Tuesday / April 23

Teacher Evaluation is Your Job, Too: A Message to My Fellow Superintendents

This is the last of a four part series on increasing the effectiveness of the teacher evaluation process. To learn more about the reason why this blog series is necessary, check out the original post outlining this work can which be found here.

I am extremely excited to share this entry as it directly pertains to my role in schools and, in my opinion, is the most important and critical aspect necessary to push the evaluation process forward. This post shares three things any superintendent can start doing immediately that will dramatically impact the culture and effectiveness of teacher evaluation in their district.

Walk the Talk

Things in education are cyclical. A decade ago it appeared that an answer to the problems surrounding teacher evaluation was found. The Danielson Framework and accountability legislation ushered in through Race to the Top dramatically shifted the way evaluation was done in American public schools.

Since that time, districts have continued to navigate the legislative issues around teacher evaluation – and in its totality, the evaluation system overhaul has had some benefits. Most notably, the fact that evaluations are being done consistently and with fidelity in most districts is a win. The issue – most (honest) administrators and teachers will share with you is that despite the process improving, it is still not successful in serving its primary purpose of improving teacher practice.

This is where the cyclical nature of education comes forth. The second wave of evaluation reform will come forth to help ensure that this resource hungry (time, PD, stress) process starts to serve its purpose. The work starts at the top of the organization chart. It has to start with us.

What is monitored gets done. That is 100 percent true. But, we have to do better than that. We not only have to ensure that evaluations are done, but that they are done well. Here are three quick and easy things a Superintendent can do immediately to walk the talk and show administrators the evaluation process, and its impact, are important to the district.

  • Read completed evaluations
  • Sit in on an entire evaluation process with a teacher for each evaluator
  • Use Leadership Team meeting time to discuss evaluation, share written documents, and collaboratively work to get better

Use Evaluations for Something

Evaluation is our best look at what is going well and what areas our school or district can improve. The issue is that too often nothing productive is done with that data. The Danielson and Marzano frameworks (or a hybrid or one-off version) provide data on several different components or areas of teaching. Consolidating that data produces an easy to read and simple guide for what ails a building or district.


School: Stillman Valley High School 2016-2017
Domain/Component U NI P E
1a- Demonstrating Knowledge of Content & Pedagogy 0 1 15 10
1b-Demonstrating Knowledge of Students 0 1 12 13
1c-Setting Instructional Outcomes 0 2 11 13
1d-Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources 0 1 15 10
1e-Designing Coherent Instruction 0 1 20 5
1f-Designing Student Assessments 0 0 25 1
2a-Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport 0 1 14 11
2b-Establishing a Culture for Learning 0 0 16 10
2c-Managing Classroom Procedures 0 0 16 10
2d-Managing Student Behavior 0 3 19 4
2e-Organizing Physical Space 0 0 16 10
3a-Communication with Students 0 1 12 13
3b-Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques 0 7 11 8
3c-Engaging Students in Learning 0 7 16 3
3d-Using Assessment in Instruction 0 6 11 9
3e-Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness 0 0 23 3
4a-Reflecting on Teaching 0 0 10 16
4b-Maintaining Accurate Records 0 0 24 2
4c-Communicating with Families 0 0 25 1
4d-Participating in a Professional Learning Community 0 0 10 16
4e-Growing and Developing Professionally 0 0 11 15
4f-Showing Professionalism 0 0 13 13

*So, in this instance – the three highlighted areas should be the intense focus of professional development.

Do you know what most superintendents do with that information? Nothing. Instead of allowing the data to inform the PD, the next hot speaker, or initiative, what they arbitrarily decide to push is funded and dominates professional development activities for the following year.

It is quite simple. If we want to change the conversation and demonstrate that we want teacher evaluation to be more meaningful, then we must change our own behavior first. We must honor the data collected and fuel our collective improvement efforts based on where we know our teachers have the biggest opportunities for growth.

And if you want to take it to the next level, treat the data collected the same way we would want our teachers to interact with the information. Personalize learning, differentiate instruction, and stay focused on the established non-negotiable outcomes set forth in the evaluation framework. We can do this – if we simply take the time and critically think through how we can best leverage the time, effort, and energy poured into the teacher evaluation process.

Don’t Let it Die

I am fortunate to work in a district where biometric and health screenings are brought into the buildings for us and all I have to do is drive to my high school for a fairly comprehensive annual physical. The data are collected and returned and I have a few options. My first option is to share the information with my primary care doctor to see if thinks there is anything worth addressing. My second option is to read the data provided and interpret the shades of green to red each test provides and then, if I see anything alarming, contact my primary care physician. Or, lastly, I can give the information a once-over and do nothing.

Even though I know the information is vitally important to me, sometimes I choose option three and do nothing. This could be for a myriad of reasons including laziness, but sometimes it comes from a place of fear or embarrassment. For instance, my doctor told me to lose 15 pounds last year, I gained 5 – I am not going back until I get to that goal weight.

This is my health and I still make that decision. So, when this same behavior (ignore it until it fades away) takes place in terms of evaluation and professional growth nobody should act surprised. As leaders, it is our jobs to ensure that the evaluation process is not just something that happens one day or one week per year. It is our job to ensure that we use the evaluation process as a jumpstart to a holistic approach to improving our practice. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that everyone has their own Professional Development Plan (PDP) as a result of the evaluation process.

As a district leader, our job is to demand that this work gets done, monitor it, and be able to always explain why this process is necessary. Simply put, if we do not do something intentionally and systematically to ensure evaluation is meaningful, it too often fades away and becomes another hoop to jump through.

If this, or any of the blogs in this series spoke to you, they are explored in depth in my new book, Making Evaluation Meaningful. I cannot wait to hear your feedback and to continue working together to improve our education system for all involved.

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning principal and Superintendent who is an expert in teacher evaluation, school culture, personalized learning, and student voice. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @MCUSDSupe.

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Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning principal and Superintendent who is an expert in teacher evaluation, school culture, personalized learning, and student voice. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @MCUSDSupe.

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