Monday, June 23, 2008

Evaluate Your School Administrator

Just before the end of the school year in a survey monitored by the San Leandro Teachers' Association, ninety percent of the teachers who participated voted "no-confidence" in the Superintendent.  The results didn't come as a surprise to many people, including some of the board members.  Our Superintendent has been in her position for five years, and has never been a staff favorite. But this is the first time we've actually quantified how 'un-favorite' she is.  

I generally think that school administration is an impossible job, with pressure from too many interest groups.  Every good administrator has to piss off someone with almost every decision, whether you're answering to state mandates, parent relationships, board relationships or Union relationships.  But when ninety percent of your staff won't follow your leadership, it's time to look at what you're doing that isn't working.

What's the lesson from this?  I think it's time for school districts to institute staff evaluation of their administrators as a normal part of the cycle of the school year.  Superintendents, principals and program directors could all benefit from a bottom-up evaluation.  In the education community, administrators often play musical chairs, moving from position to position frequently, and often burning their bridges as they go.  The teachers are often far more experienced than the administrators, usually much more firmly established in the school community, and an evaluation can lead to a better vision of where the school community has been and where it ought to be going.

Think about how teachers' insights could improve an administrators' performance in these areas:  the quality of internal staff communication,  staff (stakeholder) involvement in school-wide decisions, leadership development (remember that teachers usually last much longer than principals and superintendents), school climate and discipline, even new teacher orientation and support.

What's the catch?  Administrators might not go for it.  Why would they ever want to give their employees that much power?  Because it makes for better schools.  I wouldn't stop there, either.  I would also ask for leaders of the parent community to conduct an administrator evaluation.  These are the voices (teachers, faculty, parents) we say are important, yet they are excluded from the process of determining who runs our schools, and how our schools are run.

What happens when an administrator refuses to be evaluated?  Conduct the evaluation anyway!  Union leadership at a school should conduct surveys and share the results with the administrator (or the school board if the administration won't listen).  What message would be sent if the administrator didn't want to participate in such an exercise.  Think of the benefit to the school community of organized groups of people regularly meeting to talk about whether a school or a district is being well administered.

Here are the questions I have, which I invite your comments on.  What performance areas should a school administrator be evaluated on?  Which people should be involved in the evaluation?  What should be the process of dealing with the evaluation?

Every administrator gives lip service to involving parents and staff in school and district decisions.  An annual evaluation of administrators by teachers and parents would give a school community another important opportunity to talk.


Marilyn said...

Think what affect on a school community there might be if teachers were a part of an evaluation of our administrators. How would I act and speak if I were to believe that my Voice may actually be heard, and count for something? I'd take more responsibility , speak carefully, and not just vent. We'd have to pick our battles, wouldn't we? Sarcasm would have little effect, and therefore no place in the process, right?

How refreshing to think that actual points of concern could be addressed with a positive goal in sight.(Assuming there would be dialog along with the evaluation!) Though many points would be listed initially as a direct result of the frustrations experienced last year, this would seem to offer something much more concrete and satisfying.
How good that would feel !
The thought crosses my mind, however that in answer to your question of HOW to deliver, we might want to consider the manner and style of Admins' delivery of teacher evals and try not to copy them. We know many did not enhance working relationships! nor did they improve the community environment.
Good Questions, mistermorse. I'll stay tuned. MW

Tammy Johnson said...

It's a great idea that would meet mountains of resistance. It would also open the door to a discussion about a similar process for other stakeholders, like teachers. That said, I've been thinking for some time that the until we figure out how to radically restructure central offices and the leadership thereof, the successes of education reform advocates will forever be limited to the "islands of excellence" of small schools and other limited experiments. Public and peer reviews may be one way to breakdown some of those barriers.

Tony Farley said...

I'd like to have a system of evaluation set up for every person working for our schools. Teachers, Custodians, Administrators, Office Clerks, and Librarians. They should all be evaluated and evaluate each other every year.