A new LYS Principal asks the following questions:

SC,    I am still struggling with the coaching v. evaluation idea.   I understand that in the hands of our professional support staff, PowerWalks can be a great coaching tool.  However, the Assistant Principals and I are responsible for the appraisal side of things.  At our district meeting, you addressed the fact that we (administrators) will move from the coaching side to the appraisal side when needed.  

When that is the case? Or is it whenever I think it is necessary? Do I use the PowerWalks observation instrument as an evaluation tool or do I need to use something different?

I have concerns that when I move someone into an appraisal situation based of PowerWalks data, I have in effect made the PowerWalks system an appraisal system.  Am I missing something or is there another piece of the puzzle that we have not covered?  

I’m really trying to wrap my thoughts around this. 

SC Response Great questions! It is obvious that you are trying to fit formative classroom observation into your daily practice.

The big question is, “When do you move from coaching to appraising?”  

The answer is when you see something that requires action.  This could be:

A. If you walk in on something that you cannot abide by, then you must address it then.  This may happen once or twice a year.

B. If you notice a negative pattern early, you can intervene.  For example, if something negative that was observed three times in fifteen walk-thru’s would cause you to intervene; you would intervene the third time you saw it, even if you had only been in the classroom six time.

C. If you notice the teacher is constantly struggling and/or is not progressing in the implementation of something. Intervene.

The big issue is communication. Whenever you decide that you need to intervene, you must let the teacher know that the purpose of your visits has changed and improvement in performance must occur in an expedited fashion. We must own the fact that teachers do not trust administrators in the classroom because on most campuses the “friendly” visit turns into a “witch-hunt” without any overt warning.  Even your own district advocates surprise summative evaluation observations. That is the worst of bad management practice and perpetuates an “us versus them” mentality.  And yes, I have shared this with your Superintendent and members of your Board.

As to your point that switching to the appraisal model based on PowerWalks observations makes PowerWalks a de-facto evaluation tool has some merit, especially in an environment devoid of communication and trust.  In practice, I think this is mitigated when a principal has the following conversation with a teacher, “Based on our visits to your classroom, we have noticed that you seem to be struggling with….  Because of that, I’m going to come observe you during these three times (GIVE THE TIME) over the next week.  I’ll observe you for at least 15 minutes each time so I can get a better feel for what you are trying to accomplish and how your class responds to your instruction.

If, after the longer observations you decide that things really are OK, tell the teacher.  If things still concern you, you now have better information in which to build an intervention plan.  Plus, you are intervening early enough that it is possible to avoid jeoprodizing both overall class performance and the teacher’s job.

As for what to look for when you do intervene, that is determined primarily by the reason for the intervention.

I hope this helps, if not keep asking and I’ll keep answering.    Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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