Tool #4

Performance Reviews: Polishers and Keepers

Providing Choice as a Reinforcer

 Roseville Area Schools District 623 in Roseville, MN, has chosen the terms “polishers” and “keepers” to use with performance reviews. Polishers are individual topics of knowledge, skills, or ways of being that the educator would benefit from further development. Keepers are areas of strength that are presently at a high level of application having been verified in observations and performance conferences.

Here are three realities in some schools that cause performance reviews to be negative experiences, even for the highly effective teacher.

  • There is an annual rush at the end of the current year’s performance review season to complete the required number of observations.
  • Visits may be closely clustered leaving little or no time for identified “polisher” study and practice. The polishers have less meaning and may even become punishers.
  • For highly effective educators, short announced or unannounced observations can be difficult activities for identifying areas for improvement when the educator is already in the Expert of Extreme Whitewater Learning badging levels of expertise.

 A potential support for this dilemma is to allow the educator to identify one or two polishers that he or she has selected to take a deeper dive into professional learning as applied to a particular category of students. This is similar to the doctoral dissertation process. The student selects his or her topic for research with an advisor (mentor) helping to define and shape the parameters of the topic and the model for research. The following are the steps in this process:

  • Early in the year, complete the first formal observation and follow-up conference. At that time, reinforce the educator with the news that he or she has been observed to be at one of the two highest levels of professionalism — Expert or Extreme (These are Whitewater badging terms. Each district may use its own terms for levels of performance).
  • Then, request that the educator select the polisher he or she will focus on for the remainder of the year.
  • Moving forward, the supervisor completing the educator’s observations and performance reviews will focus his or her attention on those sets of knowledge and skills.
  • The educator will select modules from the Whitewater Learning library of content, and other sources found in the reference section of each module, to study and practice skill sets.

 Now, the expert educator has a voice in his or her development, the professional learning continues based on his or her interests, and the observations and follow-up conferences can have meaning that support further development. This is a win-win all around as a reinforcer to continue deep professional learning dives.

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