After 9 Years of Development, New Principal Evaluation Process Still Flunks

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Graphic by Emily Metcalf

BY REP. BOB MCDERMOTT – Last week, the Hawaii State Department of Education finally released the criteria for principal evaluations, which were agreed to by Hawaii Government Employees Association. See the Comprehensive Evaluation System for School Administrators (CESSA) at

I have read this document cover to cover; it is glaringly short of specific quantifications and long on subjective evaluations. It has no teeth, and therefore little real justification.


It took nine years to complete a simple 30 page agreement, which is a staggering example of the dysfunction that we are accepting and tolerating each and every day from our educational system. To put it in perspective, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo took seven years to complete. The principal evaluation document was agreed to and released 12/12/2012 but set to begin at the beginning of the fall semester. It makes no sense; the principals already have grounds to dispute a poor evaluation due to the faulty implementation of the new agreement. This is a huge embarrassment that reflects on the current culture of our aimless and flawed education system.

The evaluation for the principals is broken down into two areas, starting with the area of student achievement. Seems pretty straight forward right? Wrong. This portion of the evaluation only counts for 50% of their review and includes not just test scores and graduation rates; it also contains such highly subjective measurements as the ambiguous Professional Portfolio of Artifacts, use of grading policy, special recognition and accomplishments; and multiple measures of student learning. This is the tough part of the evaluation.

The second part of the evaluation goes from bad to laughable. The “hard hitting requirements” like keeping a professional journal; reflection time; interviews/questionnaires, observations, news clippings, and letters of support, to name a few, all seem designed to give poor performers ample wiggle room to keep their job despite poor performance.

It gets even worse, I have zero confidence this document can be complied legally by either party due to the amount of paperwork and time required by each party. Pages and pages are devoted to counseling, conferencing and the back and forth communications. The administrative load for both parties is neither practical nor workable. It was destined to fail.
This entire exercise, and the absolutely unacceptable time it took to complete, is yet another case for principals to be removed from the Union. They should be given more authority and ownership, and then held to rigorous, clear, clean, crisp performance metrics.

Let me suggest the following: We give every principal a substantial per year raise while removing them from collective bargaining while preserving their civil service protection. We then measure them on some pretty straightforward things like graduation rates, attendance rates, discipline issues, and finally the much maligned standardized test scores. We compile the respective measurements in all of the above criteria, using a three year average to determine the starting baseline, and then look for improvement.

Rep. Bob McDermott can be reached at