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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Brad Balch is a professor of educational leadership and dean emeritus at Indiana State University. He may be reached at email@example.com.