Tips for a Successful Evaluation
Tips for a Successful Evaluation
Your Ally | By Lance Cain, ATPE Managing Attorney
Employee evaluations occur throughout the school year via walkthroughs and classroom observations. But the spring semester is when the evaluation process really intensifies. Teacher evaluations are compiled and finalized into summative annual appraisals, and other employees typically receive end-of-year evaluations during this time. Our website atpe.org contains detailed information regarding evaluations, but the following is practical advice on what to expect and how to deal with unforeseen evaluation results.
Reviewing your district’s evaluation policy is a good way to prepare. Many districts use the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), but districts can use their own system as well. The T-TESS generally only applies to teachers, so non-teachers will likely be evaluated differently.
Good communication is a key component in preparing for any evaluation. The T-TESS takes it a step further by requiring collaboration between the teacher and appraiser in goal setting and professional development, as well as requiring a pre- and post-evaluation conference. Those evaluated under the T-TESS should take advantage of these opportunities to discuss shared goals and learn your appraiser’s expectations. The pre-conference can be especially important in discussing the upcoming lesson and gauging what your appraiser is looking for.
That is not always easy. Administrators can be busy or hard to pin down, and this can come off as being uninterested or even rude. But do your best to follow up with them and have a professional discussion about wanting to succeed at your job. Hopefully, finding common ground with your appraiser will reflect positively on your results.
The same goes for employees not evaluated with the T-TESS. It may not always be feasible or necessary to have a pre-conference, but that makes it even more crucial to keep lines of communication open with your appraiser throughout the year. Evaluations should be based on what your appraiser knows about your performance, so let them know about the positive contributions you make. This is not to suggest daily updates. But if your appraiser is familiar with your good work, you are less likely to be surprised with a negative evaluation.
So what happens if you disagree with the results? It is always difficult for anyone to read negative criticism of their work, especially if you feel it is unfair. But it can be helpful not to overreact and instead take a few hours or perhaps a day to reflect.
Although evaluations are based on objective metrics, they are also based in part on your appraiser’s opinion of your performance. So all may not be lost.
One practical option is discussing the evaluation with your appraiser. It is entirely possible they may have missed aspects of your lesson or aren’t fully aware of all your contributions. Teachers can use the T-TESS post-conference as an opportunity to discuss the results. Otherwise, you may need to schedule a meeting.
Bring supporting data and remain professional as you make your case. Not taking the evaluation personally can help you remain objective. The T-TESS—in particular—is a system that stresses continuous growth. Therefore, many appraisers are cautious not to initially award scores that would be hard to improve on.
Hopefully, a conversation with your appraiser will allow you to find common ground where you can feel comfortable with the final results. If not, there are several approaches for you to consider.
Consider Your Options
Your evaluation options will depend on your district’s policies. You usually will have the right to submit a written response to be attached to the evaluation in your file. A written response is helpful for telling your side of the story and providing positive documentation for your record. It should be professional and free from emotion; you can disagree, but you should do so without being disagreeable.
Some appraisal systems, including the T-TESS, also allow you to request a second appraisal by a different administrator. Usually, that comes in the form of a second classroom observation. Although this might sound like a fresh start, a second appraisal does not usually replace the first one. They are typically averaged together, but it can depend on district policy.
The most formal approach is the grievance process, which allows employees to challenge their evaluation results. Grievances are decided by campus/district administrators and the school board—rather than an independent decision maker—so they can be difficult to win without evidence of a legal violation. And because it can be a confrontational process, employees must carefully weigh the risks against the potential benefits.
The ATPE Member Legal Services Department can help eligible members decide what approach will work best for them. But please note that all of these options have fairly short deadlines—usually 10 or 15 working days from the date you receive your appraisal. So contact us relatively quickly if you have questions.
The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.
Eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Visit atpe.org/protection to view important disclosures and current details of the insurance policy. Staff attorney services are provided separate from the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program.