DAILY INSIGHT: The truth about self-evaluations

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Besides all of the drama at this time of year regarding budgeting, staffing, and graduation, this is also the season for evaluations. After more than 20 years of evaluating educators, I think it is time I offer a couple of universal truths about the evaluation process:

  1. When asked to complete a self-evaluation, if the employee reports that they are perfect or excellent in all areas, they surely are not.
  2. Staff members who admit to you they aren’t doing a good job or “aren’t very good” at something are generally better than average.

I believe that both of these can be taken to bank. In my experiences, I have had two administrators return perfect self-evaluations to me. Neither one lasted long enough to have another evaluation. It shows—more than anything—a lack of personal reflection. For most of us, there is always something we know we could have done better or given more time. To propose that isn’t the case seems nearly shocking to me and exposes the person as absolutely without critical perspective and self-reflection. Such people shouldn’t be in leadership roles and probably shouldn’t be teaching at all.

Currently, one of my superintendent colleagues went so far as to return the “perfect” evaluation to the employee and ask him to review it, in light of conversations about his performance and the need to update his program. It was still returned perfect. Let me hypothesize where this one is going!

Similarly, the teacher who provides a seven-page rebuttal as to why she isn’t excellent in all areas in her (two-page) evaluation probably needs to be a little more reflective. However, the teacher who tells me they aren’t doing a good job is someone I want teaching my kids. The teachers who admit they are losing sleep at night worrying about teacher-accountability movements are the last ones I am going to worry about. Web designers who are never happy with their product and think the website needs some more X are in the same boat. As leaders, we need to nurture these people, encourage them and continue to point out the excellent work they are doing on behalf of our schools. Don’t wait for the evaluation process. Make it a point to tell them when you see something good and remind them that people who are happy with their performances are probably not striving to improve.

So, to those of you who feel you are doing the best you can: Work harder.

To those of you who are struggling to improve: Keep up the good work. Our schools need you!

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.