Don’t Measure the Individual by Measuring the Climate

In a previous post, I talked about the tendency of many school districts to use climate surveys as an evaluation tool, often to assess the performance of individuals, such as principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors or teachers.  Climate surveys are designed to understand whether the general conditions within a school promote a sound learning environment and, if they don’t, to identify areas for further investigation.  A climate survey is too blunt to detect the subtle actions of an individual.

A 360 Degree Feedback Survey is a more appropriate tool for evaluating individuals because the focus of the survey (e.g., a school principal) is held constant, with the perspectives of different groups measured and compared.  The survey includes a comprehensive set of items to capture the full range of expected performance functions, with teachers, office staff, other principals, assistant principals, parents, students and administrators rating the principal on each of those functions. The result is comprehensive feedback regarding whether or not the principal is fulfilling relevant duties.

Keep in mind that stakeholders will have varying perspectives and expectations, based upon their own relationship with the survey subject.  Staff might expect the principal to solve personnel problems, while the superintendent expects enforcement of district policies and parents expect the principal to uphold education quality.  A 360 survey is sensitive to all these variables.

Although survey tools can support an evaluation, caution should be taken to ensure they are not the only data used.  The true value of the 360 survey may not be recognized when it’s solely used as an evaluation or performance appraisal tool; however, the feedback it provides will help the individual improve.  Handled properly, this information can have a positive impact on overall performance of both the individual and the organization.

Author: Dr. Russ

Senior Director of Research

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