Performance Evaluation Pt 3

Performance Evaluation: Tenure — Ain’t it Awful! Part 2 of a 3 part Newsletter Series

Documenting Growth and Success

By Mary Jo McGrath, Attorney at Law
CEO, McGrath Training Systems

Part Three of a Three Part Series

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we exposed the scandal of inflated evaluations that fail to address problem performance. We explained that a constructive communication method must be implemented in order for administrators to fulfill their supervisory responsibility (which is distinct from the progressive discipline process). In this Part 3, we will detail how supervisory records of growth and success vary from documentation necessary for disciplinary correction and/or dismissal.

Imagine this scene happening in your school district:

Principal Marie Brown does a drop-in visit of a kindergarten classroom being taught by Suzie, a veteran teacher, and quietly observes what’s going on. Later that day, she asks Suzie to stop by her office. After chatting with the teacher for a few minutes, Principal Brown hands her a memo that summarizes their discussion. It reads:

“Today I visited the morning kindergarten class as you read a story to your students. The storytelling was animated and engaging; the children appeared to be focused and enthralled. Your classroom decorations included some of the imagery from the story and were visually stimulating. Your enthusiasm for teaching and your dedication to providing an exciting environment for learning is apparent and greatly appreciated. Keep up the great work!”

After the teacher picks her jaw up off the floor, she leaves the principal’s office with a look of confusion on her face. “What just happened here?” she wonders. “I just received something in writing from my principal about my work, and it’s good news? And it’s not even evaluation time!”

Pleased and Confused

What would happen in your school if you suddenly started providing detailed constructive communication, verbally and in writing, to employees when they deserve recognition? They’d undoubtedly be pleased and confused, given that most teachers have not received anything in writing complimenting their work, other than through the evaluation process once every so many years. Respect for your professionalism would increase tremendously.

In the education environment, communication about performance—especially written communication—is usually reserved for “bad things,” or for formal observations and summative evaluations. Except to address the worst transgressions, employees rarely receive any written communication about their successes, or even minor shortcomings for that matter. When written communication does come it is automatically thought to be disciplinary in nature, yet nothing is further from the truth.

Records of employee growth are distinct in tone and content from records of discipline, even when they are in writing. Records of growth document discussions and agreements between a supervisor and employee as they work together toward enhancing the employee’s skills and value to the district.

Following the McGrath FICA communication method embodied in the SUCCEED with Communication, Supervision, Evaluation and Leadership program, these records include:

  • Determining the Facts;
  • Discussing any associated Impacts of those facts;
  • Placing the identified facts and impacts in Context; and
  • Weighing the Facts, Impact and Context to arrive at the next appropriate Action to help the employee grow.

Tone and Word Choice

Written records of employee growth use the principles of constructive communication feedback, which include:

  • avoiding adjectives and opinions,
  • keeping the tone professional and nonjudgmental,
  • setting expectations clearly,
  • determining measurable goals and timelines, and
  • providing information in a timely fashion.

By documenting the positive contributions of employees, as well as creating records of employee growth, you are building trust and enhancing the integrity of your employee relationships. Employees will respect your supervisory skills as you address the performance issues that are apparent to everyone, but that go unchecked because of our natural fear of confrontation.

Consistent constructive communication will allow 99 percent of your “problem” employees to self-correct or self-select out of your district. When you have to go to the mat with the less than 3% percent that cannot or will not improve, you will have legally fit documentation to do battle before the tenure commission or in a court of law, if necessary.

Most importantly, your records of growth and success will provide that much needed boost to the majority of your effective employees who work selflessly on behalf of our students. You will be amazed at the enhancement of your employees’ job satisfaction and the culture and climate of the workplace when you take the time to acknowledge success in writing on a regular basis.

Effective Evaluations – An Oxymoron? The Mischief is in the Myth

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