Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Administrative View: Teacher Evaluations

As much as I pretend to be all ed tech ... my day job actually falls in the Principal's Office.  Under my list of Faculty Development duties lies the bullet point heading of....

(insert ominous, creepy musical underscore)

Googling "evaluating teachers" got me 51,400,000 results from such sides as the difficulty and complexity of teacher evaluation, the benefits and challenges of "value-added" logarithms and even who should be doing the evaluating.  Like it or not, evaluating is challenging.  

So how do we go about the process here at Brebeuf Jesuit?  We work through a blended approach of formal, one hour, planned observations; one-on-one planning and goal setting meetings; informal walk-throughs; collected materials such as lesson plans, rubrics, sample assessments... and yes, we may even look at the occasional common assessment data.  

The (Learning) Objective 
I usually start my conversations with faculty discussing the objective of the process.  My objective is not punishment.  My objective is not rooting out the weak to bring fire and termination.

My objective is professional growth and development.  As our mission statement reads, "Students at Brebeuf Jesuit are called to discover and cultivate the fullness of their God-given talents as a responsibility and as an act of workshop."  Well guess what?  My job as an evaluating administrator is to help teachers of Brebeuf Jesuit to discover and cultivate their God-given talents.  I do consider this an act of worship.

Framed in the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm, our evaluation program (called the Magis Program for Professional Growth) looks like this:

The Details

Definition of "Members of the Principal's Office": Principal, Assistant Principal, Director of Faculty Development.

For faculty in their first three years at Brebeuf, the goal-setting and follow-up will occur with the Principal’s Office (and in collaboration with the Department Chair) each year along with the annual evaluation.

Faculty beyond three years of experience at Brebeuf will be on a three-year cycle with the evaluation process, so goals would be discussed with the Principal’s Office only every three years. 

Informal walk-through observations occur for all faculty by members of the Principal’s Office (and in collaborations with the Department Chair) each year.  These informal walk-throughs are most unannounced (though can be planned ahead) and are 5-10 minutes based on the Carolyn Downey model.  Frequency of walk-throughs is generally:

  • 1Year 1-2 Faculty – 6 visits per semester
  • Year 3 Faculty and Faculty in Cycle – 3 visits per semester
  • Faculty off-cycle – 1 visit per semester

Materials submitted as part of the reflection element are examples of lesson planning (daily lesson and unit plan), sample assessments, samples of student work and a self reflection writing.

The Difference

Most of this is not going to look too radical to most readers.  It's a lot of Downey, Marzano, Danielson and a little McTiegh... plus a whole lot of St. Ignatius.  What might be different to some is the emphasis on the relationship created.

The first step in relationship building is trust.  How do I build trust?  I'd say it's through listening (really listening), taking time to turn off the phone ringer/minimize computer screen, drop whatever I am doing to focus on the individual.  I strive to build conversational around teacher identified areas of growth and strengths.  The commitment to not tie monetary compensation to evaluation also builds trust ... as there is nothing like a heavy power imbalance (holding your family's financial success or failure in my subjective little hands) to at seriously hamper a trusting relationship.

The next step is. as the Prayer for Generosity reads, to be willing to give and not to count the costs.  This type of evaluation system takes time, energy and resources.  With walk-throughs, meetings, observations, writing reflections... a minimum 10 hours per teacher (times 16 for me this year that's 160 hours plus off cycle hours adding about 20 more).  It may mean hours of Googling teaching methods, resources and best practices for field's outside my comfort zone (I work with two fabulous Physics teachers this year... having never taken Physics this is a stretch year for me).  It means knowing all faculty well enough to pair up veteran teachers with newer teachers as mentors and role models.  It means occasionally getting up and modeling an activity or strategy myself.  It means being the bad guy sometimes - or brave enough to face uncomfortable conversations.  I

Finally, relationship requires mutual respect.  I work with amazing people.  There talents and dedication astound me.  I respect them as professional educators and individuals on a journey of growth.  I have no idea why they hang with me... but I am thankful they do.

If you are interested in learning more about our evaluation system or seeing some of our materials - send an email or note in the comments below.  As with our Ed Tech stuff, we share.  Be warned - there is no iPad app or automated spreadsheet for this type of work.  Only yourself and the desire to cultivate the fullness of individual talents.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jen! The focus on gifts, student needs and collaborative work of dedicated staff is evident.

  2. You are welcome! There is a way to balance caring and accountability but it must be as part of a personal relationship. (Sorry for the delayed response - apparently need to get my alerts set correctly!).