Recent developments in federal policy have prompted the creation of state evaluation frameworks for principals and teachers that hold educators accountable for effective practices and student outcomes. These changes have created a demand for formative evaluation instruments that reflect current accountability pressures and can be used by schools to focus school improvement and leadership development efforts. The Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) is a next generation, 360-degree on-line assessment and feedback system that reflect best practices in feedback design. Some unique characteristics of CALL include a focus on: leadership distributed throughout the school rather than as carried out by an individual leader; assessment of leadership tasks rather than perceptions of leadership practice; a focus on larger complex systems of middle and high school; and transparency of assessment design. This paper describes research contributing to the design and validation of the CALL survey instrument.

Key Take Away Points

  • Most commonly used principal evaluation instruments lack rigorous research to support their reliability and validity.
  • Prior research on feedback design suggest key characteristics of feedback that promotes individual and organizational change.
  • The Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) is an on-line, formative assessment and feedback system designed to be consistent with the principles of effective feedback.
  • CALL is a 360-degree formative evaluation and feedback system that focuses on assessing leadership tasks distributed throughout the school organization, rather than assessing the characteristics of an individual leader.
  • CALL provides feedback through transparency in item design, to communicate the theory of action for school improvement to those completing the assessment; through reporting of results to the principal or leadership team; and by identifying research-based practices that schools could pursue to address need areas identified by the survey.

Author Biography

Carolyn Kelley is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on the preparation and development of school leaders, and teacher evaluation and compensation as elements of strategic human resources management in schools. She is co-author with James J. Shaw of the book Learning First! A School Leader’s Guide to Closing Achievement Gaps (Corwin Press, 2009), which shows principals how to approach their leadership to promote student learning and close achievement gaps. Other publications include the book, co-authored with Allan Odden, Paying Teachers for What They Know and Do: New and Smarter Compensation Strategies to Improve Schools (Corwin Press, 2002), and numerous articles on teacher compensation, evaluation, and leader preparation and professional development. She also recently completed a five-year project funded by the Wallace Foundation to document mastery in urban school leadership, and to build distributed instructional leadership in urban comprehensive high schools.

Richard Halverson is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research aims to bring the methods and practices of the Learning Sciences to the world of educational leadership. His research explores the use of data driven instructional systems in schools, and the development of game and simulation based tools for professional learning. Dr. Halverson’s work integrates how classical ideas of wisdom and practical knowledge can be used to understand the complex work of contemporary school leaders. He has developed research methods and theoretical frameworks to access, document and communicate the expertise of school leaders. Dr. Halverson co-founded the Games Learning and Society (GLS) research group at UW-Madison. He is a Fellow at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and is an affiliate member of the UW-Madison Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Psychology departments, and a founding member of the UW-Madison Learning Sciences program area.


The authors would like to thank the many educational leaders who contributed to the development and testing of the CALL Survey Instrument, as well as our research collaborators: Mark Blitz, Eric Camburn, Matthew Clifford, Seann Dikkers, Shree Durga, Steve Kimball, Marsha Modeste, Tara Piche, and Jason Salisbury.