CREATE Week: Paula Egelson on International Perspectives on School Leadership Preparation, Evaluation Standards, and Role as Principal

Hi I am Paula Egelson, researcher at the Southern Regional Education Board and member of the Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching Effectiveness’s (CREATE) Board of Directors. CREATE’s membership is international in scope and many CREATE members do research in countries outside the United States (US). Since some of our work centers on school leaders, a team of CREATE directors (Sterritt, Grant, Fischetti, Klinger and Egelson, 2015) believed it would be helpful to develop a white paper on school leadership internationally from principal preparation, standards, principal evaluation, and manager/leader perspectives. Australia, Canada, China, and the US were targeted.

Countries’ government, research, and their culture deeply impact educational policy and implementation. Of the four countries selected, Australia, Canada and the US are industrialized nations with highly developed educational systems. While having a long history, China is now emerging as an industrial power. China has made sweeping changes to its education system by moving to more of a westernized approach.

Not surprisingly, Canada and China are on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding school leadership. Canada is very decentralized in its approach to education and views its school leaders as well-trained, dedicated professionals. There is no single national Canadian context for principal preparation and evaluation; it varies by province. The standards for school leaders are not regulatory, but are seen like professional development. In contrast, China is highly regulated and centralized. However, the principal is seen as an instructional leader in China; this is true of all the countries studied.

There are some commonalities on the perspectives between Australia and the United States. In general, Australia is more highly centralized than the US. In both countries, mostly universities conduct the training of principals. Regarding leadership standards, Australia’s are nationally developed whereas in the US has both national and state leadership standards. Surprisingly, the United States principals are evaluated summatively while in Australia they are evaluated formatively. Australia appears to be at a crossroads with principal training and evaluation. Although there is some evidence of high stakes accountability (like value-added measures), the purity of the current standards and process remain formative in nature and support principal self-reflection, the management of self, and professional learning.

Lessons Learned:  

  • While there are communalities in the roles and expectations for principals, the standards for training and evaluating school leadership vary across cultures and systems.
  • There is a need to explore how successful systems work well even when they are at opposite ends of important dimensions like the centrality of the standards and regulations.

Rad Resource: The CREATE White Paper on Standards for Educational Leadership found at this link: CREATE Leadership White Paper

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching (CREATE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of CREATE. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “CREATE Week: Paula Egelson on International Perspectives on School Leadership Preparation, Evaluation Standards, and Role as Principal”

  1. Hello Paula,

    Thank you for writing such an engaging comparison of leadership and evaluation in highly developed educations systems. It seems as though you have intentionally examined countries that appear to have similar systems with at least one major outlier. Using the evaluation focus of preparation, standards and leadership perspectives, it seems an excellent route as each country must have a plethora of data available.

    You first begin by comparing Canada and China. One of the interesting pieces of this comparison is not necessarily the obvious contrasts in these education systems, but more the emphasis on principal training and evaluation. Essentially, you state that there is no centralized principal training in Canada with more of a professional development model. However, you mention that Canada identifies their “leaders as well-trained, dedicated professionals.” Would you ascertain the leaders in Canada have other key training or attributes? Kaser and Halbert, authors of Leadership Mindsets, explain “a leader with intense moral purpose, learns for a deeper understanding, develops relational trust, has an evidence seeking mindset, learner-oriented design thinker and that is networked will have the greatest impact and effect on change that is transformational” (Kaser, 2009). As well, you continue to elaborate that China, Australia and even the US have a more centralized approach and have training for principals before they begin their professions. You are correct about Canada. In British Columbia, we adhere to Leadership Competencies which guide our leadership and evaluate administrators during their first two years in these positions. Additionally, districts and universities offer what can be described as, “Short Course” offerings for new principals to better understand and prepare for their roles. You state well-trained administrators, but not having provided prior professional development in these roles, seems as though there may be something missing in the Canadian approach.

    One of the other statements that you make that was intriguing to me was the focus on formative and summative evaluation in the US and Australia. You first mention this was surprising that the US focuses on summative evaluation. Is this really surprising? In an education system with great focus on standardized testing and accountability following analysis, one could say that this isn’t surprising at all.

    One of my assumptions is that Australia’s approach is much more successful based on the formative evaluation utilized. Dylan William’s would indicate that “feedback should cause thinking. It should be focused; it should relate to the learning goals that have been shared with the students [principals]; and it should be more work for the recipient than the donor. Indeed, the whole purpose of feedback should be to increase the extent to which students are owners of their own learning.” (Williams, 2011). As formative assessment assists students, teachers and principals, one could make the assertion that this system and approach would be more effective. However, you surprisingly mention that Australia is at a crossroads that is related to training and education, and a focus on accountability. I’m interested in this junction. Are they finding the administrative training is less effective, as you state there is purity in the formative evaluation? Or are the evaluators providing feedback that is not considered? Weiss mentions, “if the evaluator developed recommendations based on the findings, then the recommendations were supposed to be used” (Weiss, 1998, 23). Additionally, In Evaluation Use, Theory, Research and Practice, “at the heart of the matter was the question of whether evaluators could, or should be held accountable for use” (Shulha & Cousins, 1997).

    And finally, in your “lessons learned” section it is stated you wanted to explore how successful systems work, but you have not considered some of the most successful educational systems globally. According to the Center on International Educational Benchmarking, the top 3 education systems would be Canada, Finland and Japan. Were these considered in your evaluation?

    Thank you for such a relatable piece. It is incredibly similar to my context, and my view of assessment as learning and evaluation.


    C. Naylor


    Kaser, L. (2009). Leadership Mindsets: Innovation and Learning in the Transformation of Schools (Leading School Transformation) (1st ed.). Routledge.

    Shulha, L., & Cousins, B. (1997). Evaluation use: Theory, research and practice since
    1986. Evaluation Practice, 18, 195-208.

    Weiss, C. H. (1998). Have we learned anything new about the use of evaluation? American
    Journal of Evaluation, 19, 21-33.

    Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded Formative Assessment – practical strategies and tools for K-12
    teachers (US ed). Solution Tree.

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