Policy Assessment Toolset
for equity and learning
Evaluations and related assessments of school leadership policies can be understood from the perspective of various stakeholders in the field of school education. Here we focus particularly on the
perspectives of top-level policy makers, of school leaders and of academics/researchers.
School leadership policy evaluation & assessment from
School leadership policy evaluation has to make it clear from the start what needs it is expected to serve.
... the perspective of top level policy makers
Top level policy makers often need data so as to make informed decisions that are likely to affect school leadership on the school system as a whole and provide the
the tax payers with evidence regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of their policies.
Evaluation and assessment, from the perspective of top level government officials, can be:
a policy instrument which serves on the one hand the needs of decision-making and on the other of transparency and
accountability of their decisions and actions.
an instrument of control over those who are called to implement policies.
Evaluation and assessment for purposes of top-level policy making is increasingly becoming highly prescribed
Many governments around EU as well as EU bodies have adopted detailed guidelines regarding the implementation of policy assessments
(see, for example, the European Commission's Impact Assessment Guidelines) and demand from agencies under their supervision or control
to comply with them.
Overall, policy assessments for purposes of decision-making and accountability tend to be highly institutionalised, i.e. established and managed on the basis of
a regulatory framework, which often includes directives regarding timing, resources to be used, preferred methods and techniques, and even reporting format. Usually, policy assessments
of this kind rely heavily on quantitative data and expert judgements.
For example, the European Commission conducts its own evaluations of policy interventions as part of 'policy implementation life-cycles'. On this basis, it performs
impact assessment or ex-ante evaluation before a decision is taken and a policy intervention is implemented,
interim and on-going evaluation during implementation and
final or ex-post evaluation after completion of an intervention.
The most systematic type of assessment performed on behalf of the European Commission and many governments in Europe and around the world is potential impact assessment.
... the perspective of school leaders
School leaders are those who drive innovation and change in schools. To initiate innovation and implement changes in school life
(i.e., changes in pedagogic methods, or measures to combat bullying)
school leaders need information indicating what may be the potential benefits of the proposed changes, or what are the actual outcomes of an intervention
after this has been implemented.
From the perspective of school leaders, evaluation and assessment of initiatives originating from within their own school can be very useful processes in order to:
take informed decisions about the appraisal, design and implementation of innovations in schools and the establishment of
changes in school life based on solid evidence regarding their efficiency and effectiveness, and
gain support from other members of the school community to the initiatives and changes they propose or introduce.
School leaders need professional training in methods and techniques of school policy evaluation and assessment
School leaders are also increasingly under pressure to respond to demands for assessment data by the central
government authorities. It is often the case that evaluation and assessment demands imposed to schools from above are often mistrusted by school leaders and school communities.
This is because such top-down policy initiatives are often perceived as instruments of control and punishment rather than as valid methods for school improvement. Perhaps one important
reason for mistrust is that school communities often have little or no influence in the decision making processes related to the goals, methods and actual uses of assessment data.
It is therefore important to engage school-level stakeholders, not just school leaders, in all phases of decision making on the evaluation and assessment of top-down policy initiatives to
ensure their widest possible ownership and sense of responsibility for their implementation and outcomes.
Evaluation and assessment of policies originating from schools are usually performed by members of the school staff with no in-depth expertise in doing rigorous research.
Such processes are commonly exploratory in nature and the evidence collected is mainly qualitative and often anecdotal
(i.e. narratives, personal experiences of people involved, casual observations, etc.). Such evidence, when collected from trusted and knowledgeable members of the school community,
can have high ecological validity and provide rich insights into what and why an intervention works well in a particular school.
On the other hand, school leaders who rely solely
on such evidence to take decisions about their school run the risk of jumping to unfounded conclusions about casual connections between interventions and outcomes. This can be
the case for various
reasons. Focusing predominantly on the more enthusiastic, vivid, experiences and stories of those involved, may lead to an overestimation of the positiveness of the impact of an
intervention. Important factors that is possible to have contributed to a certain result may have been downplayed (e.g., the level of investments in human and other resources actually needed), alhtough these may
critically affect the scalability of a successful innovation at whole school level or across schools.
Therefore, school leaders should be offered professional training in methods and techniques of policy evaluation and assessment, so as to develop knowledge and skills
which ensure their rigorous implementation in collecting reliable and valid evidence.