Kevin Rooney is a former Principal for 15+ years in Haddon Township, New Jersey where he was a school district employee for a total of 27 years.
A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my principal friends from when I was a K12 administrator. When I asked her how it was going, she told me that the year was going well and she was starting to look forward to summer … but first she had to get through "summative season". That is, she had only just begun to write the summative evaluations and meet with each one of her teachers.
Summative teacher evaluations are an essential part of the end of year evaluation process that every teacher and principal engages in as the school year comes to a close. It can be a stressful time for principals and teachers alike. It is stressful to teachers because they have given their blood, sweat, and countless hours of effort to make a difference in their students’ lives, and now administrators are going to comment on, and rate them on a rubric that could help determine their future.
It is equally (if not more) stressful for administrators because they must compile, evaluate, and comment on all staff members while keeping an eye toward all of the other end of the year activities and decisions.
In such a stress filled environment it is important to remember the value that the summative evaluation can provide. The best place to start is to look at this meeting from a reflective perspective. Look back at the goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year. What were the expectations that you had for your students? Did you reach those goals?
Summative teacher evaluations should truly be about summing up the year, not what did the teacher do, or not do, in the most recent observation or teacher conference. The summative should be a retrospective of an entire body of work. This requires administrators and teachers to look back over the up's and down's that occur during the course of the school year.
Teachers are a school's most valuable resource and it should be a time to allow teachers to receive positive feedback that most teachers richly deserve.
However, it needs also to be a time of honesty and integrity. If there was an area of weakness, or a missed opportunity, it should not be glossed over. Rather it should be used as a stepping stone to the next year's professional development both individually and as a school.
As administrators prepare each summative evaluation, be aware of patterns that emerge. Is there some great strength that exists with your staff? If so, it might lead to an end of year acknowledgement or celebration! Summative teacher evaluations are important investments in time, and nothing can be more important than creating and affirming great teachers.
Be wary of "pulling all-nighters" to write or prepare summatives. Also avoid scheduling so many meetings in one day so that they become an endless assembly line of perfunctory sessions with teachers that do little more than check off another box toward the end of the year.
Having thoughtful conversations during summative evaluation season empowers everyone in the school community and does allow us to enjoy the summer confident in the knowledge that next year will be even better than the last!
If you'd like to explore other ways that K12 administrators are making teacher evaluations more meaningful, then click the image below to view a short #FutureFriday video that we put together this year!