Sunday, February 19, 2012

Minimum Wasted Effort Accomplished Without Great Difficulty

Recently, I attended a conference in which the topic centered around teacher effectiveness accompanied with the three different evaluation models that each school district in my state must adopt by April 16th, 2012. I was excited to attend due to the fact that I have not only reviewed in depth each model, but have spent the past year piloting one of the approved models. The meeting consisted of seventeen superintendents and three principals within our network. Besides the fact that not one TEACHER and only three principals were in attendance, I was taken back by many, many comments coming from, what should be, the lead learners within a school system. The comment that was the toughest for me to swallow, especially because ninety-percent of the educators in the room began nodding agreeably, was this particular statement:

“As we begin to decide which model to recommend for our particular district, the most important question we must ask ourselves is, which model is most efficient and manageable for our principals?”

Unbelievable! I could not disagree more. Wouldn't a much more important question be, which model is designed to help teachers systematically improve on their instructional practices by providing specific and meaningful feedback? Shouldn't a strong teacher evaluation model serve as a powerful (confidential) road-map for school wide, as well as, individual professional development?

Maybe for this group of superintendents, taking evaluations seriously may be the most important point to consider. I would love for teachers to comment and provide your most important question involving an effective teacher evaluation model. Is your primary concern related to what is efficient and manageable for your principal? Before you comment, let's take a look at these two words.

Efficient: Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.
Manageable: Able to be managed, controlled, or accomplished without great difficulty.

I believe 'why' we perform these evaluations and 'how' they are developed are just as important in determining whether these efforts will be successful at accomplishing the ultimate goal - improving student achievement. If improving student achievement is linked directly to the quality of instruction students receive on a day-to-day basis, then it would seem that we would involve teachers on every aspect of the decision making. Instead, fifteen of the seventeen superintendents acknowledged at the end of a two hour meeting that they had made up their mind and were ready to recommend. Keep in mind, the rubrics were never presented other than the number of indicators accompanied with each model.

Model X (76 indicators)
Model Y (60 indicators)
Model Z (20 indicators)

Which model did the fifteen superintendents decide upon? You guessed it...... Model Z!
Does 20 indicators sound efficient and manageable to you?

Until our leaders and principals become educated in these efforts, I am afraid we will experience no significant change. I can guarantee that these rubrics will be as effective as the principal or instructional leader executing the process.


  1. Hi Shawn, I follow you on Twitter and as a HS Principal myself, I wrote a plea on my most recent blog for help on our Walk-Through Teacher Professional Growth Model (which we changed from "Evaluation Model"). If you hear from readers who have insights, I'd appreciate their input as well at

  2. I look forward to reading and commenting on your blog. Evaluations should be about professional growth and meaningful, honest feedback coming from principals who are willing to work at it themselves. Just as Bill Ferriter points out, the title of "instructional leader" is not automatic when you become the principal.... you have to earn it!

    Bill also states, "The honest truth is that it is hard for us teacher folks to buy into “the principal as instructional leader” label when we rarely see y’all instructing — or even thinking actively about instruction.

    I think the conference in which I attended verified much of what Bill is talking about. An effective instructional leader, actively thinks about it, is passionate about it, is continuously learning, and places himself/herself in the classroom to continue to hone their own pedagogical practice. It has absolutely nothing to do with accomplishing the most with as little effort possible.

    Thanks Derek for your comment!

  3. Shawn, I totally agree with your perspective. It should always be about the best way to have the most positive impact on the student in the classroom. Helping to develop strong, effective teachers is the best way to impact student achievement as learners-not solely on formal assessments.