In Conversation With … features an interview between a leader or figure involved in public education and a representative of the Kentucky School Advocate.
This month’s conversation is with Dr. Tommy Floyd, chief of staff at the Kentucky Department of Education and former Madison County Schools superintendent. Floyd has been the department’s point person for developing a new process for school boards to evaluate superintendents.
Q: What is the historical background of the superintendent evaluation process?
A: For a number of years, Kentucky school districts have based their superintendent assessment on Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards that were published in 1996. There are many different types of qualitative and summative instruments or rubrics that are used by boards across the state. A number of districts participate in the Kentucky School Boards Association policy process through which Dara Bass and others on their staff offer guidance on policy related to the superintendent evaluation. In other words, every school board has been creating or selecting its evaluation instrument and process.
Q: What has changed about the process?
A: What has changed is that the commissioner has mandated that a conversation take place in both the first and second semesters on three specific topics, and that those conversations be documented and be submitted to KDE through the ASSIST program to be reviewed. The purpose of evaluating a superintendent’s effectiveness annually remains the same. Preliminary discussions are still to be held in closed session, and the summative evaluation must be in writing, discussed and adopted in an open meeting of the board. Minutes record the process and are made available to the public. School boards may still create their own evaluation instrument or adopt one, such as KSBA’s form.
Q: In February, Commissioner Holliday affirmed KDE’s authority to require districts to document superintendent evaluations in a new way. What exactly has he asked districts to do?
A: KRS 156.557 states that KDE will approve of all evaluations in Kentucky, so that has not changed. What is now being asked of boards are really two things. First, Commissioner Holliday has asked that superintendents conduct conversations with their board members in open meetings on three very important topics:
District Delivery Targets – Discuss academic targets on their school report cards and what plans they have in place to improve; to participate in the professional growth (PGES) system; and to demonstrate how the school district is going to be ready for the statewide PGES implementation year.
Resource/Support Systems – The superintendent and board will talk about a balanced budget, 2 percent contingency funds, being sure they are meeting state and federal guidelines, etc.
Facilities/Support Systems – They are asked to look at the facilities portion of the TELL Kentucky survey and talk about the infrastructure and needs in their district to make sure that those needs are being met.
The next step of the process requires that evidence of those conversations be documented through the KDE ASSIST software evidence collection program.
Q: What are the timelines for the new process?
A: The commissioner has asked that the first conversation on these three topics take place during the fall semester and the deadline for districts to upload this information into the KDE ASSIST site is Dec. 20, 2013. In the second semester, districts can return to this process and continue these conversations on the three areas and post those results on the ASSIST by June 30, 2014.
Q: How does KDE intend to use the results?
A: KDE will be reviewing postings and looking for some great conversations to share with other districts. Gathering data allows KDE to provide technical assistance relative to delivery targets, resource allocations and TELL results.
The recurring thing that I continue to hear from superintendents around the state is that they are already having these important conversations with their boards centered around the three topics – they are already talking about delivery targets and the new statewide Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES) implementation. They are already talking about adequacy in budgets, facilities and support. And, they feel that this is not a big change for them. It says that most superintendents and boards are focused on the right things to discuss.
Q: Does the current evaluation tool have to be approved by KDE before submission?
A: No, this year boards can continue to use their own evaluation document. Having the conversations and the reporting timeline is what has changed. There seems to be some confusion over the difference between what needs to occur by Dec. 20 with ASSIST and eventual development of the Kentucky Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System.
Q: What help is out there for boards and superintendents to get ready for the coming changes?
A: I have worked with Kerri Schelling (director of Board Team Development) at KSBA to ensure that regional workshops they offer around the state to school board members cover both the evaluation and ASSIST process. KASS works with all superintendents to be sure they understand the process. KASA is overseeing and assisting with the new superintendent evaluation process. Of course, KDE is also a resource.
Q: That leads us to the second part of the conversation. What is on tap for the superintendent evaluation process? Is the new Next Generation Superintendent Effectiveness System going to change the way all Kentucky superintendents are evaluated?
A: Today, there are ongoing conversations in which the Superintendent Advisory Council is engaged as part of the requirements of Senate Bill 1 and Kentucky’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility waiver about the superintendent’s role in all of that.
The Superintendent Advisory Council suggested that the commissioner act on the establishment of a steering committee to look at the current work of the KASA Design Team, who has been contracted to handle Kentucky’s new superintendent training, the Next Generation Superintendent Effectiveness System. KASA has studied a variety of standards – ISLLC Standards, North Carolina Standards for Superintendents and other instruments centered around superintendent effectiveness, trying to get that into a usable form for new superintendents and their boards.
That has resulted in the Next Generation Effectiveness Standards for Kentucky School Superintendents now being piloted with new superintendents. This set of eight effectiveness standards focus on strategic, instructional, cultural, human resource, managerial, external development and micropolitical leadership, as well as human qualities such as core values, beliefs and perceptions (called dispositions). The standards can serve as a growth document beneficial not only to new superintendents, but also to all superintendents. The Superintendent Evaluation Steering Committee has set a goal to take their model and make it a more user-friendly document that could be used as a professional growth model for Kentucky superintendents in the future.
Q: Will all school boards be required to use this new evaluation model once it is developed?
A: No, they will have a choice. If a local board wants to use its own form, they just need to be sure that their form is aligned qualitatively to the new state document. That new document does not exist yet. The goal is for that document to be ready by spring of 2014. I anticipate that in July 2014, superintendents and board chairs will get a letter from the commissioner with information about the new document that has been created by the steering committee that includes KSBA, EPSB, KASA, KDE, CPE, KASS and superintendent and school board representatives.
Boards can choose to use the state model developed by stakeholders or use the rubric (which will be developed) to utilize their own. In order to be approved for future use, a board-created evaluation instrument must be equivalent to the state document. Two key principles for evaluation are that all instruments be aligned and that they be growth instruments.
Q: Will board-created evaluation forms have to be approved by KDE?
A: Yes. If it aligns to the rubric, which will be developed and provided to districts, then all a board would have to do is demonstrate how it aligns to the rubric. If they want to add other things to the evaluation, they just need to show how it aligns. The Superintendent Professional Growth Effectiveness System will be implemented statewide in 2015-16.
Q: Some board members and superintendents have expressed concern over changes they see coming in the evaluation process and want affirmation that they are still in control of that process.
A: I would think the great majority of the people who volunteer their time to serve on boards will see that this is about raising the bar for kids. Certainly, it isn’t about taking away local autonomy or local freedom. We are only trying to set the minimum and I think that most superintendents and boards in this state will go above and beyond this. It is the board that asks the tough questions based on the results on their school report cards about how their schools are meeting student needs and how they are going to meet the needs of boys and girls in the future.
Do they have steps in place so that their professionals have the right kind of support. In PGES, the “E” stands for “effectiveness” and the “G” for “growth” and the local board member makes sure that schools have those tools. The second thing is budget – making sure there is adequacy. The third is facilities and infrastructure – seeing that students have the learning environment they need. We know that boards and superintendents are having these important conversations. We just want to put it in words – it is no different than what most of them are already doing.