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Do school principals have what it takes to grade teachers?

Legislation winding through the Georgia Gold Dome is addressing a complaint that teachers have been yelling from the rooftops: enough with the tests already!

Many criticize an evaluation system where student test results count for at least 50 percent of each job review, blaming it for turnover in their ranks. But lawmakers who are weighing the alternative -- subjective evaluations by principals and other school leaders -- note a big obstacle to change: those principals may not be up to the task.

"We need to spend a little more time making sure we have leadership folks properly trained to do those evaluations before they're really going to accomplish what we expect for them to do," Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said at a recent hearing. He and Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta, have written bills that would reduce student test results from at least half a teacher's evaluation to less than a third. Dickson said neither of them had addressed the issue of unprepared principals in their legislation.

You can read more about the issue in this myAJC article.

Dickson has a point: principals aren't doing well under the current "Leader Keys Effectiveness System," or LKES. Data from a pilot program had nearly half of them rating "needs development" or worse last year. Two percent were "exemplary" compared with nearly a fifth of teachers.

Of course, the perception of poor leadership is itself influenced by tests. School leader evaluations are driven more by student test performance than are teacher evaluations, with 70 percent resulting from the test results. That, too, would change under the proposed legislation.

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About the Author

Ty Tagami writes about K-12 education, focusing on statewide issues.