Thank you for visiting the ISU Ed. Leadershop. Our intent over the past few years has been to field-test community-engaged writings for PK-20 practitioner conversation -- quick, 5-minute "read's" that help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities in our profession. Some of the writings have remained here solely; others have been developed further for other outlets. Our space has been a delightful "sketch board" for some very creative minds in leadership, indeed.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Teacher Evaluation: What Gets Measured Gets Done

Teacher Evaluation: What Gets Measured Gets Done 

By Monica J. Conrad, J. D.,
Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim
Bradley V. Balch, Ph.D.
Indiana State University

We frequently hear Indiana administrators question the value of evaluating their good teachers annually as per the state’s requirements.  Many comment on the intrusiveness of the evaluation process to evaluate each teacher with multiple assessments throughout the school year and provide feedback.  This evaluation process is still a new element to most school cultures.  Added to this new process are the continuing administrative demands of addressing daily student or staff issues, providing instructional leadership, responding to building management, communicating with parents, and the myriad of other commitments.  If anything, these latter issues have arguably intensified.  These competing dynamics beg the question: What is being measured and what is getting done?
            In Indiana, all certified staff must be annually evaluated as per Indiana Code (IC) 20-28-11.5-4.  The evaluation must use "objective measures of student achievement and growth that significantly inform the evaluation" as defined in IC 20-28-11.5-4(c)(4).  Further, this evaluation must provide an overall rating in one of four categories: highly effective, effective; improvement necessary; or ineffective.  
            In a continuous school improvement model, teacher evaluation is a critical component.  The school improvement plan defines the direction the school seeks to achieve as an outcome for its students and staff.  Providing leadership for staff, students and parents along defined goals often necessitates teacher professional development.  Thus, a robust teacher evaluation process is also aligned to measure teacher implementation of curriculum initiatives and provide meaningful feedback to all teachers, including good teachers.  Like any strong assessment, the measurement of performance then informs the instructional leader regarding what further needs exists for professional development and growth as part of the school improvement process. 
Feedback leads to improved performance.  Feedback is important for those who need to improve and even more critical to those staff members who are implementing new strategies/methods that are aligned with improved school performance.  Under Indiana law, each school must develop and annually review a strategic and continuous school improvement and achievement plan (IC 20-31-5-1).  That plan and annual review must involve administrators, teachers, parents, and community/business leaders appointed by the principal.   
School improvement and achievement plans operate to satisfy minimal legal requirements.  Better yet, improvement plans can operate to set organizational goals, monitor the school's efforts toward those goals, share feedback with stakeholders, and be incorporated into evaluating staff performance.  Each stakeholder assumes an important function to ensure the success of a school improvement system.  Each stakeholder must be aware of the outcomes and what tasks they can do EACH DAY to impact that goal.  That process defines successful outcomes.
It is in this process that defines effective and powerful instructional leadership.  Leadership seeks to continuously review each person's performance.  Simply measuring or evaluating staff performance is not enough.  More critical to the process is sustaining staff and stakeholder focus on the improvement challenge that must be met and to team stakeholders to engage themselves as part of a team to meet those challenges.  Thus, continual feedback is to reinforce and encourage the performance that aligns to improvement outcomes.  
A component, but not a primary focus of school improvement is the attention given to those stakeholders whose performance does not align to a school's improvement goal.  As such, district and schools must ensure an evaluation process and implementation that has rigor to identify weaknesses.  For those teachers who are evaluated and improvement is deemed necessary or their overall teaching is evidenced to be ineffective, an improvement plan is necessary (IC 20-28-11.5-6).  This remediation plan must focus on deficiencies noted from the evaluation, include license renewal credits in professional development activities, and continue not more than 90 school days.  Effective leadership dictates that remediation planning does not focus on the person; the remediation plan must focus on measuring the behavior that must be changed.  A legally defensible improvement plan defines outcomes in measurable ways.  Another reminder that what get measured gets done.  It is a measurement of performance - not a measure of teacher worth.  In other words, it is a measure that demonstrates the instructional process is in alignment with school improvement and improved learning outcomes for children. 
Most of all, meaningful and rigorous teacher evaluations aligned with school improvement planning are also a measurement of effective leadership.  Effective leadership defines and encourages staff to hold sustained attention on the school improvement process with teacher evaluation as one means of unifying that sustained attention.  Teacher evaluation processes as a component of the school improvement process guarantees, in part, that each student is immersed in an environment steeped with high learning expectations.  In the end, school improvement and increased student achievement should be the primary focus of what needs to be done and what gets done.

Monica Conrad is a Partner with Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim in the Merrillville, Indiana office.   She may be reached at  Brad Balch is a professor of educational leadership and dean emeritus at Indiana State University.  He may be reached at 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Refocusing: The Lion's Share

Refocusing: The Lion’s Share

By Amy McCabe
Waldron Junior – Senior High School
Shelby Eastern Schools
Doctoral Student
Indiana State University
Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

After observing and evaluating two teachers – one who scored effective or even highly effective; the other who scored ineffective – upon which teacher does conventional wisdom (and some might argue state mandate) require the principal to devote considerable attention and the lion’s share of his or her time? 
The ineffective teacher, of course.
This may even include, among myriad responsibilities, a Teacher Improvement Plan outlining areas of concern, steps for intervention and remediation including resources and professional development, detailed benchmarks, and a specific timeline are required to help this teacher meet minimum expectations.  Such gymnastics typically become highly charged and drain the emotional, functional, and temporal limitations of all parties responsible for implementation and hopeful success. 
All the while, little-to-no attention, let alone an investment of resources, is provided to the effective/highly effective teachers. 
That’s educational neglect levied upon adults.
To use an example gleaned not from K-12 education, but that from those a bit more unconventional in their wisdom, Buckingham and Coffman (1999) contended that the best supervisors invest their resources in the strongest employees, highlighting their strengths and running interference, so that the rock stars can fully develop their talents.  They say that this is what separates the average supervisors from our best, the latter that do things differently.
Additionally, Buckingham and Coffman (1999) stated that by succumbing to the safe, conventional notion of “average thinking,” those who focus on the below-average (trying to push them to average), bring about the unintended consequence of “average, itself” becoming the goal. 
None of us wants this, do we?
Our children deserve better.
Yet, with this in mind, how does an analysis of the lion’s share of a K-12 leader’s time play out in teacher evaluation and mentoring?  In Indiana, for example, many of those trained to use a popular evaluation instrument, the RISE evaluation, were admonished to begin their assessments of teacher with the “Effective” column, thereafter moving their analyses of “good teaching look for’s” to the right – toward either the “Needs Improvement” column, or further, toward the “Ineffective” column – if the desired “Effective,” or (put another way), “average,” indicators were not present.  The left column, “Highly Effective,” is used only when all “Effective” indicators are met, plus some of the “Highly Effective” indicators. 
As evaluators with this system of observation, we are, by default, leading with average – not with excellence.      
Now, imagine something a bit different. 
Envision implementing ONLY what we are required to implement with those who aren’t measuring-up – utilizing instead of all of those gymnastics listed at the beginning of this article –the minimum, statutorily required investment with the weakest teachers. 
Imagine stealing a page from Steven Sample’s Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, where we would hold a candid conversation with that underperforming teacher in which we quit hiding behind a rubric’s quest for average and instead state, “I would really like you out of here…both you and the [school] would both benefit from a change. I’m not firing you, but leaving the decision entirely up to you.” 
In this circumstance, the underperforming teacher owns the situation and makes the decision to strive toward excellence rather than average - or to leave.  At least, in all fairness to the teacher, he or she knows where the principal stands. 
There’s no dance. 
There’s no “play pretend.”
This scenario might, thus, free the school leader to invest in his or her best. 
Sample (2002), cited George Clements from Jewel Tea Company who noted we should spend only about 10 percent of our time hiring, firing, evaluating, praising, and remediating.  This is radically different that what is currently being prescribed, isn’t it?  The remaining 90 percent of our time – our lion’s share – could then be spent being “the first assistant to the people who work for [us]” (p. 121). 
This might even propel many more of our schools from “Needs Improvement-to-Average,” toward “Good-to-Great.”


Buckingham, M., & Coffman, C. (1999). First break all the rules: What the world’s greatest managers do differently.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Sample, S. (2002). Contrarian’s guide to leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Amy McCabe and Ryan Donlan are imploring those in K-12 leadership to pay more attention to our best folks.  If you wish to join them in this calling and mission, please feel free to contact them at or at