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A recent New York Times article “States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations” (02.19.2012) presents voices of principals, state educational representatives, and others about changes in teacher evaluation – some of the voices support new teacher evaluation proposals and some did not. Select messages include:

“You have to start the process somewhere… If you don’t solve the problem of teacher quality, you will continue to have an achievement gap.”

“…The [new evaluation] process is leading to rich conversations about instruction and… teacher performance is improving.”

[The new evaluation system] led to more precise discussions with teachers about their skills and better lesson planning.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about how to evaluate teachers reliably and how to use that information to improve instruction and learning.”

Principals… complete reviews [of teachers] with more than 100 reference points.

Teachers are redesigning lessons to meet the myriad [evaluation] criteria – regardless of whether they think that it is the best way to teach.

The last few years have witnessed many news reports and manuscripts discussing the pros and cons for developing and revising teacher evaluation systems. States continue to create and revisit legislation focused on teacher evaluation, while teacher unions, educators, leaders, and districts focus on what proposed changes in legislation/policy means for them. Emotions and ideas differ, impact is diverse, and outcomes are uncertain when thinking about everything that accompanies teacher evaluation: performance, rules, assessment, pay incentives, measurements… In many ways “it” becomes personal.

Earlier this week I enjoyed a conversation with a superintendent from one of our partner school districts, Dr. Karen Schulte, superintendent of the School District of Janesville, Wisconsin. During our conversation Dr. Schulte shared a bit about the process of writing the district’s new employee handbook. One might suggest that the creation of a new employee handbook parallels that of a new teacher evaluation system. Thus far, the School District of Janesville’s experience has been a positive one:

When [school districts in Wisconsin] were tasked with developing employee handbooks from a state mandate (i.e., no more collective bargaining) [the School District of Janesville] had a four year contract in place so we were not forced with creating it right away. We had some time. Thus, the process began with the district charging a team of stakeholders working with the superintendent to determine the district’s Guiding Principles. These Principles are what we believe in our core. These Principles will ground all of the policies and procedures contained in the handbook. There was no issue at all for the committee to agree on the Guiding Principles.

The school district’s Guiding Principles are (see district blog):

1. The School District of Janesville will recruit, retain and recognize high performing employees who embody the standards of integrity and accountability.

2. The School District of Janesville will commit to the continuous development, coaching and support of our employees.

3. The School District of Janesville will continue to adhere to strict standards of achievement and excellence.

Using the Guiding Principles to anchor the new employee handbook insures that all district employees are committed to students. This begins with the creation of clear and consistent expectations for employees within the new handbook and is tied to the district’s goal of creating a great place for students to learn and creating a positive work environment for all employees.

The next steps [in developing the new employee handbook] involve what we want in the handbook, for example, what do we want to do with sick time. As we move into these steps and where we find disagreement (if/when applicable) we step aside and ask “What does it mean for our Guiding Principles?” Focus groups will also be used as part of this process.

Dr. Schulte acknowledged that writing the new employee handbook presents her and her colleagues with a tremendous opportunity to work through their values and what they believe in the district.






Anderson, J. (02.19.2012). States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations. The New York Times. Accessed 02.28.2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/education/states-address-problems-with-teacher-evaluations.html?scp=1&sq=States%20Try%20to%20Fix%20Quirks&st=cse

The School District of Janesville, Wisconsin, is a Blue Ribbon Award Winning School District. This is a recognition held by only 3% of the school districts in the nation. Four schools in the district (Adams, TAGOS, Lincoln, and Madison) are recognized as Wisconsin Schools of Promise. SDJ is committed to creating a great place for student s to learn and to create a better work environment for all employees. They have institutionalized leadership evaluation measurements and Evidence-Based Leadership to focus on increased student achievement based on data and measurable improvement. Visit them at http://www.janesville.k12.wi.us/Default.aspx, read about their Journey to Excellence, and check out the superintendent’s blog.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we teach teachers and leaders how to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com to learn more about Studer Education Teacher Development Institutes (TDIs), Leader Development Institutes (LDIs), and Evidence-Based Leadership.