Welcome to Core Connections, a blog by Success at the Core. You'll find stories of best practices, inspiring experiences, and effective strategies related to leadership development, classroom instruction, and student engagement.

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”:

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?

You might also like:

When School Budgets Dry Up: Innovation Can Help Educators Ride out the Storm
New Teacher Evaluations: A Road Map to Great Teaching
How Success at the Core Helps Me “Lean In” to New Teacher Evaluations

4 Responses to A Principal Speaks about Performance Evaluation

  1. Beth Ashley says:

    I find your blog to be an honest, candid portrayal of your experience rolling out the new teacher evaluation system in your school. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with an elementary principal and a PLC leader to share the SaC website with them and talk about how SaC resources could support PLC work and teacher evaluations. The discussion we shared echoed some of the ways you were finding Success at the Core to be a quick and easy resource to turn to as you support teacher growth.

    I would love to hear other principals’ ideas about how SaC and other resources connect to teacher growth!

  2. Corrie Freiwaldt says:

    It’s nice to hear that you use staff meeting time for professional development. It’s important that a whole staff hear the same message and seeing Success at the Core’s “messages” in their videos is fabulous common language for your staff to build upon together. I’ve recently run into a problem of using staff meeting time for PD because if I would have it after school, teachers in my district would have the opportunity to get paid extra. Have you ever had complaints about using staff meeting time for PD?

  3. Deb Gribskov says:

    Administrators carry the burden of “leadership”, providing the vision and direction for their school’s forward movement. While the staff provides the momentum, you provide the steering. Your choice of videos for a 10 minute “glimpse of great teaching” was a good one. It is applicable to teachers in different content areas and across grade levels. The state providing you with a set of clear criteria for principal/teacher work is a mirror to a teacher providing students with a set of clear criteria for their work. Did any of your staff make that connection?

  4. Tyler Rice says:

    I think the effective use of video can be an outstanding way to increase student engagement in the classroom. This idea also extends to teacher engagement in professional development.

    Video is a powerful medium that can ignite some very powerful conversations.

    Not only did you introduce your teachers to a powerful student engagement strategy through the video but you modeled the effective use of video in instruction. How very metacognitive of you!

    I would love to hear more about the discussion that took place among your staff as a result of watching this video – if you feel comfortable sharing.

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