This article was first published in the February 2016 edition of the CouncilGram Newsletter published by The New York State Council of School Superintendents.
The evaluation of the superintendent by the district’s board of education is an important annual activity and process in maintaining a healthy leadership team. It is also a required process by law. Many of the current practices of evaluating a superintendent are time-consuming and arduous for both the superintendent and Boards of Education. Despite the level of importance to this process, some current practices result in perfunctory evaluations of the school district’s top leader.
Even with evaluations required both by law and in respective superintendent employment contracts, we have found there are still superintendents and boards that spend little time in the evaluation processes. Evaluations can easily descend on the priority list for the superintendent and the board. It seemingly becomes even more difficult to spend time and attention on the evaluation process when there are so many other pressing issues within the district. Furthermore, after 10:30 p.m. on a weekday night in executive session, who really wants to start digging into a conversation about performance evaluation?
Any informed person within the educational community wants the superintendent and board to spend their valuable time on the most important policy issues in the district. However, creating an environment for self-reflection, self-evaluation and building a portfolio of supporting evidence for the district’s top leader should also remain at the top of the priority list. Nevertheless, efficiently spending the time on this process should also remain a continued priority. The superintendent evaluation should be reflective, objective, and a catalyst for continued healthy leadership teams and as a tremendous opportunity
for the board and superintendent to further develop their relationship.
With the release of The Council’s new Model Superintendent Evaluation instrument in late 2014, superintendents and their respective boards gained access to a thoughtful, well-developed tool that focused on reflective professional practices as well as evidence-based superintendent evaluations. The model promotes a transparent measure of performance for the school superintendent by identifying relevant and objective performance targets. Even with this new Model Evaluation in place, the current paper-based process still proves to be labor and time intensive for both the superintendent and their boards.
In the spring 2015, it became apparent through conversations with superintendents across New York state and staff at The Council that a systemic and web-based approach could alleviate the time intensive nature to this process. At that time, PLS 3rd Learning, an educational technology company based in Buffalo, NY, and a longtime, signature partner of The Council, developed SuperEval: an online platform for supporting The Council’s Model Superintendent Evaluation Instrument.
SuperEval provides a model of excellence as a superintendent works deeply with the board to ensure the evaluation is objective, reflective, and evidence-based resulting in a systematic process to ensure a high-quality evaluation for the school district leader.
SuperEval facilitates superintendent evaluations that advance district goals and promote healthy, efficient leadership teams while strengthening the board and superintendent relationships. This process is driven by the superintendent’s own self-evaluation through
reflection and supporting evidence.
The SuperEval system streamlines the superintendent evaluation process in five specific steps:
- District Goals
The superintendent and board co-create district goals to align evaluation with performance targets. SuperEval allows the superintendent and board to identify those goals that are specific and important to their District and customize the evaluation instrument to the goals of the District.
- Superintendent Self-Evaluation
Central to this process is the superintendent’s self-evaluation through a practice of reflection and evidence.
Through SuperEval, the superintendent can upload or “drag and drop” any digital files as supporting evidence for specific competencies as identified by The Council’s Model Superintendent Evaluation framework. Once reflection notes are completed and supporting evidence attached, the superintendent can digitally submit their self-evaluation to the board for review.
- Board Review and Evaluation of the Superintendent
The board reviews the superintendent self-evaluation and then conducts their own evaluation. The board can start an evaluation from a “blank form” or have the evaluation automatically pre-populated with the superintendent’s responses.
- Consolidated Evaluation Data from the Board
The consolidated evaluation automatically combines all the board’s evaluation data into a single evaluation. This saves an enormous amount of time for the board president and alleviates combining this data by hand.
- Proposed Board Evaluation: Final Review and Sign Off
The superintendent and board will review and discuss the evaluation before finalizing the document by adding electronic signatures. SuperEval provide a feature that will automatically compare the board’s evaluation to the superintendent’s evaluation and will identify areas where the board and superintendent disagree. When the board conducts its own evaluation and compares the board responses to the superintendent’s, one would expect these responses to be close in proximity if the superintendent and the board are “on the same page.” If there is a disparity between the superintendent’s and the board’s response, perhaps they should explore the question: why? Why is there a discrepancy between the superintendent and the board on a specific competency within a reflective and evidenced-based evaluation process? SuperEval also provides data views averaging the board’s responses to those from the superintendent so discussion points can be quickly identified.
Superintendent evaluations are an important process in maintaining clear and transparent expectations for the district’s top leader. It is also a critical part of maintaining healthy leadership teams. SuperEval is the premier, one-of-a-kind, system to support the superintendent evaluation process across New York State.
For more information about this article, please contact Michael Horning, Jr., Executive Vice President, PLS 3rd Learning at 716.855.2250 or mhorning@PLS3rdLearning.com.