Performance, Process, and Interpersonal Relationships: Explaining Principals’ Perceptions of Principal Evaluation

Jennifer L. Nelson, Jason A. Grissom, Margaux L. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Multiple-measure principal evaluation systems have become commonplace in the past decade, but we do not know how principals perceive their evaluations under these regimes. This study analyzes how principals perceive evaluation in a state that was an early adopter of such a system. It describes how attitudes are explained by individual and contextual factors, performance ratings, and elements of the evaluation process. Research Methods: Using data from a statewide survey of Tennessee principals in three consecutive school years, we create an index of principal evaluation perceptions of evaluation, then employ regression analysis to predict principals’ attitudes with measures gleaned from survey and administrative data sources. Findings: High school and veteran principals have more negative views of their evaluations. Practice ratings from the principal’s supervisor, though not the overall evaluation score, are positively correlated with attitudes. Principals assigned ratings more often view evaluation more positively, even accounting for their rating, as do principals who have worked longer with their evaluator. We find no evidence that racial or gender matching between principals and raters leads to more positive perceptions, and in fact Black principals may perceive evaluation more negatively when their evaluator is Black. Implications: Our results suggest some directions for states and districts seeking to make evaluation more meaningful for principals. Principals appear to value both frequency of feedback and consistency in raters over time. These factors may be especially important for low-rated principals, veteran principals, and those in secondary schools, who may perceive less value from principal evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-678
Number of pages38
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 24 2021
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • attitudes
  • evaluation systems
  • organizational justice
  • principals
  • quantitative analysis
  • workplace processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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