External or internal performance reviews?
Currently more than half of boards use external consultants for some or all of their principal performance review. The choice of external (consultant assisted) or internal (board conducted) reviews is central to boards' fulfilment of their employer role.
This guide provides a comparison of the two approaches and indicates which might be the best choice under certain board conditions. Although using a consultant does not necessarily ensure a better review process, there are circumstances where the board may benefit from the use of an external consultant.
Benefits of internal (board conducted) performance reviews
- Opportunity to build in-depth knowledge of school processes
- Builds a relationship with the principal
- Better accountability - some external appraisals may be too general
- Cost savings for a school of $1,000-$8,000!
- More control over the process, ensuring the review is in line with the school strategic plan
Common concerns boards have about internal reviews
- Damaging the relationship with their principal
- Making a mistake which causes damage to school reputation or finance (i.e. personal grievances)
- Lack of knowledge/experience/skills/time
NZSTA resources available to help boards perform reviews
- A team of Employment Advisers to provide assistance, you can call them on 0800 782 435 (option 2) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Online performance management materials including:
- Performance agreement templates
- Timeline of month by month principal performance management process
- Letter of attestation templates for:
- How to write performance objectives
- Flowcharts: performance agreement, performance review
- How to write learning and development objectives
- Template for principal performance management policy
- Guidelines for evaluating principal portfolios
- Register for NZSTA's upcoming courses on "principal performance management" and "employer role"
- NZSTA's booklet Guidelines for Primary Boards of Trustees Primary Principals' Performance Review
- Good Practice Framework for managing principal appraisal (performance review)
Benefits of external (consultant assisted) performance reviews
- No preconceptions about the school or principal performance
- Independent view
- Educational specialists
Circumstances when an external consultant might be preferable
- New board/new principal
- Lacking skill set to perform reviews
- Difficult board-principal relationship
Recommendations when using an external consultant/reviewer
- Consult the NZSTA's guide on using a consultant for the review.
- The board needs to work closely with the provider to ensure the consultant understands the school's charter and needs.
- Any decisions about the principal need to be made by the board, not the consultant.
- While a consultant may be helpful for a new board lacking the requisite skills or suffering from a difficult board-principal relationship, the board should aim at improving their skills and relationships so that, in future, they may be able to conduct performance reviews unaided or with minimal use of consultants. Employment Advisers are available to provide assistance and advice to boards to build confidence in performing reviews unaided.
- Some boards find it helpful to have a policy of alternating internal and external performance reviews. For example, the board delegates could perform the review for Year 1 and Year 2, using an external reviewer for year 3. Or alternatively, the board, at its start, year 1, might prefer to use a consultant, and then, after learning from that process, undertake the review themselves in year 2 and 3.