of the superintendent to the school board as well as school board’s accountability to the superintendent. Establishing a defined process, with due dates for each step, ensures a mutual accountability for the evaluators and the evaluatee throughout this annual process.
  2. Creating and Aligning Annual SMART Goals
    Each year, most leadership teams define multiannual school board and/or district goals, from which the annual focus of the superintendent’s priorities are derived. Co-creating annual SMART goals within the leadership team creates a goal-driven performance evaluation focusing the work of the superintendent while advancing the longer-term board and district goals. As a best practice, Jacinda Conboy et al. (2014) noted that three to a maximum of five annual SMART goals should be aligned to the performance evaluation.
  3. Choosing an Evaluation Instrument with a Leveled-Performance Rubric
    There are a few superintendent evaluation instruments available but not all are created equal! Although evaluation frameworks might share domains and leadership competencies, one of the most important and essential features of an evaluation instrument is a leveled-performance rubric. For consistency among evaluators, board members must have the opportunity to move beyond numerical values on a Likert scale to specific effective superintendent performance descriptors for each competency. These indicators define the expectations of effective leadership practices while increasing the likelihood of consensus, which is more difficult when using Likert scales.
  4. Employing the Reflective Practice Theory
    Throughout the school year, a superintendent who consistently reflects on his/her own professional practices will transcend a process from evaluation into a model of continuous improvement and learning. Reflective practice theory is well documented in research literature dating back to the work of John Dewey. Leaders who employ reflective practices gain new insights, leading to innovative ideas while uncovering new knowledge. Purposeful evaluations have an intentional outcome of professional learning and development.
  5. Assembling a Professional Practices Portfolio
    Much of the day-to-day work of a superintendent is not evident to the school board, yet the board members are required to evaluate the work of the superintendent. By assembling “illustrations of professional practice” (Picone-Zocchia, 2014, p.8) within a portfolio, the superintendent is now equipped to lead the board through an evidence-based evaluation. These artifacts, or illustrations of practice, contextualize the work of the superintendent within the established competency framework and align to the annual evaluation.
  6. Conducting a Self-Assessment
    After reviewing the reflections and exemplars within the portfolio, a superintendent is able to conduct a meaningful self-assessment for each competency defined by the evaluation rubric. This exercise highlights areas of perceived professional strength as well as areas with room for growth.
  7. Engaging the School Board in a Year-end Review
    Participating in a year-end conversation to review all the quantitative and qualitative data collected is an essential and final step in the evaluation process. The data, along with the comparisons between the superintendent’s self-evaluation and the board’s evaluation, provide an excellent catalyst for conversation regarding the superintendent’s performance. This purposeful conversation keeps the leadership team healthy while providing a feedback loop from the school board to the superintendent with a focus on professional practices.

Collectively, these seven standards of excellence, which are foundational to SuperEval, position the superintendent and school board for meaningful outcomes resulting from the superintendent evaluation process.

For more information about this article, please contact Michael L. Horning, Jr. from SuperEval at 716-855-2250 or via email


Picone-Zocchia, J. (2014). Field guide: Principal evaluator. Garden City, NY: Learner-Centered

Conboy, J. H., Contreras, S. L., Groff, C. C., Reidy, R. J., Rice, M. C., Santiago-Marullo, D. A., . . . Wegman, K. (2014). The council’s superintendent model evaluation. Albany, NY: NYSCOSS.

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