Friday, March 18, 2011

Staff Evaluations: Performance and Process

Having been a teacher, principal, superintendent and commissioner, I have experienced the evaluation process at every level. My two key principles for evaluation are that all instruments should be aligned and that all instruments should be growth instruments.

I realize that employment decisions must eventually be made; however, I have always adhered to W. Edwards Deming’s principle that up to 95 percent of an organization’s performance is related to the processes in the organization, and most people want to do a great job. I always push for continuous improvement and growth of individuals while also working to improve processes in the organization.

The alignment principle takes some work. In Kentucky, we have 174 different versions of principal, teacher and superintendent evaluations. As I travel the state, most administrators tell me that we need to address this broken process. We are addressing this through two state committees that I have written about in numerous blogs. The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) teacher and principal effectiveness committee work can be found at

The superintendent and school board evaluation process is work that properly resides with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators and the Kentucky School Boards Association. To ensure alignment, I hope that these groups will include the following components:

Learning Conditions/Environment – We expect every teacher to create positive conditions for learning in every classroom. We measure that by observation, discipline records, student input, parent input and many other evidences. We also should expect principals, superintendents and school boards to create a positive learning environment in the school or district. One possible measure for learning conditions is the TELL Kentucky survey that we initiated this year. Of course, the evaluation process should include the data from the survey only as a starting place to set priorities for improvement. The actual evaluation should be focused on setting goals and then working to improve processes such as facilities, empowerment, budgeting, resources and more.

Student Learning Results – Most teachers I talk with agree that student learning results are important; however, proficiency on standardized tests is not always the best way to measure teacher impact. A more valid and reliable method is growth. Most teachers agree that evaluations should include student growth from multiple measures (formative and summative). Also, most teachers agree that evaluations should include what teachers do to improve the instructional processes in the classroom, and again, there are multiple evidences of this improvement. Superintendents and principals also should be evaluated on student growth in learning. These evaluations should come from agreed-upon goals and evidences that are directly linked to the district’s strategic plan or school improvement plan.

Finally, as commissioner, I believe my evaluation process is a good model for local superintendents. The Kentucky Board of Education and I agree upon yearly goals that include student learning and improvement of key processes such as communications and support processes (e.g., budgeting, personnel, working conditions). The evaluation process happens mid-year and end-of-year and is done in public.

The ultimate goal that I want to be measured by is the college and career readiness of graduates from Kentucky public schools. The goal is a 50 percent increase in the number of graduates who are college- and career-ready. There are yearly goals that measure the progress and yearly goals for the processes that support the college and career readiness goal.

It is my hope that every board will work with their superintendents to include this key goal in the evaluation process, and then every superintendent will work with their principals to include measures that predict our success toward this goal. Finally, every teacher should know how their work is aligned to this goal of college and career readiness.

Evaluation systems should be driven by the student learning goals and learning conditions at each level. We have a lot of work to do in Kentucky, and I know our boards, superintendents, principals and teachers are all committed to this work that so directly impacts our children’s future.

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