March 14, 2021
A yearly faculty evaluation is not like a walk in the park—whether you’re the academic leader implementing it or the teacher on the receiving end. When properly constructed and enacted, however, a comprehensive faculty development framework that includes an evaluation piece can improve staff culture, reduce legal risks, and bolster school enrollment.
(Within this article, we reference our advisory letter, Ideas & Perspectives. That publication is only available to ISM members. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member, visit our membership page.)
Of course, when that happens, student performance often improves, too—so having a great faculty evaluation and process is imperative.
ISM advocates a two-pronged approach. The first task, the evaluation, focuses on your school’s “essential expectations,” offering a pass-or-fail rubric of factors that apply to everyone. Following the basic evaluation, leaders and teachers can spend most of their time creating “professional growth” plans that are specific to the teacher.
Is your school getting the most from your faculty evaluation?
Look for these five signs to see if it’s time to revamp your staff assessment.
Whether your faculty evaluation is fantastic or faulty, your communication about why you conduct it can make a huge difference in how effective it will be.
Let your faculty know that it is not your intent to criticize their techniques or classroom results—it’s about holding them to a consistent standard. The evaluation is designed to hold everyone to a consistent standard.
Evaluations are typically thought of as a tool used to determine job security. While it can trigger corrective action when needed, the main intention is to simply confirm that everyone is conforming to the elements you believe vital for employment.
After undergoing a successful evaluation, teachers can work with their growth coach to form goals and work toward them. When teachers worry, they may not do it at all—and that does not encourage growth for your teacher, the students, or the school on the whole. Having time to discuss how individual teachers can innovate is vital.
#2—It’s not consistent.
According to ISM’s research, only 51% of teachers agree or strongly agree that their evaluation procedures are consistent or constructive.
This comes down to the basic evaluation process. Do you pop your head into the classroom randomly once—or a few—times a year and write a report based on what you see? A teacher may not feel that provides a level playing field for a faculty evaluation (though it can be handy to assess other areas of performance).
Schedule time for evaluation. This allows the teacher to prepare and organize information about new programs or teaching methods.
#3—It’s not objective.
When evaluation isn’t objective, a teacher may feel singled out—or fearful for their job. Without holding every teacher to the same evaluation standards, the review doesn’t maintain objectivity. Instead, the faculty evaluation should be an assessment of “essential expectations.”
The “essential expectations” must:
- spell out nonnegotiable actions faculty members must and must not take;
- apply to all faculty members at the school;
- reassure teachers they’ll be notified right away if they are not meeting expectations—and if they will be given a chance to resolve the situation; and
- not use a gradient scale and instead be on a pass/fail basis.
#4—It doesn’t address growth.
ISM recommends a separate “professional growth” framework devoted to the teacher’s professional development. This concentrates on the goals that each teacher subscribes to for the coming year.
Addressing their growth—their career as an educator—is vital so they feel supported. Knowing that you care about their development and are there to cultivate it will nurture a sense of trust and partnership with the teacher.
Ask the teacher their thoughts on new teaching methods, curriculum, staff practices, or classroom projects. Inquire about what they see as their strengths and weaknesses.
Giving your teachers time to be heard could bring up new ideas that go “above and beyond'' for your staff and your school. You are providing the sounding board they need, motivating them to do better, and making their interactions with colleagues and students more positive. There are endless positives if this portion of the evaluation is done effectively.
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#5—It doesn’t listen to the teacher.
When someone comes in with a clipboard and a discerning face saying it’s time for a faculty evaluation, it doesn’t exactly inspire a teacher to listen, engage, or speak up—and ideally, you want them to do all three!
Equally, if you don’t have a willingness to listen, you won’t evoke the spirit of collaboration that can make this part of the evaluation so useful.
Let them talk about their needs as you work together to identify how each individual can flourish. Ask how you can better support them.
In listening alone, sometimes you can get that “buy-in” that makes faculty evaluation something your teachers will actually look forward to—and an added value that provides useful feedback to propel your organization forward.
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