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and Faculty Assessment

Faculty Assessment and Role Definition

Bricks and mortar do not make a school. Beautiful buildings and remarkable athletic facilities are nothing without the faculty that give them life. Years from now your students will recall and appreciate your faculty before they give a thought to the computers, classrooms, and residential housing that surrounded them during their formative years. The physical campus of a school is like packaging. It needs to be attractive and functional, however, it is the contents of that package that makes your product uniquely valuable. The contents of your product are the individuals who give life to your buildings—your faculty and staff.

  • Does your faculty match the grandeur of your chapel or complexity of your computer network?
  • Do your teachers possess talents that even they might not recognize [avoid ending a sentence with a preposition]? How would you know?
  • Can you maximize their natural talents to meet your school’s mission?
  • Do you have the right people in the right places?
  • What systems do you have in place to make such determinations?

How long has it been since your institution evaluated its faculty assessment system?

Thomas Sherry & Associates invites leaders to revisit the annual “chore” of faculty evaluation and turn it into a central tool to help headmasters and administrators fine-tune their school’s performance.

The Tradition of Performance Review

The tradition of yearly contract renewal in the boarding school system is unique. Colleges have tenure, and public schools have very strict dismissal protocols. Yearly contract renewals, changes in administration, and budget challenges can breed uncertainty and insecurity in teaching staff. Unclear expectations can lead to accusations of subjectivity, resentment, and discontent. This kind of uncertainty can infect an entire faculty.

Just as a fleet travels only as fast as its slowest ship, weaknesses in teaching staff can weaken an institution.

Traditionally, boarding school teachers are evaluated only on their performance in the classroom. More recently schools are focusing on the ”triple threat” of teaching, coaching and house-parenting.  However, most schools still do not have systems to evaluate performances outside of the classroom.

Every professional role is vital to the effective functioning of your school. Understanding faculty strengths in all performance areas should be assessed. Understanding a teacher’s individual strengths enables a school provide services and training toward specified target areas. Identifying this kind of information can help determine the health of every area of your school’s program.

The FULCRUM System

FULCRUM uses a simple web-based interface that enables faculty to perform evaluations at any time from any computer. FULCRUM encourages each school to reevaluate and clarify its definitions of excellent performance in any defined professional role. Faculty have the opportunity for self-analysis and can assess the performance of their supervisors. This component is incorporated to foster communication, increase professional development, and limit the top-down impression of the traditional yearly evaluation.

FULCRUM is not a computer program. It is a dynamic and ongoing system of evaluation and organizational management. Simple computer programs will not change the way a school thinks about itself. FULCRUM is a challenging tool for schools ready to innovate and adapt to change.

FULCRUMrequires a school to review its organizational structure. In this process, many schools find a number of areas that lack supervision and oversight. It is our belief that supervision promotes peak performance and job satisfaction. Job satisfaction encourages faculty retention and saves administration time and money on recruitment.

Encouraging Peak Performance

Just as athletes have coaches who coax the best out them, good supervision, clear expectations, clarified goals, and quality feedback can help faculty meet their full potential. However, good supervision is a task that requires both knowledge and finesse. It requires the ability to instill respect in a teacher and the ability to deliver critiques that are compassionate, helpful and collegial. With a lack of direction and the perception of a routine chore, observing, assessing and encouraging faculty performance often just pushed aside in lieu of other responsibilities.

Defining Excellence

It is essential the faculty have the opportunity to define excellence in each of their distinct roles. Thomas Sherry & Associates helps guide faculty in the construction of such criteria. While we can provide suggestions or examples of performance criteria, it is crucial that schools create their own definitions so that faculty have full “buy in” to the identified criteria.

Writing good criteria is a challenge. Thomas Sherry & Associates can provide workshops that help schools help teachers define their goals.

Faculty Assessment and Strategic Planning

There are a wide variety of performance evaluation systems. Many could be altered to provide a more multi-dimensional assessment as outlined above. Only FULCRUM’s web-enabled system takes data and compiles it in a way that enables a school to identify strengths and weaknesses across the organizational structure. Data can be viewed from the level of individual teacher to evaluating the strength of a school’s athletic program in comparison to its residential life program. Such information can provide crucial insight into a school’s overall health. You many find that your academic program is excellent but your advising system is weak. As a result of these revelations schools can pay close attention to areas of weakness and leverage strengths. Furthermore, schools can chart change over time to determine the success of particular interventions.

Circular Accountability & Reverse Evaluation

Those involved in performance evaluation have promoted the concept of the 360-degree assessment systems. Many schools have incorporated this concept into their evaluation systems. It is essential that evaluatees have the opportunity to evaluate their supervisors. This kind of “reverse evaluation” increases the validity of assessments and helps mitigate the administration / staff divide that can breed discontent. After a teacher, coach, houseparent or advisor is evaluated they will be prompted to evaluate their supervisors. This can be accomplished in conversations between the evaluatee and his or her supervisor and submitted confidentially

The variety of roles in a boarding school makes a 360-degree evaluation unique. In a boarding school, the chair of the English department will evaluate Mr. Sherry as English teacher, while Mr. Sherry as head lacrosse coach may evaluate the chair of the English department in her role as assistant lacrosse coach. This kind of insularity is distinctive to boarding schools and can increase mutual accountability when a system is in place to promote it.

Faculty are changing. Proper management of your teaching staff requires changes in supervision and oversight. FULCRUM can help school meet the unique needs of boarding school faculty, and thus increase the effectiveness of your educational program. The fastest way to increase the quality of a school is to increase the quality of your faculty. Identifying and honing the special talents of the faculty you have is an efficient use of school resources. Improving performance improves morale and retention.
Copyright 2009 Thomas Sherry & Associates