Save the Planet! Use Fewer Binders!

BindersNote: This is update of an earlier post titled: ISLLC Win-Win (September 19, 2012) The principal evaluation system of New York State is built on a foundation of the ISLLC Standards (2008). No matter which rubric, no matter the system used in a district, the law requires that principals are evaluated on all of the ISLLC Standards each year:

  1. Setting a widely shared vision for learning
  2. Developing a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth
  3. Ensuring effective management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment
  4. Collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources
  5. Understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, legal, and cultural contexts.

The way the process is supposed to work is that evidence about principal practice is collected throughout the year, including announced and unannounced school visits, and at the end of the year the evidence is compared against a rubric and a summative score is determined. Good evidence collection is key to this system. With good evidence, growth-producing conversations can occur between the principal and the supervisor, resulting in good and constantly improving practice. So, if we are going to use the ISLLC Standards for evaluation — how should we collect evidence? One approach would be to generate lists of the artifacts and other sources of evidence for each of the Standards. What do you get when you do this? You get a cacophony of potential artifacts — and sales of 4″ three-ring binders skyrockets! We can do better! We can use the ISLLC Standards for school improvement and not just evaluation. A colleague, Dawn Shannon from Broome-Tioga BOCES, showed me how to use the ISLLC Standards in a way that can guide school improvement initiatives and provide a scheme for growth-producing feedback and evaluation. It’s called ISLLC Contextualized Goal-Setting. Here’s how it works: Rather than collecting all sorts of evidence about all sorts of efforts, the principal and superintendent (or supervisor) should identify an initiative for the school year (yes, this overlaps with the goal) and use the ISLLC Standards to guide, follow, and evaluate the success of the initiative/goal. The evidence that is collected, therefore, is centered (and authentic) on the initiative. The initiative will benefit from the analysis and application of the ISLLC Standards and the evidence will be collected for proposes of evaluation. This is a win-win situation! We can comply with the APPR regulations while also helping principals with their authentic initiatives and goals. Now, half-way through the first year of implementation of the new system of principal evaluation, we know this approach works. Consider what this approach does for principal evaluation:

  1. The initiative, or major, goal, is better implemented. In many cases, people are choosing the goals we already have on our plate, such as a new APPR system, math Common Core implementation, Data-Drive Instruction, etc. The ISLLC Standards are great at analyzing an initiative, and doing so actually helps you think of things you might not otherwise thought of.
  2. The evidence collection process becomes manageable. Principals are going through their year collecting anything that might be considered evidence in order to make a case about their performance. Rather, evidence is systematically and deliberately collected around the ISLLC contextualized goal. At a time when principals are swamped with all they have to do they do we can help narrow this burden. In this case we can pull the weed of rampant evidence collection and bring sanity and focus to the process.
  3. The feedback a principal receives is deliberate, measured, and manageable. For many of the same reasons listed above, and for the same reasons that a coach focuses on one aspect of an athlete’s game at a time, feedback is better received and implemented when it comes at a meaningful pace and in a meaningful, focused way.

I have a feeling that we’ll discover even more reasons to choose the ISLLC Contextualized Goal-Setting approach to principal evaluation. I’ll report on those in the future. In the meantime, check out some of the resources we have collected for principal evaluation, including organizers specifically designed to help you use ISLLC Contextualized Goal Setting with your principals.


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