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Superintendent Evaluations

Top 5 Reasons for Conducting Annual Superintendent Evaluations

June 9th, 2016


Over the past year, I have enjoyed the support of The New York State Council of School Superintendents (THE COUNCIL) in developing SuperEval, an online superintendent evaluation system that streamlines the evaluation process for superintendents and school board members.  While working on this initiative, I continue to study the topic of superintendent evaluations in depth.  Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm that I present, The Top 5 Reasons for Conducting Annual Superintendent Evaluations.

#5 – Accountability for the District Leader

Accountability is a well-developed theme within the field of education and the office of the superintendent is no exception.  From my conversations with superintendents, I have found the vast majority of them both welcome and desire a thoughtful, annual evaluation from their board.  These highly-functioning school leaders are, often times, their own toughest critics; yet, they still welcome and request board feedback.  The key here is to ensure accountability is tied to predetermined competencies within a well-developed evaluation framework such as The Council’s Superintendent Model Evaluation Instrument first published in 2014 and subsequently revised in 2016.  In utilizing this instrument, the 24 superintendent competencies are further defined by a 4-point rubric as indicators of success rather than merely having an undefined Likert scale.  The process supports a superintendent’s self-assessment that is reflective and evidence-based. With an established evaluation process and well-developed evaluation rubric utilizing a reflective/evidence-based approach, most superintendents embrace the evaluation and their own accountability in holding the prestigious office of the superintendent. Hence, accountability kicks off our countdown list at #5.

#4 – Goal Setting and Alignment

According to The Council’s Superintendent Model Evaluation Instrument, “The superintendent’s work is grounded in the work of teachers, principals, administrators and other staff.”  As such, annual SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) keep the superintendent and board focused on the district’s goals as part of the superintendent’s performance review.  This alignment of annual superintendent goals, district goals, and the evaluation is another enlightened approach incorporated by the committee of superintendents whom authored The Council’s Superintendent Model Evaluation.  Thus, goal setting and alignment is #4 on our countdown list.

#3 – Promoting and Maintaining Healthy Leadership Teams

Well-developed, high-quality annual superintendent evaluations establish clear expectations for the superintendent and provide a catalyst for board/superintendent conversations.  This all leads to open communications that both promote and maintain positive superintendent and board relations supporting the overall health of the district’s leadership team.  Promoting and maintaining healthy leadership teams is important to the overall success of the district.  Data trends in the tenure of the superintendent of schools suggest that districts with stable boards attract higher quality superintendents and tend to retain them longer.  A longer tenured superintendent is important for many reasons.  Perhaps the most important reason can be found in a study by Tim Waters and Robert Marzano published in 2006.  In this study, they found a positive correlation between the tenure of a school superintendent and the school district’s student achievement.  If quality superintendent evaluations lead to healthier leadership teams, and healthier leadership teams create the environment for a longer tenured superintendent, and longer tenured superintendents have a positive correlation on student achievement, then it leads us to an interesting question:  Does a quality annual superintendent evaluation support the conditions for higher student achievement?  (Sounds like a research project!)  Regardless, superintendent evaluations do promote and maintain healthy leadership teams and, for this reason, it comes in at #3 on our countdown list!

#2 – Professional Growth

Shouldn’t professional development and growth be at the core of any evaluation? As individuals and professionals, we all have our areas of strength and areas where we can improve and grow. With the clearly defined competencies, a school leader has a reflective framework to identify these aforementioned areas and recognize strengths while defining a plan for growth.  Although professional growth should be the foundational purpose of the evaluation process, it still doesn’t fall into the top spot on our countdown list.

#1 – It’s the Law!

This might be the most obvious reason but it is also the most important hereby ranking it as the #1 reason on our countdown list for conducting an annual superintendent evaluation. The annual review of the superintendent is required by New York State Law (8 NYCRR 100.2(o)(2)) and is found in most, if not all, of the superintendent employment contracts.  Much to my surprise, I’ve learned of boards of education that do not conduct annual superintendent evaluations.  Similarly, others conduct perfunctory evaluations that serve neither the long-term interest of the superintendent nor the board.

In conclusion, conducting a superintendent evaluation is one of the most important annual activities of the school board.  In consideration of these reasons along with streamlining the process and saving valuable time, it seemed essential to create SuperEval to support superintendents and boards of education with a necessary tool to support best practices in utilizing an established process for efficient and effective superintendent evaluations. SuperEval is the premier, one-of-a-kind online superintendent evaluation system. For more information aboutSuperEval or to let me know one of your reasons that didn’t make my list, please contact me as I welcome the opportunity to keep the conversation going!

Michael Horning, Jr., M.Ed. is the Executive Vice President of PLS 3rd Learning, a Signature Partner of THE COUNCIL, and can be reached by email ( or by phone 716.855.2250.


Waters, J. T., & Marzano, R. J. (2006). School district leadership that works: The effect of superintendent leadership on student achievement. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Conboy, Jacinda H., Sharon L. Contreras, Chad C. Groff, Robert J. Reidy, Jr., Maria C. Rice, Dawn A. Santiago-Marullo, Randall W. Squier, and Kathryn Wegman. The Council’s Superintendent Model Evaluation. Albany: New York State Council of School Superintendents, Nov. 2014. .docx.

Unknown. “Relation of School Board to The Superintendent.” Web blog post. State University. Web. 31 May 2016.

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