Monthly Archives: February 2011

Teacher evaluation – on what basis?

Back in the late 90’s when I set out to write a book on teacher evaluation and growth I was writing out of some frustration with the existing system, which seemed more concerned with assigning a ranking or rating than actually helping the teacher or students to grow. What was it, I wondered, that caused good teachers to get better – what made them engage in continued learning that improved their teaching? What are the elements of effective teaching? What did we know about how adults learned? Could leaders help teachers to grow in meaningful and credible ways? Would all this activity result in increased student learning?

As I have followed the discussion around teacher evaluation over the years, it seemed like there was little progress being made. Various merit pay systems have been implemented, but the truth is that good teachers did not really get into teaching for the pay. Recently there has been a lot of talk about tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. Here is an article that is a good summary of what is happening in this regard.

Will this make a difference? What part of a teacher’s evaluation should be determined by student test scores? Is the test accurate in determining a year’s growth? Will students be motivated to do their best on the test? In the end, will student test scores motivate teachers? Can everything worthwhile that a teacher is doing be measured by student test results?

In a new book called Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation: How to Work Smart, Build Collaboration, and Close the Achievement Gap, Kim Marshall, long-time principal and professional leadership development consultant, provides a very helpful way forward. His appraisal that principals often fall into an HPSPS (Hyperactive Superficial Principal Syndrome) mode much of the time and into the Saints, Sinners, and Cynics categories when evaluation crunch time hits resonated with what I know to be true. Saints spend great amounts of time trying to do it all right – Marshall estimates that in a school of 35 teachers, a principal could spend as much as 300 hours (50 observations, 6 hours each with pre and post conferences included) on teacher evaluation alone.  Cynics don’t believe that the evaluation will matter anyway and so they sit down and crank them out as quickly as possible to meet requirements. Sinners don’t evaluate teachers at all – which happens more frequently than is ever admitted, but verified by the number of teachers who report having never been evaluated.

Based on his long experience as a practitioner (32 years), Marshall suggests that principals adopt a four-pronged approach to the task of improving teaching and learning:

1)    Mini-observations

2)    Team curriculum unit planning

3)    Team interim assessment work

4)    End of year rubric evaluations

I recommend this to you as a very helpful and practical book. It is filled with examples, rubrics, forms, and a well reasoned and balanced approach to a complex and critical topic.


Filed under classroom, resources, staff development

Believer-based or open enrollment at Christian schools?

Recently CSI asked me to create a paper explaining the differences between the traditional enrollment policy of Christian schools, which I will call covenantal or believer-based, and missional or open enrollment policies. What is the origin and thinking, the theology and philosophy behind each of these approaches? What might be the best approach for your school?

For starters, the practice of many of the schools served by CSI is that they are operating under a covenantal approach – their enrollment policies state that at least one parent must be a believer and assent to the vision, mission and beliefs of the school in order for their child to be able to attend.  This may be further verified by requiring a pastor’s letter to indicate that the parent is practicing their faith through church attendance. In the paper I trace the history and thinking undergirding this model.

There are CSI member schools that operate using a missional or open enrollment policy. There is no belief requirement from parents who want to have their child attend the school, they simply must assent to the fact that their child will be instructed according to the stated mission, vision, and beliefs of the school.

Some schools use a blend of the approaches, usually specifying the percentage of families that will be allowed to fall into the missional enrollment category.

The paper seeks to shed some light on each approach and concludes with several discussion questions. This short and provocative paper can be used with faculty, parents, or boards to examine the history and issues around each approach. The paper can be accessed here.  Please use the comment section for further discussion – thank you.


Filed under change, history, leadership, mission development

Interesting stuff department

For those of you who don’t have the time to read an article (!) – some hopefully interesting stuff!

Wonder Department:

Life is found in deepest layer of Earth’s crust

Inner life of a cell

Marketing your school – great resources/videos

A series of six short videos produced by Covenant Christian in Sydney

Discover Christian Schools – excellent advocacy site

Have you seen Mustard Seed’s new documentary video?

Health Department

Effects of bad bosses

Teen depression likely to recur

I like this:

Holland Christian hallway art - photo by Wesley Fryer on Flickr

Learning is fun department

Here is a very cool country comparison site – compare any two countries in the world.

I am working my way through American Grace – by the author of “Bowling Alone” –  here is a helpful review by our friend Mark Eckel.

For all you futurists out there – 100 Things to Watch in 2011 – thanks to Rex Miller for sharing this via Twitter.

What books are you reading with your faculties or on your own and finding helpful? Please leave a title in the comments section – see link to comments up by the beginning of this post. Thanks!


Filed under book, kids/culture, leadership, resources