Only the best

Only the best

John Casey

An administrative assessment and support system can help districts attract and retain the best people to provide quality leadership for its schools.

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District has implemented a system of professional standards for administrators, a goal-setting and assessment system and a professional development support model. These systems were developed under the same principles that have been used successfully to support new and experienced teachers.

An emphasis on the recruitment, induction and retention of the best teachers has been a major focus of school districts throughout California. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District formed a partnership with the New Teacher Center and UC Santa Cruz to provide support for beginning teachers through the BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) program.

The district then adopted professional standards based on the Continuum of Teacher Abilities, which was developed through the work of Ellen Moir, director of the New Teacher Center and the New Teacher Project. These standards apply to both achieving tenure for new teachers and maintaining expected levels of performance for experienced teachers. (A revised version of the professional standards was later adopted by the State of California as the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.) The standards-based teacher evaluation system then became the umbrella under which all professional development was developed and delivered.

After five years of monitoring and refining the system for teacher assessment and professional development, the district began to see the possibility of structuring an administrative support and assessment system based on the tenets that were working so well with teachers. The system was based on the belief that through genuine and honest self-reflection and self-assessment, combined with the input and guidance of the peermentor/supervisor relationship, students and schools will be best served and everyone will grow personally and professionally in a positive and nurturing environment.

To put these beliefs into practice with respect to administrators, the district implemented an evaluation and support system consisting of the following elements:

1. Professional Standards for Administrators

2. Administrative Cycle of Inquiry, which includes:

* self-assessment,

* personal and site goal-setting,

* professional development and

* evaluation.

A common vision

The district’s Professional Standards for Administrators clearly state the standards for quality and effectiveness for the professional administration of our schools. These standards provide a common language and a vision of the scope and complexity of school administration by which all administrators at all levels of the organization can define and develop professional goals, and can guide, monitor and assess progress toward those goals. The standards address the diversity of the student population in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District today and reflect a holistic, developmental view of the skills and abilities critical to the successful administration of our schools.

The professional standards are arranged in a Continuum of Administrative Abilities. Descriptions of administrative practice represent a range of skills from “beginning” through “emerging,” “applying,” “integrating” and “innovating.” The Continuum of Administrative Abilities was designed as a means for self-assessment, reflection and professional growth. All of the professional development opportunities for administrators are related to growth in the five domains defined in the professional standards.

Drafting the document

An examination of various administrative support and evaluation systems, as well as a review of current literature, were conducted by a group of administrators representing all levels of the district for a period of a year and a half before a standards document was drafted. Two primary resource documents were analyzed and formed the basis of the Professional Standards for Administrators — the Commission on Teacher Credentialing “Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Administrative Services Credentials” (1995) and the national Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, Council of Chief State School Officers, “Standards for School Leaders” (1996).

The format and use of the district’s professional standards and Continuum of Administrative Abilities have been modeled after the similar PVUSD professional standards (California Standards for the Teaching Profession) and Continuum of Teacher Abilities developed by the Santa Cruz New Teacher Project. The draft documents are being piloted during the 2000-2001 school year. Feedback and comments will be solicited during the year from participating administrators in order to refine both documents.

Developing goals for professional growth

The Professional Standards for Administrators and the Continuum of Administrative Abilities were designed to support ongoing professional growth for administrators throughout their careers and to provide an evaluation tool for self-assessment, peer coaching, mentoring and supervisor feedback. Through the use of these two documents, individual administrators are able to develop goals for their professional growth. Their goals become inquiries into professional practices that promote positive school change and increase student achievement.

The standards

The five domains of the Professional Standards for Administrators are based on the following five beliefs:

Standard I: Providing effective leadership for school, division, district and community. “A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by facilitating the leadership, development, articulation, implementation and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school, division, district and community.”

Standard II: Creating and maintaining a positive culture. “A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing and sustaining a positive school culture conducive to student learning and staff professional growth.”

Standard III: Administering policies, practices and procedures. “A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by ensuring that administrative and management policies, practices and procedures support an effective learning environment within the school and district.”

Standard IV: Providing leadership for the instructional program. “A school administrator is an educational leader who facilitates, leads, evaluates and creates educational programs to better meet the needs of all students through their development and improvement.”

Standard V: Communicating effectively. “A school administrator is an educational leader who communicates effectively to a broad constituency of students, staff, parents and the community which benefits student learning and the schools.”

Participating administrators use the standards according to a process called the Administrative Cycle of Inquiry. The Cycle of Inquiry consists of a process and a timeline to guide an ongoing series of meetings between the administrator and his/her supervisor and a peer/mentor partner. These meetings provide the opportunity for reflective conversations regarding successes, challenges and progress of both action plans. They also provide the opportunity to assess the usefulness of professional development activities in which the administrator has participated.

The first step in the Administrative Cycle of Inquiry is to do a self-assessment on the five domains of the professional standards, identifying areas of strength and areas requiring support. The administrator then analyzes his or her school’s achievement with respect to district student achievement goals. At this point, the administrator meets with his or her supervisor and drafts potential goals for the school, as well as supporting goals for the administrator’s own personal skill development. The administrator also identifies the support and resources that will be needed to complete an action plan that is designed to accomplish these goals.

Needs assessments

In order for the district to provide appropriate professional development activities, zone assistant superintendents gather information regarding the needs of participating administrators from principals within their zones. A district-wide needs assessment is also conducted relative to professional growth needs for all administrators. The results from both of these assessments are organized with respect to the domains of the professional standards. This information is provided to the district’s Professional Communities Action Team, which is charged with providing training and growth opportunities designed to meet administrator needs.

Training and growth opportunities

As an example, the district has contracted with Bob Garmston to provide training in knowledge and skill development taught through his Adaptive Schools program. This training is directly aligned to the knowledge and skills identified in administrator self-assessments and the district needs assessment.

Another example involves collaboration with the New Teacher Center to provide coaching for new principals that is aligned to the district’s Professional Standards for Administrators. This coaching parallels the relationship between the New Teacher Advisor and new teachers that is employed in the BTSA program. The district has also contracted with the New Teacher Center for new principals to attend New Principal Institutes. The content for these institutes is structured to support the district’s Professional Standards for Administrators.

A number of schools have adopted the Baldrige in Education quality principles for school improvement in an effort to increase student achievement and address community-identified needs. Training provided through the Baldrige process supports individual administrator skills acquisition and is another resource for supporting the professional standards.

The district is also offering a series of monthly meetings designed for both new and aspiring administrators. These meetings will provide opportunities for administrators to examine best practices of successful educational leaders.

Throughout the Cycle of Inquiry are monthly opportunities for the administrator and supervisor to discuss formative assessments of administrator progress. By the end of February, a conference is held to review evidence of progress for district, site and personal goals. At the principal level, the summative conference is held with the direct supervisor (the zone assistant superintendent) and the superintendent.

Just as these conferences are held between principals and the zone assistant superintendents, so all other administrators in the district participate in the Cycle of Inquiry and related conferences with their supervisors — coordinators with directors, assistant principals with principals, and directors with the superintendent. The involvement of all administrators in the district is considered essential to building a culture of professional growth and support. Therefore, the school board and superintendent have made the inclusion of all administrators in this process a district-adopted goal for this year.

The administrative assessment, evaluation and professional development model, supported by a commonly-held series of professional standards, provides a consistent assessment/evaluative experience for all administrators at all levels in the district that directly parallels the teacher assessment/evaluation system. It includes the same expectations for professional growth for administrators as for teachers.

Just as in the case with teachers, an emphasis on the recruitment, induction and retention of the best administrators must be a major focus of school districts over the coming few years.

The district believes that the effort required to empower administrators to direct their own professional development, to investigate how particular administrative skills impact student learning in their schools and to monitor and assess their own professional growth in collaboration with their colleagues is both valuable and necessary. These efforts will result in a stronger, more effective approach to administration. It is also our belief that this assessment and support system will enable the district to attract and retain the best people to provide quality administrative leadership for our schools.


Interstate School Leaders’ Licensure Consortium. (1996). Standards for School Leaders.

Commission on Teacher Credentialing, State of California. (1995). Standards of Quality and Effectiveness for Administrative Services Credential Programs.

Garmston, Robert J. and Wellman, Bruce M. (1999.) The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups. Christopher-Gordon Publishers Inc. Norwood, MA.

John Casey is superintendent of Pajaro Valley Unified School District, where Clem Donaldson is assistant superintendent, human resources.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Association of California School Administrators

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group