Although I have expressed my concern regarding the over emphasis on evaluation in changing and improving education in my new book (Leadership and Teams: The Missing Piece of the Educational Reform Puzzle) and first blog, we still have new evaluation systems jumping up all over the country. Since my data and research on leadership indicates that the best leaders keep their eyes on their goals and adapt based on compliance requirements, I must do the same.

The evaluation processes throughout the country talk about setting school, instructional and some sort of professional development goal for administrators. In Massachusetts this non- instructional goal is called a Professional Practice Goal.  In most Massachusetts districts they do not really know what this means or what data to use in setting their goals. Since most districts are compliance oriented and the deadlines for this goal setting are so tight (10/1/12) they are missing a key opportunity in developing high performance leaders.

This potential throw away goal is a key to success for most leaders. Instead of meeting the compliance requirements by creating goals that just propose to run better meetings, make staff happy, and spend more time with parents, it is critical to make this goal meaningful.

What data can be used to set this goal? Instructional data is for the instructional goal. How does an administrator know what their goal for real behavioral change should be in order to make significant and sustainable improvement.

Due to the genius of a real life Superintendent in Dover –Sherborn, Massachusetts, there is a new way to make this goal setting and evaluation process impactful. Valerie Spriggs used the data on leadership styles, behaviors, and values that we completed for her team to set real professional practice goals for her staff. In Massachusetts, the state department has a rubric that must be followed to set goals. This rubric tells administrators the areas in which to set these goals. The state proposes to set the goal based on a self-assessment of the rubric and the Superintendent’s viewpoint. There is no information on how to accomplish this goal or how each person needs to change their personal and professional behavior and practice to meet their new professional practice SMART goal.

Valerie, being a high performing leader (based on our research) kept her eye on the prize and then connected to the compliance requirements of the state. The goal for Valerie is real in-depth professional development for improved student achievement. Therefore, Valerie believed that the data from the inventories provided personal information on each administrator and therefore would meet the requirements of the new law.

Valerie stated that this process provided individual insights for administrators on their natural and adaptive leadership characteristics through the use of the leadership assessments.  The leadership assessments may include The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, The DISC, a Values inventory, and the Workplace Personality Inventory (WPI).  By using an informal, non -evaluative format the superintendent was able to engage each administrator in real behavioral change and improvement strategies.   All administrators shared that their data was accurate, insightful, and useful.

The details and specifics of each administrator’s professional practice goals are based on data consisting of a self- assessment, professional non-evaluative analysis, one on one coaching and mentoring.  The individuals identified written goals that provided an opportunity to refine previous practices, improve performance, and enhance job satisfaction.

The surface goals being written in other districts would not have meet Valerie’s requirements. The data she used on each administrator pointed to a deeper, genuine conversation that needed to occur with each person. Now other districts are using the leadership inventory data to set their professional practice goals. One Principal in another district wanted to create a legacy of leadership for her teachers. However, her profile indicated that she was focusing too much on writing evaluations and working in her office and less time coaching her teachers for success.

Another administrator was developing her school team but was not meeting the compliance requirements of the district. In this case it was not the answer for the Principal to do the compliance work herself. In fact, the delegation of the compliance work with authority to her leadership team would allow the Principal to continue providing the leadership coaching to teachers that is needed for real improvements in teaching practice.

In another district, the Principal is coasting to retirement and is losing the drive to improve. This showed up on her Workplace Personality Inventory (WPI) as a low score in initiative. This self- reported data, allowed the Superintendent to have an in-depth conversation with the Principal about developing her team to increase the initiative in the school for new efforts such as teacher evaluation and the common core.

It is essential for Superintendents and Principals to have in-depth conversations about improvement in a constructive and motivating manner. Many districts are using a goal setting process based only on instructional data or negative incidents and/or judgments about a Principal’s behavior. The data provided by the leadership assessments is about each administrator’s style and behavior as a leader. If the data is used for positive motivating discussions and to set real goals for sustainable behavioral change, the evaluation process will get the results that the federal and State governments had hoped.

As Valerie Spriggs said about this unique opportunity:

“The most important role of a Superintendent is to build the leadership capacity in your district. Don’t lose this opportunity because you don’t have time.”