Staff Performance Evaluation
Evaluations generally take two different forms: formative evaluation or summative evaluation. Many policy-makers and researchers call for evaluation not only to hold teachers and administrators responsible for teaching students, but also to provide professional development opportunities, increase leadership capabilities, and improve teacher quality. Performance evaluations may include the following procedures: observation, portfolio assessment, and assessment centers. Successful evaluation procedures can have a large impact on improving schools, as well as addressing issues such as teacher retention and professional isolation.
Keywords Assessment; Assessment Centers; Formative Evaluation; Observation; Portfolio; Professional Development; Reliability; Summative Evaluation; Teacher Quality
Teachers and administrators are faced with the task of educating individuals to aptly prepare them to thrive in today's economy. Staff performance evaluations have been instituted in a large majority of schools across the country to assess school staff in this undertaking, from teachers to administrators. Evaluating staff in a school is often a daunting process, as there are many people to assess, as well as a variety of methods to from which to choose. Schools are also often highly stressful environments, with teachers and administrators having minimal amounts of time. Furthermore, working in schools is often an isolated profession, in which supervision can be met with suspicion or nervousness.
The methods and policies for staff performance evaluations vary widely from school to school. Aspects of the school that influence performance evaluations include the school district, the size of the school, and the school culture. In the past teachers were often evaluated and supervised solely to ensure that they met standards, rather than to facilitate their growth as professionals (Sullivan & Glanz, 2004). However, today educational experts largely call for evaluation procedures for school staff to focus on constructive criticism and improving the skills of educators and school administrators, in addition to holding them accountable for student learning (Nolin, Rowand, & Farris, 1994).
Evaluation must be reliable, effective, and efficient in order to achieve its goals. Reliable results are consistent - similar tests give similar results. A survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (Nolin, Rowand, & Farris, 1994) found that the majority of educational administrators and teachers agree that evaluations can help them improve educational excellence. However, evaluations must be conducted carefully to meet these goals. The survey also found that performance evaluation processes are firmly established in schools across the country, that most teachers are evaluated by their principal, and the chief method of teacher evaluation is through classroom observation. Survey results report that teachers are supportive of evaluations when they aim to improve teaching skills rather than using the results to fire teachers or determine pay scales (Nolin, Rowand, & Farris, 1994).
Staff performance evaluations face complicated questions regarding various elements. They include: what the staff should be evaluated for, who should evaluate them, and what the outcome of the evaluation should be. Researchers largely agree that the goals of evaluation today are two fold: accountability and professional development (Anderson, 1989). However, these goals are often difficult to reach due to various factors in schools.
The fundamental question for staff evaluation is what schools need to evaluate to ensure they are gathering enough information to judge a teacher or supervisor (Darling-Hammond, 1983). The broad range of possible evaluation aspects include subtle areas such as a teacher's rapport with students and the social responsibility displayed by an individual, as well as concrete features including test scores, lesson plans, and teaching methods. Experts largely recognize that there are two types of evaluations that differ in their goals: formative evaluations are used to improve skills, while summative evaluations are used to make decisions regarding school personnel. Many evaluation methods used by schools and districts are characterized by both forms of evaluation.
Historically, teachers were supervised largely by local authorities, and schools functioned as individual entities over which the teacher had a large amount of autonomy. As schools and districts became more organized in the face of a changing economy and world-wide competition, teachers were supervised by superintendents and then supervisors in schools, usually by the administration. While the initial focus on performance evaluation centered on teachers, recently there has been considerable attention on administrators as well. Research on principal evaluations is still scarce; however, the research on school organization suggests that the quality of leadership in schools has a significant impact on student learning and success, leading to educational experts calling for performance evaluations for principals (Connecticut Principals' Academy, 1990).
In the early 1970s, very few states across the country required evaluation for principals, or had a set procedure. Nearly twenty years later, that number had grown to include most states (Peters, 1988, cited by Anderson, 1989). While teacher evaluations have a fairly long history, performance evaluations for administrators only became popular during the school reform movement in the 1980s (Connecticut Principals' Academy, 1990). By the late 1980s, when research validated that principals have a key impact on the performance of teachers and students, as well as the culture of a school, school districts began to mandate, research, and implement formal performance evaluation procedures for principals (Anderson, 1989). Peterson (1991) believes that evaluation for administrators, especially principals, is important for a number of reasons. Evaluation procedures can help open lines of communication, facilitates the process of goal setting, and encourages principals to improve their leadership skills.
Too often districts and schools do not plan well enough for effective evaluation procedures that meet the diverse needs of a school. Schools need to be held accountable for their teaching and outcomes, while concurrently providing opportunities for staff members to improve their professional skills (Anderson, 1989). In order to achieve these goals, evaluation plans should have three phases:
• Planning for the evaluation,
• Collecting the information necessary, and
• Using the information collected (Bolton, 1980).
Planning, allows schools and districts to address important aspects of the environment, school mission, and philosophy that will shape how and why a school or district will evaluate its staff members. It is important that this first phase involves a wide breadth of people - from the top district officials to the teachers in the individual schools, and everyone in between - for input. During this phase, the expectations and goals and objectives of the evaluation procedures will be set (Anderson, 1989).
Collecting data is the second phase of effective evaluation procedures. The methods of data collection are varied, and may include strategies such as observation, assessments, or other evidence such as collecting test scores of the students in the school. A school may engage in only one method of collecting data, or they may decide to use a variety of methods in their evaluation process (Anderson, 1989).
In the final phase of evaluation, supervisors analyze the data and make decisions based on the information. Depending on the type of data available, as well as the goals of the evaluation, the third phase may include resolutions such as awarding merit pay, firing or hiring of employees, or giving certain feedback to the evaluated individuals (Anderson, 1989).
Types of Evaluation
Formative evaluation helps staff members evaluate and improve their teaching or leadership skills, improving their work performance. This type of evaluation requires that the relationship between evaluator and evaluatee is ongoing. In this type of assessment, the role of the evaluator is closer to that of a counselor, guiding the staff member and consistently providing feedback and assistance. The process can be extensive, even lasting many years, depending on the goals of the evaluation (Barrett, 1986; Anderson, 1989).
The goal of formative evaluation is to improve skills in some aspect of the job and provide the guidance, support, and feedback that will help the individual succeed. The larger focus is to improve the school and the education system, rather than singularly judge the performance of an individual.
Summative evaluations are used primarily to judge a staff member - the teacher or administrator - and come to some sort of conclusion. The process is familiar, resulting in a decision based on the competencies of the individual. Unlike formative evaluation, summative evaluation may not require any sort of relationship between the staff member and the evaluator, and the evaluation process is often brief and focused (Barrett, 1986; Anderson, 1989).
(The entire section is 4193 words.)