Are We Learning From Evaluations? – Leadership 360 – Education Week

In a recent article from Jill Berkowicz and Ann Meyers,

Are We Learning From Evaluations? – Leadership 360 – Education Week.

they make a case for fallacies that stand behind new evaluation systems that use scoring mechanisms for reporting “what isn’t being done well enough.”

I applaud them for their insight into this nutty problem of evaluation that has haunted us for decades.  I grew up in administration in Washington State where new evaluation systems continue to be debated while an instrument first crafted in the 1970′s is in continued use.  Changing educational practice is never easy!

But, Jill and Ann make the case that we should treat teacher evaluation on the same standard as student feedback, which is cornerstone to our current understanding of achievement and motivation.  Hattie (2008) has generally confirmed this precept.  As I read their treatise, I must admit that I experienced some tension over devaluing a professional appraisal process to the equivalent of providing effective feedback to a 6th grade writer.  Don’t misunderstand, I agree that giving a 6th grader a single grade on a written paper is unlikely to motivate them and does little in helping them learn how to become better writers.  I believe that the authors are making this argument quite effectively.

But, the evaluation system of teacher serves two purposes.  At it’s core, it does serve the purpose of informing improved practice.  The author’s quote here is quite profound:

In 1975 a Handbook for Faculty Development was published for the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges.  In it they list 13 characteristics that certainly apply.  Feedback needs to be descriptive rather than evaluative. Sound familiar?  In the new teacher and principal evaluation systems, the requirement to provide ‘evidence’ is exactly that.  No interpretation, no value judgment, simply what was seen. Included in the 13 is also that feedback be specific, can be responded to, is well timed, is the right amount (too much can’t be addressed at once), includes information sharing rather than telling, is solicited (or welcomed as helpful) and plays a role in the development of trust, honesty, and a genuine concern.

I do find that our use of a framework of standards (Danielson, 2011) allows us to gather evidence and then align it to a set of descriptors that turns the evidence into feedback.  This feedback includes a score — and rightfully so!  Rubrics were written with the expressed purpose of quantifying the feedback and setting targets for performance in the form of exemplars associated with higher rubric scores.

This is where the authors fall short.  They forget that, without goals, exemplars, and appropriate targets, they are missing the true goal of effective feedback, to accomplish greater achievement – whether for students or as a professional.  To that end, we have to consider how the evidence we collect is utilized to provide for accountability.  Evaluators have to be able, through the noted relationships that must be in place, to have both facilitative and instructional conversations that drive improved practice and the development of expertise.  Somebody in that conversation has to make a value judgement for that process to be something more than just spinning wheels on the slippery slope of mediocrity.

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Great Start to a New Year!!

2013-2014 Opening Ceremony from AAS Moscow on Vimeo

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ECIS Conference Presentation 2013

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Technology Integration in Schools

At a session at International School of Prague as part of the Spring CEESA Conference.  Discussion about the integration of technology and pushing the boundaries of our thinking on the topic.  The SAMR model helps us to see the context of integration and the transformational aspects that we are all seeking:



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TEDxAAS – My first one…

The students in charge of this did a fabulous job!!… Continue reading

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Chris Waddell Visits AAS

AAS Guest: Chris Waddell from AAS Moscow on Vimeo.… Continue reading

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ECIS Panel Discussion – April, 2012

Initial thoughts:


The initial question posited to the conference panel that I’ve been asked to address:
Information Technology in school – Does it improve  learning?
Gathered some resources to begin to address this question and related topics:

The key issue associated with answering the question revolves first around how you define improving learning.  The learning targets that are currently accepted often revolve around norm referenced test scores because of our reliance on these measures to show growth or… Continue reading

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Christmas Letter 2011

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The Holiday Season Begins @ AAS

AAS 5th Grade from Jon Zurfluh on Vimeo.

Erin and her classmates entertain parents at recent gathering.

BTW – All video done with iPhone and edited with iMovie on the iPhone. Amazing… Continue reading

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Hard to find words to describe this…  Wonderful!!!

What a great capture of what goes on at AAS every day… Continue reading


Becoming a Lighthouse…

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The Future…

I know this is just a gadget on one hand, but for those with a science fiction come reality sort of mind, what are the implications of this?  Are we preparing kids for a world with stuff like this?  I mean really – Do the classrooms of today bear any resemblance to the technology they will live with after graduation?  Really???!?!?!?

This changes everything… Continue reading

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Common Sense Thinking

These guys get it…

Look especially at 25:40 for the key question on individualizing… Powerful – listen for the shoe story.

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Musical Farewell to Mount Cross Lutheran

Mount Cross Lutheran –

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Candidates popping up in Russia – similar to U.S.

An article in the New York Times this week named the billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets as a potential candidate for Russian president, but his actual run is far from formal announcement until his party tests their merit in upcoming parliamentary elections in December.  It’s interesting that this Billionaire Bachelor is a potential candidate in Russia while he would be unlikely for consideration in the current conservative atmosphere.  His tendency to frequent the clubs with Russian models is well known and he does little to hide this reputation.  Seems interesting that his party of record is… Continue reading

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Michael McFaul possibly named new U. S. Ambassador to Russia

It was recently announced with little fanfare that Michael McFaul will take the post as new Ambassador to Russia from the United States, pending Senate confirmation.  Nice to know that a highly qualified and thoughtful individual will be entering the Russian environment on my heels and I look forward to greeting his family at the Anglo-American School.

I’ve been reading a bit of his most recent book (Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can) and looking to potentially incorporate some of his leadership thoughts in my own dissertation work.  He has presented… Continue reading

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The Poetry of Change

Shift & Solitude

When seeking change,
The mind softens
And in solitude our thoughts pause.

Static becomes pliable;
We shape a perception,
And a new mold emerges from objectivity and innovation.

Embracing a new reality
Involves passionate argument,
Often with ourselves in equal measure to those around us.

We battle for our new beliefs.
But, we only win the war
When we live what we conceive.

– Jon P. Zurfluh… Continue reading

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Parents – Time to Select Your Child’s Hardware

Schools are increasingly struggling with decisions on how to support the growing trends in technology adoption in a fast paced and constantly changing technology rich world. The number of schools moving toward greater access to technology is growing with exponential magnitude. The challenge is the cost associated with these adoptions and further compounded by the increasing pace of obsolescence. Often, we are buying equipment that has a usable lifespan of far less than three years making traditional depreciation schedules useless.

But, first we need to begin with the rationale for including technology in the learning process. Even after two decades of… Continue reading

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The Middle Grades: Zits, Braces, and Hormones

This piece from ASCD “The Whole Child” feed is worth a read:

The Whole Child Podcast « Whole Child Education.

The thing that impresses me the most is the attention to a key belief that I also hold.  They accurately reflect on the complexity of the education experience and how this is especially true for the middle grades where “young people are grappling to figure out who they are.”

Altogether an inspired look at a wholistic and viable approach.

Here’s the policy brief that supports this work:

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Another look at the future…

I remember a similar video from Microsoft that takes a look at the future – not too distant – to conjecture on the state of the world associated with products already in the pipeline.  I like to think of it as the nexus between StarTrek and reality.  We’ve seen many crossover and successful products emerge this way. On the backs of Roddenberry style imagination, the future is crafted.  Science fiction brought us cell phones and iPads.  This video suggests what is next in interactive environments.

So the question that emerges is what do… Continue reading

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