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Viewpoints and Findings from the REL Mid-Atlantic

Real-Time Feedback Makes an IMPACT
By Brian Gill, REL Mid-Atlantic Director and Menbere Shiferaw

Real-Time Feedback Makes an IMPACT

Principals and assistant principals play a key role in improving student outcomes, but assessing leaders’ effectiveness is hard and finding the right measure takes time. School leaders influence students in complex and indirect ways, making it difficult to measure these effects. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Mid-Atlantic has worked with school leaders in the mid-Atlantic region to help them enrich the learning environment for students (read about our work with education stakeholders in the region) and with districts and states to develop and refine measures of school leader performance (see previous blog posts on this work). As we continue to work with districts and states and conduct in-depth studies in this area, we also support partners in the region that need immediate feedback to inform their policies and practices. We recently worked with the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to provide valuable and timely analytic support on its evaluation measures.

DCPS has a history of setting high expectations for school leaders. A decade ago, DCPS replaced low-performing principals and welcomed school leaders across the district based on newly implemented rigorous standards, and students’ test scores improved as a result. More recently, DCPS formalized its school leader evaluations. Since 2013, DCPS has evaluated school leaders using a multimeasure system called School Leader IMPACT. School Leader IMPACT combines student performance data with ratings of principals’ professional practice by their supervisors. In recent years, the student data portion includes results  from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments and other school-specific goals, such as attendance. Principals’ professional practice is rated based on instruction, school culture, talent, operations, family and community, and personal leadership. A weighted average of these components determines the School Leader IMPACT score for each leader.

In spring 2019, REL Mid-Atlantic teamed up with DCPS to discuss possible ways to enhance the measures in the School Leader IMPACT system. We used various statistical approaches to study variability in School Leader IMPACT scores and subscores. DCPS needed near-term feedback, which we provided by analyzing School Leader IMPACT data over a four-month period. In August, we conducted a coaching session with DCPS to discuss core lessons from this exercise, and possible paths toward further enhancements to the School Leader IMPACT measures in line with the district’s commitment to providing school leaders with the support that they need to succeed and continuing to hold them to consistent, high standards.

This is just one example of the ways in which REL Mid-Atlantic works with our partners in the region to provide timely evidence to inform policy and practice, and ultimately improve achievement. If you are an education leader or policymaker in the mid-Atlantic region with a challenge that rigorous research and analysis could address, let us know!