Teachers - Raise your hand if your practice has been significantly impacted as a result of a recent teacher evaluation.

Administrators - Raise your hand if your school performance’s has improved as a result of feedback provided to teachers during teacher evaluation.

My guess is that very few of you are holding your hands in the air right now. This is a major issue. It is a major issue for several reasons, including: 

  • Evaluation is stressful
  • Evaluation is time-consuming
  • Evaluation is resource-hungry
  • Evaluation has a dramatic impact on school culture
  • Evaluation provides our most systematic mechanism to improve teacher performance

Evaluation has seemingly become something that everybody does, but very few people care if they actually do it well. Worse, it seems like very few schools or districts care if they do it well. Most principals just want to get to the end of the roster of teachers they are forced to evaluate and most District Offices are more concerned about ensuring their principals comply with the arbitrarily set deadlines than if they are actually using this process to improve teacher performance.  As a result, we see little development in administrators as quality evaluators and thereby, the process de-rails itself. 

I have painted a pretty bleak picture on the world of evaluation thus far and you may be wondering if I am simply being hyperbolic while thinking ‘evaluation practices cannot be that bad.’ Hopefully, you are reading this and thinking about the performance of your principal(s) and/or evaluating your own personal performance. If you are a principal, ask yourself the following questions to get a better grasp on whether or not you and your district have committed to truly making the evaluation process meaningful.

  1. Have you done anything intentionally to grow in your evaluation practices in the past year?
  2. Have you asked for feedback from your teachers on how to improve your evaluation practices to better serve their needs?
  3. Have you asked a colleague to observe a class at the same time as you so that you may have dialogue regarding what was observed?
  4. Has your direct supervisor provided any specific feedback to help you grow in the process?
  5. Have you used evaluation outcomes or data to create growth plans for each teacher you serve?

The bottom line is this – a district, school, or individual evaluator can view evaluation in one of two very distinct ways. The first, evaluation is a process in which an employee’s value to the organization is determined. The second, evaluation is a systematic process to improve performance of each and every employee. In most schools and most districts, the intend for the second option to be their practice, but operate in a manner consistent with the first option. 

The change has to start now or evaluation will continue to be a time-wasting, culture-eroding, stress-inducing process in our schools. The choice is each individuals and each district’s as to how they will continue to operate. Evaluation has the potential to be a game-changer for schools. It allows for principals to get to know their teachers, invest in them, and create a system of support for future growth. Or – it could stay the same – and collect evidence, check boxes, write generic feedback and get it all done by the dates in the contract and create zero change. The choice is ours . . .