Staff Development & Performance Evaluation Assignment

According to the article, Simple Leadership Techniques: Rubrics, Checklists, and Structured Collaboration on Module 5: Lecture Materials & Resources page, schools and districts should institute a simple leadership technology — a combination of job aids (rubrics, checklists) and structured collaboration — in order to ensure that our best knowledge can be collected, broadcast, and grown.
Please respond substantially to the questions below in APA format:
**Use at least 2 references.

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What are some of the reasons given for the need to use this leadership technology?
Describe briefly Benjamin’s 80/20 principle?
How does your experience dovetail with the author’s assertion that “the education field has attention deficit disorder”?
To what extent do you use research in your work?
How have you used rubrics and checklists? How effective have they been in capturing quality and monitoring implementation?
What does “structured collaboration” mean to you, and how do you see it implemented in your organization?
In what ways does your organization foster accountability for implementation of research/best practices?

Simple Leadership Techniques
Create Your Own Kappan: Practical Aspects of Teaching
Many leaders find it difficult to manage sustained high-level organizational performance. Most insti- tutions experience steadily declining results, flat-line stagnation, or roller-coaster performance. Without a doubt, there are many factors that explain our inability to create and sustain performance excellence. But as Richard Koch explains:
A great deal of what happens is unimportant and can be disregarded. Yet there are always a few forces that have an influence way beyond their numbers. These are the forces that must be identified and watched. If they are forces for good, we should multiply them. If they are forces we don’t like, we need to think very carefully about how to neutralize them. (1998: 14)
There are two causes for failing to sustain performance excellence that bear close examination. First is that education has attention deficit disorder. Educators do not expect any strategy, program, or ap-
Rubrics, Checklists, and Structured Collaboration V92 N8 Kappan 25
STEVE BENJAMIN facilitates the Indiana Coalition of Quality Schools and consults regularly with schools and school districts.
Checklists, rubrics, and regular communication between educators can help a district set its most important goals, create a strategy to achieve them, and ensure proper implementation.
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proach — no matter how potentially efficacious — to be implemented with fidelity for very long. Teach- ers and administrators have learned to hunker down and wait out each new improvement effort because so many have been proposed before.
Second is our inability to make sense of the vast amount of available research — information about best practices that is easily available, but which many teachers and administrators are unable or unmoti- vated to access due to competing demands on their time, lack of research skills, or their satisfaction with current practice that is comfortable and judged good enough.
Although (or perhaps because) leaders have many responsibilities, it is necessary to focus
their attention on their most important job: deciding where they are going (goals), how they will get there (strategies), and whether they are
Deepen your understanding of
this article with questions and
activities on page PD 5 of this
month’s Kappan Professional
Development Discussion Guide
by Lois Brown Easton, free to
members in the digital edition at
kappanmagazine. org.
making progress.
Instead, school districts should institute a simple leadership technique — a combination of job aids (rubrics, checklists) and structured collaboration — in order to ensure that our best knowledge can be collected, broadcast, and grown.
Many central office and building administrators, teachers, and parents are unable to satisfactorily an- swer the following four questions:
• What are the most important goals that we are trying to achieve?
• What are the key organizational strategies that we believe will help us achieve our goals?
• How well are the strategies being implemented? • Are the strategies working?
Few educators can provide convincing answers to these questions. I know that because I ask — many times each week. Although respondents sometimes compose a reply after some thought, I find a lack of coherence, specificity, and alignment when I pool their statements. I am left unconvinced. Equally troubling is that far too few principals and teachers can discuss, with confidence, their most important performance results: percent of students reading at or above grade level, percent of students mastering core academic standards, or three-year trend results for state testing. Clearly, many leaders have failed to implement a system that has impressed on stakehold- ers a sense of urgency about the gap between cur-
rent and desired performance (Benjamin 2007a). They have failed to articulate the vision and strategy (if they exist) well enough or to identify methods and measures for determining to what extent strategies are being deployed and whether they are delivering results.
This is not a problem only for schools. Michael Mankins and Richard Steele (2005) surveyed execu- tives from 197 companies worldwide in order to de- termine how effective they had been at translating strategy into performance improvements. They found that most companies fail to achieve their strategies’ full potential and that most strategies de- liver only about half to two-thirds of their potential. The reasons include poor communication of the strategy, unclear implementation steps and account- ability for successful deployment, and inadequate performance monitoring linked with consequences and rewards for strategy deployment. Robert Kaplan and David Norton (2005) charge that leaders and or- ganizations spend a lot of time developing strategy but very little time checking to make sure that strat- egy is implemented. They found that 95% of a com- pany’s employees do not know or understand the or- ganizational strategies and thus can’t implement the desired approaches.
Why is strategy so critical? Because strategy — whether at the district, school, or classroom level — is the work we agree to do in order to close a per- formance gap. If the work we are engaging in is the wrong work, or if it’s the correct work and we fall short in our implementation, then we have little chance of success.
I borrow the term “evidence-based practice” from health care. David Sackett and his colleagues (1996: 71) write that “evidence-based medicine is the con- scientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of indi- vidual patients. The practice of evidence-based med- icine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” Substitute student for patient, education for medicine, and teacher for physician. Clearly, educators should engage in evidence-based practice, but when I ask groups of administrators and teachers questions about best practices, I am often greeted with blank stares or body language that sug- gests that I’ve asked an unfair question. Consider these questions:
• Can you identify the five dimensions of reading specified in the National Reading Panel Report?
• Do you know the No. 1 predictor of future
26 Kappan May 2011

reading success in young children? • What are two of the most important
contributors to greater reading success in adolescents?
• What are two of the most important interventions that can be used to support struggling elementary and middle school math students?
• Have you teamed with colleagues in your grade level, school, or department to identify a list of best instructional practices in your content area?
I do believe that administrators and teachers should at least be able to list some of the more im- portant and generally accepted best practices in their areas of responsibility. If they cannot state these guiding principles, there is little reason to believe that teachers are embedding research-based ap- proaches in daily practice even though, as Figure 1 illustrates, this should be their goal. In these same organizations, it is also unlikely that the leaders have worked to align knowledge about best practice with such processes as interview and selection, mentor- ing, collaboration, professional development, super- vision, and recognition.
The two most important reasons why employees fail to implement strategy are unclear expectations and failure of the leaders to check for satisfactory im- plementation. Therefore, the first step for leaders is to create rubrics or checklists that clearly specify what each person is to do to support the strategy (Benjamin 2007b). The checklist becomes a sort of contract between the district and building leaders and between building leaders and each teacher. Thus the rubrics must be lean and represent the vital few behaviors that will deliver the greatest return.
Atul Gawande recommends that good checklists “do not try to spell out everything. . . . Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and im- portant steps — the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good check- lists are, above all, practical” (2009: 120).
Checklists also can help teachers in the classroom. For example, if a school is facing problems with stu- dents’ reading levels, a teacher team can compile a list of the top five causes of the problem. Then they would gather evidence on potential high-value strate- gies to combat each dimension of the problem. The checklist might look like the one shown in Table 1.
Elmore advises that “improving school perform- ance requires transforming a fundamentally weak in- structional core, and the culture that surrounds it, into a strong, explicit body of knowledge about pow-
erful teaching and learning that is accessible to those who are willing to learn it” (2003: 10). I believe checklists and rubrics can help us get our arms around at least the most important knowledge. In the spirit of continuous improvement — and because of the half-life of knowledge — rubrics should be up- dated periodically. Mai writes that “successful organ- izations must strive both to standardize their opera- tions around ‘best practices’ and, at the same time, to look constantly for more effective alternatives — better best practices” (2004: 212).
“When supervisors and managers are too busy or distracted to verify work and provide feedback, there are some potentially negative consequences.”
— Sittsamer et al.
But merely developing rubrics and checklists falls short. Leaders must ensure that structured collabo- ration occurs regularly to determine how well the organization is implementing a practice.

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