A Principal Speaks about Performance Evaluation
Educators in the state of Washington have been presented with a variety of new challenges during the 2012-2013 school year. Some of these have been foreseeable, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and new teacher and principal evaluation systems. Other responsibilities, such as addressing school safety concerns in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, are unpredictable. Regardless, members of my school community turn to me, the principal, for direction, support and reassurance.
As a middle school principal, I often feel that I’m expected to radiate clairvoyance with regard to all things in K-12 education. It is hard, if not impossible, to put into words the scope of my work. I am often asked by friends, family and acquaintances to describe what I do. Frankly, I’m often at a loss for where to begin.
While I find my job difficult to define, others are constantly evaluating how well I’m succeeding at it. I receive feedback on a daily basis on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of my work. And, with the adoption of the broad education reform bill (E2SSB 6696) by the Washington State Legislature, defining and quantifying my effectiveness has suddenly become state law.
The state has defined eight principal evaluation criteria upon which I can be judged “unsatisfactory,” “basic,” “proficient” or “distinguished”:
- Criteria 1: Creating a school culture that promotes the ongoing improvement of learning and teaching for students and staff.
- Criteria 2: Providing for school safety.
- Criteria 3: Leading development, implementation and evaluation of a data-driven plan for increasing student achievement, including the use of multiple student data elements.
- Criteria 4: Assisting instructional staff with alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment with state and local district learning goals.
- Criteria 5: Monitoring, assisting and evaluating effective instruction and assessment practices.
- Criteria 6: Managing both staff and fiscal resources to support student achievement and legal responsibilities.
- Criteria 7: Partnering with the school community to promote student learning.
- Criteria 8: Demonstrating commitment to closing the achievement gap.
While these defined roles have not impacted the scope or breadth of my work, they do provide greater clarity around what it means to be effective.
This high degree of accountability calls for increased support – the type of support I regularly find through colleagues, mentors, supervisors, professional publications, and Success at the Core.
In her recent blog post, “What do students, teachers, and administrators need to learn?” my colleague Merrilou Harrison asked how others have used SaC materials to build their knowledge and skills. Here’s just one story of how I used a SaC resource to help create a school culture that promotes the ongoing improvement of learning and teaching for students and staff (Criteria #1):
My school is a high-performing school. And yet, we still have groups of students we struggle to reach. Candidly, many members of my staff have resigned themselves to believe that some students will always fail. Part of my job is to help staff understand how they could reach all students. I turned to the Teacher Development section of the Success at the Core website for some tools. I came across the “Student-to-Student Assessment” video and decided to show it at a faculty meeting. In showing this video to my staff, I was able to illustrate how Barbara Cleveland, a seventh grade math teacher, uses student grouping to formatively assess students and differentiate their instruction. Obviously, a ten-minute video itself is not enough to change a staff culture. However, it did provide a springboard for continued dialogue about reaching the learning needs of each student.
While Washington state’s new Principal Evaluation System will not make it any easier for me to describe to my family and friends what I do for a living, it’s reassuring to know that there are clearly defined criteria for being a school leader and a wide variety of resources, including Success at the Core, to support this work.
Where do you turn for support around staff culture and professional development?