In Search of Effective Principal Appraisal
The board of trustees of each New Zealand state and integrated school is responsible for the performance appraisal of its principal. Empirical data on the effectiveness of the appraisal for principals and boards is scarce. This research set out to describe principal appraisal within a region containing approximately one tenth of New Zealand schools. A survey to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the 2006 appraisal was completed by the principal and/or chair of just under half the schools in the region. The results suggest four critical success factors: the way in which the appraiser is selected and their personal qualities; the fairness and clarity of the process; the specific expectations that principals and chairs have of the outcome; and the completeness and congruity of principals' and chairs' understanding of appraisal. The reported experiences were mostly positive. However, understanding and resourcing of effective practice was found to be limited. A professional external appraiser and good interpersonal chemistry are dominant contributors to a satisfying appraisal experience. A functioning process with adequate resourcing and time for evidence gathering and evaluation, appear to be important appraisal prerequisites but do not guarantee a satisfying outcome. Unsatisfying appraisal experiences can be traced to a lack of clear understanding of appraisal aims and practice, together with resources to support their development. It is further compounded by the transient nature of boards. Four key action programmes are suggested to address shortcomings and recommendations are outlined for key stakeholders.