The Principal Standards Rubric: Pilot Principals' Perspectives

May 7, 2020

The Principal Standards Rubric: Pilot Principals' Perspectives

To support principals' growth and skill development, NIET has outlined a set of research-based indicators that define excellence in school leadership. This Principal Standards Rubric helps principals to develop an in-depth understanding of expectations that maximize their role as instructional leaders. Prior to releasing this tool for the public, NIET conducted a national pilot with school principals in different areas of the country to gather feedback and understand how the rubric would work in the school setting with actual school leaders. Below are a few reflections from leaders who participated in the pilot.

Bobby Matthews, Principal 
Greenville Park Leadership Academy 
Tangipahoa Parish School System, Louisiana

As I reflect on how the Principal Standards Rubric has impacted me this year, two words come to mind: refreshing and invigorating. I've been a principal for over 10 years. During this time, I've been able to witness the evolution of teacher support and the evaluation process in our parish, and I've learned a lot along the way. I can attest that understanding the indicators of what makes an effective educator has greatly helped me grow as an instructional leader. 

However, over the past few years, I found myself stagnant when it came to my own personal growth and determining the areas to focus on at my school. Furthermore, my end-of-year evaluations provided little support in pointing me in the right direction for many of those years. However, this year has been completely different, in a positive way. This year, I was given the opportunity to pilot NIET's Principal Standards Rubric and evaluation process.

As I reflect on how the Principal Standards Rubric has impacted me this year, two words come to mind: refreshing and invigorating. I look forward to my end-of-year Summative Conference in order to reflect and get support on next year's goals. This may be the first time I've ever looked forward to this meeting.
Bobby Matthews, Louisiana Principal

From the get-go, the beginning of the year meeting between my supervisor and me was more focused and clear. This year's initial meeting seemed less compliance-oriented and more meaningful and intentional. The structure of the goal-setting framework and the Principal Standards Rubric provided me with a sense of clarity that I have not felt in quite some time. Furthermore, the support that I received from my supervisor did not seem like we were going through the motions, but our conversation was focused and evidence-based and it prompted me to reflect on focus areas that seemed more intentional than previous goals that I set on my own in the past.

The process and the rubric mimic the same thought process that the NIET Teaching Standards Rubric does with teachers and provides a sense of consistency throughout the teaching and learning process on my campus. I'm being supported the same way that teachers are with the same language that my teachers hear; that's refreshing. I always look forward to the end of the year results in order to see how well my students and teachers perform. This year, I look forward to my end-of-year Summative Conference in order to reflect and get support on next year's goals. This may be the first time I've ever looked forward to this meeting, and that's invigorating. 

Michele M. Smith, Principal and Director of Learning
Pierceton Elementary School
Whitko Community Schools, Indiana

When I first learned that NIET was creating a Principal Standards Rubric, I was so excited! Having worked with the TAP Teaching Standards Rubric, I knew it would be high-quality and provide guidance based on best practices and research. In the past, I have worked with other principal rubric tools, and while these provided some guidance, I felt as though there was no clear direction for development as a leader. Seeing the process as more of a checklist, I would scramble to gather evidence of every item on the rubric before my end of the year "evaluation meeting." If I didn't have the evidence that I had addressed a certain aspect of the evaluation tool, how would my superintendent know that I successfully met the criteria? 

The TAP Teaching Standards Rubric is a tool for development and growth. We thoroughly and consistently teach teachers about the rubric and walk alongside them in the evaluation process. Classroom observations are an opportunity to focus on one area that is a strength to reinforce and one area to refine as we strive for student achievement. The pre- and post-conferences allow for dialogue and reflection in the continuous improvement process. The approach with the Principal Standards Rubric mirrors the same process.

The Principal Standards Rubric is the most comprehensive tool for leader development I have encountered. It allows me to focus on the areas that will impact our school success in the most effective ways.
Michele M. Smith, Indiana Principal and Director of Learning

It allows for conversation about leadership, student achievement, and other areas that impact school success. It also provides specific actions to foster growth and success. You can see what exemplary looks like with concrete indicators and descriptors. I have always said that if educators know what it looks like, they can replicate it. It is the same for leaders. When we know what all of the elements of success look like, we can attain it. 

There are many aspects and elements to school leadership, and the Principal Standards Rubric is the most comprehensive tool for leader development I have encountered.  In the past several months I have been able to use the tool for reflection and guidance. I often ask myself, "Am I doing enough? Am I missing anything?" When those thoughts enter my reflections, I can refer to the Principal Standards Rubric. I have the tool to help guide my steps toward exemplary leadership. As the areas to refine are illuminated by the rubric, there is comfort in knowing what steps I need to take in order to grow. 

Being a school leader is hard. There are multiple facets of the work and numerous distractors. The Principal Standards Rubric allows me to focus on the areas that will impact our school success in the most effective ways. Yes, it is daunting. Yes, it is overwhelming at times. But now I have direction and a tool that focuses my reflection on things that will have the biggest impact on our students and teachers. It is easy to get off track and spend time on things that pull us away from high-impact actions. Whenever I feel the wheels spinning (or coming off!) I get my head back into the rubric. It keeps me focused and allows me to take the steps toward growth and success, one descriptor at a time.

Brittany Anderson, Principal
Mansfield Elementary School
DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana

The NIET Principal Standards Rubric has been the essential foundation for my growth as an administrator. It has served as a perfect addition to our everyday TAP processes. For years, instructional rubrics gave us the research-based foundation for providing teachers with high-quality, tailored, and specific feedback for reflection and growth. Now, the NIET Principal Standards Rubric has given us the research-based foundation for administrators to receive and give (to assistant administrators) that same high-quality, tailored, and specific feedback for our reflection and growth.

The plan for growth is so detailed and action-oriented that I am able to take a shared ownership in it with the entire school. Everyone at Mansfield Elementary knows what my specific refinement and action plan is. Why? Because they are a part of it, and we are all investing in it.
Brittany Anderson, Louisiana Principal

Prior to the rubric, feedback given and received was general and broad. The NIET Principal Standards Rubric works like the other TAP rubrics, and it is specific and defined. My reinforcement and refinement are tailored to my specific strengths and weaknesses. Not only does the rubric specifically define the elements of effective leadership necessary to positively impact teacher growth and student achievement, but it also serves as a foundation for a detailed plan for improvement. 

Having a plan in place to help me grow is motivating and powerful. The plan for growth is so detailed and action-oriented that I am able to take a shared ownership in it with the entire school. Everyone at Mansfield Elementary knows what my specific refinement and action plan is. Why? Because they are a part of it, and we are all investing in it. It has allowed transparency to exist. 

Lastly, the rubric and action plan alone provide a solid foundation and structure, but the support as a direct result of the design – just like a master teacher supports a career teacher – is what brings the plan to life. I know that I am not in it alone. I have my director of administration to support and guide me along the way. She provides me with in-the-field support regularly as well as the opportunity to network and collaborate with other administrators.

Lillie P. Giles, Director of School Administration 
DeSoto Parish Schools, Louisiana

The Principal Standards Rubric aligns on-the-job evaluation with supports tailored to meet each principal's needs. It helps me reflect on what I can do to add value to what is working well in select schools and helps me identify those school leaders who may have urgent areas of refinement.

The Principal Skills Rubric provides a clear framework to help school leaders grow as they operate on a continuum of self-reflection, self-discovery, and validation of their success through quantitative and qualitative evidence.
Lillie P. Giles, Louisiana Director of School Administration

As the facilitator for our district's aspiring leaders program, my goal is to increase leadership density within the district. The Principal Standards Rubric defines the competencies and skills of an effective leader. With that in mind, I have been able to refine the selection process. Now aspiring leaders are required to provide quantitative and qualitative evidence of pre-leadership experiences that have added value to their professional growth. I will also use the rubric to help deliver high-quality pre-service preparation for potential school leaders. 

Learn more about the Principal Standards Rubric and a new Principal Leadership Series training.