Growth-driven performance management — in 3 simple steps
Tony Davis, Ph.D., consulting director at McREL International — a TalentEd strategic partner — draws on 28 years’ experience as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and K-12 human resources administrator to offer three tips for developing growth-driven performance management processes.
- Download our latest e-book, featuring Tony Davis, Ph.D., and Lisa Andrejko, Ed.D., strategic education advisor at TalentEd and former teacher, principal and superintendent, for additional tips on how to develop a forward-looking, development-drive performance management practice.
- Learn more about McREL International.
- Discover how TalentEd and McREL International partner to help K-12 districts improve performance management.
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Now for those of you who don’t know, TalentEd is the leading provider of K-12 talent management solutions.
My name is Kevin Keenmon, and recently, I had the chance to talk with Tony Davis, who uses the knowledge he gained during his 28 years in public education to help McREL International create research-based solutions, guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.
During our conversation Tony explained why properly evaluating and developing educators is key.
Tony Davis: Well, first of all, we just have a short time with kids. When you think about the length of the school year for a kid, you know, we’re looking at 175, maybe, to 185 days — and districts are working so hard to supplement those 185 days with summer school and other learning opportunities throughout the summer so kids don’t lose, you know, a lot of that knowledge, skills, things that they’re going to need to matriculate through the system.
So with that short time with students that we have to prepare them for the challenges of life that they’re going to face when they leave our school system, we really have to make the most of that time. So instructional quality and leadership quality is essential to making sure that that time is well spent with the kids.
Second thing, you know, it’s clear that teachers and instructional leaders are really the most important factor that contribute to the success of students. So leader effectiveness follows really close behind instructional quality.
So like any profession, the need to continually improve is essential so that we’re in a position in our profession of education to rapidly address internal changes. So those might be changes in student demographic changes. Those might be changes in our ability to recruit, retain quality teachers and quality principals. So we need to rapidly address those internal changes that have an effect on student achievement.
But then also we’ve got to be very mindful about the external changes as well — state and federal policies, for example — that are substantial drivers of change. Can our profession, education, teaching and learning, rapidly adapt to some of those policy changes?
Historically, I would say that we struggle with that. But if we’re really clear about continuous improvement and we are building a culture of an organization around continuous improvement, then it gives us the best opportunity to rapidly address those changes in the best interest of kids.
We believe that evaluation systems in themselves provide that guidance that’s needed so that we can connect these rapid — sometimes rapid — changes in policy or rapid changes in, for example, student demographics. We can use the evaluation rubric and what’s expected of people to know and be able to do to associate them with those rapid changes, and then we can make the systemic changes necessary to address student needs in real time, rather than waiting for a long period of time to do that.
Like I said, when we get a first-grader for about 185 days, then they move to the second grade. And we think about all of the things that kids need to know and be able to do to be college-, career-, or work-ready. That’s a very short time, you know, 13 years from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Kevin: To help district leaders develop more growth-minded performance management processes, Tony offered three pieces of advice. The first is to focus on clarity.
Tony: Number one, I think that if you’re very clear about the purpose of evaluation and you have those two or three defining bullet points underneath the purpose, it sends a message to staff and just all across the district that evaluation is important, it should be taken seriously, and we’re going to use it in a way to support professional practice, rather than being very compliant and punitive-driven.
Kevin: Tony suggests using rubrics to create that consistency
Tony: If there’s not a really clear expectation, i.e. through an evaluation rubric and really clearly communicated models of professional practice that are linked directly to the evaluation system, then we have ambiguity. We have differences. Doesn’t mean that people aren’t working really hard trying their best, it just simply means that one person might be executing instructional practices substantially different than another person.
So as an observer, you’re trying to make sense of two people that are trying to do the best thing that they can for kids, and they’re using, you know, instructional practice in a way that is so significantly different that it makes it really hard for us to be fair and consistent in our expectations.
So let’s be really clear about what we expect people to know and be able to do. Let’s align that with our evaluation rubric itself. Let’s identify some key look-fors but make sure that we’re flexible in those key look-fors so that the evaluators or observers are more likely to see something happen. Let’s say, for example, in a classroom. From one building to the next and be pretty close in their assessment of the quality of how that practice or that particular episode has unfolded in the classroom.
Kevin: Next, he suggests fostering two-way performance conversations.
Tony: The second thing is make sure that the folks throughout the school district understand the part that they play regarding evaluation. So that it’s not one-sided — that’s what I mean there. That it’s not all supervisor-driven.
It should be a collaborative effort between the supervisor and supervisee, whether it’s a teacher or principal, that both have a substantial role to play in their own growth and development, whether they’re a supervisor or whether they’re the supervisee.
So let’s be really clear about the part that everyone plays. And I say that because historically, you know, my experience is: “Well, you tell me what my rating is and then we’re going to have a discussion or some kind of argument about the rating,” rather than both parties, supervisor and supervisee, having a collaborative dialogue and discussion, being clear about what’s expected in terms of performance and practice and how that has been executed over the course of an evaluation cycle so that the final rating, the summary rating and the subsequent professional development plan can be collaboratively developed.
So let’s make sure that everyone understands the part that they play in supporting a culture of continuous improvement rather than a culture that is punitive.
Kevin: Finally, he recommends using performance data to determine resource allocation and to develop personalized professional development plans.
Tony: And then the last thing, number three here, is use the data to generate … that you can generate from evaluation results to plan and allocate resources for districtwide, individual schools, and individual teacher or leader professional learning. That is where I think nowadays the more elegant designs in using technology in a much more thoughtful way gives us an opportunity to be specific and direct about where we can allocate resources.
I sat in a lot of meetings as a practitioner over my career, and we make assumptions and the conversation starts with what do you think and what do we know. And sometimes what we know is very anecdotal, and then we kind of make [the] best decisions that we can all on the information that we have.
When we’re able to use technology in a much more sophisticated way with a few very succinct data points, then we can make much better decisions about resource allocation, number one, and then number two, about targeted professional learning, districtwide, building-wide, and at the individual employee level.
Kevin: He believes this is most easily accomplished when data are available to multiple stakeholders and used to improve decision-making
Tony: And then one other thing is making sure that we are open and transparent with the data in a generalized way.
So I’m not advocating that we share individual performance data. But districtwide, for example, teachers, principals, staff members, want to know how well we’re doing toward accomplishing the district strategic priorities or the performance improvement goals of the school. What we do as principals and teachers are clearly reflected in that performance data, so let’s find a way to share it in a very generalized fashion so that it doesn’t call out any individual.
And then the last thing here is let’s track our professional learning. If we’re making decisions based on that data and we are making assumptions that that data is accurate through observers and through teacher or principal practice, then let’s track our professional learning. Let’s use our dollars as wisely as we possibly can to support the hard work of teachers and principals through professional development.
Kevin: Well, there you have it: Best practices in K-12 talent management. If you’d like to learn more, you can find links to additional information in the episode description. Thank you for listening.