I just read where another district is rolling out the same old tired “leadership” reform. You may even recognize a version of this actual lack of leadership in your district. Teachers that are rated as “Exceeds” on their annual evaluation for a given number of years are given a classroom observation waiver and are not evaluated for a certain number of years. The false logic that is presented as the reason for this reform is that it “frees” up valuable manager (do notice that I purposefully did not use the word leader) time so the manager can focus on new and struggling teachers. I could give you a host of reasons why this is a bad idea (after all there are a million ways to do a thing wrong) but I’ll stick with the big three. 1. The only time that campus leadership truly adds value to the campus is when leadership is problem solving and coaching staff. You have to come to grips with the fact that wading through reams of administrivia doesn’t matter. Anyone can be trained to fill out paperwork, deal with angry people and create a schedule. If you don’t believe me, what do you think the manager at the local McDonald’s does on a daily basis? And that comment is not to be construed as disparaging to any McDonald’s manager. The only way leadership can gather enough relevant information to effectively problem solve and coach is to observe lots and lots of classroom instruction, school operations and student / adult interactions. The military call this “ground truth.” Without ground truth, your plans and ideas are at best a decent guess and at worst pure delusion. Think Bay of Pigs and Little Bighorn. So with this being the case, purposefully not observing any classroom is either managerial laziness or negligence, not reform. 2. Coaching and feedback maximizes potential. It is the Best who are able to do the most with coaching and feedback. To purposefully rob your best teachers of this opportunity resigns them to a career of arduous trial and error. By exempting them from the observation, feedback and evaluation process you are essentially telling your best people, “Congratulations, you have worked in obscurity and isolation and have achieved (completely on your own) the minimum level of expected performance. As your reward, you now get to keep working in district-mandated isolation. And if you begin to struggle, it’s your fault.” Again, this is either managerial laziness or negligence, not reform. 3. Campus leadership needs to build expertise in understanding and recognizing the spectrum of instructional practice. This means that leadership has to observe both extremes of the performance spectrum. If I only observe the best teachers, I can increase my skills in recognizing the components of instructional excellence. If I only observe my worst teachers, I can increase my skills in recognizing the components of instructional inadequacy. If I observe both, I can better filter out what actually works and what is superstitious behavior. At that point I can better coach any teacher on my campus. To purposefully not observe one particular group of teachers is either managerial laziness or negligence, not reform. I will close this post with a composite anecdote. In my past role as the “Fixer” for the State of Texas, when I would first arrive on a struggling campus I would ask the principal, “How many teachers received ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on their last evaluation?” The answer was always “Almost all of them.” Then I would ask, “How many teachers are on a growth plan?” The answer was always, “Less than two.” So I ask you, do you still think that purposefully reducing the already miniscule level of true performance discussions that occur between teachers and administrators is a good idea? Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn… Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com! http://tinyurl.com/4ydqd4t Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation Confirmed 2012 Presentations: NASSP Conference; NASB Conference