According to these authorities, "Workplace stressors often have detrimental effects on faculty job satisfaction and may lead to decisions to leave the institution or to leave higher education entirely. Although some degree of turnover is inevitable and perhaps desirable, high rates of faculty turnover can be costly to the reputation of an institution and to the quality of instruction" (p. 776). In many cases, the very faculty members that are adversely affected in this fashion are those the school district can least afford to lose, with a concomitant negative effect on those teachers who remain: "Too often the faculty who leave are those the institution would prefer to retain. Additional negative consequences of faculty turnover include costs for recruiting replacements, reduced integration within the academic department, disruption of course offerings, and diminished morale among those employees who remain in the organization" (Daly & Dee, p. 777).
In reality, the outcomes of inappropriate job performance evaluations extend to both positive and negative ratings. If poor teachers are consistently rated as satisfactory or even superior, they will continue to receive within-grade increases and be retained in teaching positions where they may be doing more harm than good. Conversely, negative performance ratings of superior teachers will likely result in increased job dissatisfaction with its well-documented adverse outcomes, including a higher incidence of absenteeism, lower morale and decline in job performance, all based on the spurious results of subjective performance evaluations of questionable value.
What Can Be Done?
Because resources are by definition scarce, the resources devoted to a school district's performance management system must be constantly reviewed to ensure they are relevant to the district's changing demographics and based on a known set of quantifiable metrics. In this regard, in the public sector, Esty and Rushing (2007) suggest that in order to be successful, "Performance evaluation must be transparent, free of political manipulation, and based on credible and easily understood data. With reliable performance data in hand, it is then possible to make necessary adjustments to government programs. Policies that are producing good results should be extended and expanded. Those that are not should be rethought, with resources redeployed" (p. 67).
One alternative approach to the traditional performance evaluation techniques that have been used in the nation's schools that has shown some promise and represents a better use of resources is described by Becton and Schraeder (2004). These authors reports, "Traditional performance appraisal systems have primarily consisted of supervisor evaluations of subordinate performance. In recent years, however, organizations have increasingly turned their attention toward gathering performance feedback from sources other than immediate supervisors" (Becton & Schraeder, p. 23). The authors cite a number of benefits that have been associated with obtaining feedback from such multiple sources, including:
Better performance information;
More reliable ratings than those from a single supervisor; and,
Improved teacher performance after receiving the feedback (Becton & Schraeder).
Conceivably, this approach would also serve to improve the accuracy of teacher performance in a diverse setting by introducing additional sources of feedback from peers and others. In this regard, identifying the "who" in the evaluation process is as important as the "what" that is being measured. As Becton and Schraeder emphasize, "Effectively choosing a method of rater selection necessitates consideration of the potential effects of participant input on the quality and acceptance of ratings. While allowing participants to have input into this process are advocated, there are numerous factors and potential implications that should be taken into consideration" (p. 23). These factors and potential implications include those outlined in Table 1 below.
Factors to be taken into account in identifying teacher evaluators and implications.
Teachers should have a voice in the selection of raters.
People tend to accept decisions and their consequences if they have participated in making them. Furthermore, research indicates that employees desire voice, prompting them to view procedures into which they have input as fairer than those that do not allow input, regardless of the outcomes.
Feedback is essential to employee development. Feedback in organizations is a fundamental way that employees learn and maintain work-related behaviors. It not only helps employees to address deficiencies or performance problems, but it also reinforces positive work-related behaviors, encourages the development of desirable work habits, and helps employees achieve their goals.
The evaluator must be credible.
The perceived credibility of the feedback source cannot be overstated. Source credibility is a key determinant in a person's reaction to feedback. Source credibility includes a recipient's belief that the source has the ability and appropriate intentions to make effective ratings or evaluations upon which to base the feedback. Teachers who receive feedback from a more credible source view the feedback as more accurate, the source as more insightful, and are more satisfied with the feedback. Additionally, source credibility has been shown to moderate the feedback to performance relationship.
Source credibility may influence how an individual perceives the feedback and whether the individual accepts the feedback as an accurate representation of their performance. The recipient's desire to respond to the feedback and the resulting goals may also be impacted. It is implicit that feedback from more credible sources would be perceived as more accurate, with the potential of more effectively changing performance. Consequently, feedback recipients are more likely to accept and ultimately respond to developmental feedback if they perceive the feedback source as credible.
Teaching goals to be evaluated should be challenging but realistic
Specific challenging goals evoke better performance than vague, unchallenging goals.
Teachers who have more input into the selection of raters and receive negative feedback will set more challenging goals than those who have little or no input into the selection of raters.
Source: Based on Becton & Schraeder, 2004.
Although the body of evidence concerning 360-degree feedback evaluation techniques remains scant, the studies to date indicate that the increasing popularity of this evaluation method have been based on the following reasons:
Dissatisfaction with traditional performance appraisal systems;
Increased focus on empowerment, participation, and students;
Larger spans of control;
Attempts to improve organizational processes and communication;
Increased need to communicate critical organizational behaviors and values; and,
The increased need for administrators to respond to diversity in their geographic settings (Becton & Schaeder).
The multi-source teacher evaluation approach has increasingly included evaluations from the students themselves. For instance, Germain and Scandura (2005) report that, "Today, faculty are being held accountable for how well they serve the U.S. student population, and it has become common practice in universities and colleges for students to 'grade' the professors that grade them. Students' ratings of management faculty... provide faculty with feedback on teaching effectiveness. They are also used for faculty reappointment, promotion and/or pay increase decisions" (p. 58).
When considering feedback from multiple sources for teacher evaluation purposes, though, it is important to keep in mind that many of the same constraints that characterize the traditional superior-employee evaluation process are also inherent in these alternatives. In this regard, Germain and Scandura note that, "Since student ratings of faculty teaching effectiveness are used as one component of faculty evaluation, it seems reasonable to consider these instruments as performance ratings. As such, they are subject to a number of possible biases, as has been shown in the literature on rating accuracy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology" (p. 58).
Notwithstanding these potentials for individual bias, such multi-source evaluation techniques has been shown to be superior to the traditional approach based on the teacher job performance that results from its use. In sum, Becton and Schraeder emphasize that, "Multi-source or 360-degree feedback involves the collection of evaluations of job performance from two or more rating sources, which could conceivably include the rater's self appraisal, supervisor ratings, peer ratings, subordinate ratings or feedback from customers, vendors, and suppliers. This feedback from multiple sources and perspectives is perhaps the most compelling strength of 360-degree feedback" (emphasis added) (Becton & Schraeder, p. 24).
The research showed that the nation's schools have become incredibly diverse settings, characterized by an increasing number of students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and with different specialized learning needs. The research also showed that while teachers struggle to balance the needs of their diverse student bodies, they are also faced with the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as increasingly overcrowded and violent classrooms. Diversity issues were shown to extend to demographic composition of the classroom, differences in evaluation techniques and the increasing diversity of the teacher-administrator cadre as well. Evaluating teacher performance in this dynamic environment represents a challenging enterprise by any measure, and there was some bad news and good news on this front. The bad news was that despite enormous advances in recent years, the lingering effects of racial stereotypes and personal biases continues to creep into the…