Case History: CFS, The School at Church Farm

In 1995, CFS, The School at Church Farm, confronted a situation common to many educational institutions.  Staff and faculty were dissatisfied and grumbling about a number of issues, to the point where the professional atmosphere in the school threatened to become strained.  Student attitudes also were affected, leading to unacceptable retention rates.  Faculty were entrenched, and there was a distinct lack of professional dialogue about performance, goal-setting and other essential matters required to assess current performance and develop meaningful approaches for improvement.

An all-boys boarding and day school teaching grades 7 to 12, CFS had attempted a variety of faculty evaluation approaches, including classroom observation and critiques, but without success.  Teachers viewed these evaluations as adversarial and administrators did not see positive outcomes from the process.

CFS found the solution in a comprehensive approach to assessment, evaluation and planning that utilizes targeted, meaningful feedback as a primary and essential information source. 

One core element of the process is a Faculty Culture Profile, an anonymous survey administered quarterly and completed by each teacher.  The profile assesses the faculty’s professional attitudes and behaviors—everything from their values and views of colleagues’ professionalism to how administrators set the tone and policy on matters such as student discipline.  Because responses cannot be traced back to individual faculty, the results provide a more accurate view of attitudes, a key reason why the school’s implementation team devised a way to collect and tabulate results that ensured anonymity.

“The profile brought to light areas of responsibility that weren’t up to snuff,” recalls one faculty member.  “One of the first things our administration did when they looked at the results was to bring in a speaker who talked to us about how to effectively deal with student discipline issues.  It was good for me, and a lot of other people, to see action taken regarding our concerns.”

Other elements of the assessment program include self-evaluation and goal setting by faculty members that help them identify and articulate their professional goals, and think more clearly about how to reach them.  The process, notes one teacher, compels faculty to take time for self-reflection.

“It takes time on our part,” agrees another faculty member, “but it is definitely time well spent.  It’s so much better than an administrator coming into the classroom and just doing a checklist on you [although classroom observation remains part of the evaluation and development process], which rarely produces anything positive in and of itself.”

With faculty input, CFS developed a multi-faceted Elements of Professional Practice guide, which administrators use to develop the self-assessments and quarterly faculty surveys.  Responses are compiled and trends are tracked annually and over time.  Administrators point out that, since the process began, faculty ratings of the school’s culture have increased significantly.

“Everyone has a voice,” a faculty member explains.  “You can write comments without fear of repercussions—and not just hope that something will be done with it.”

“Administrators actually ‘hear’ our comments,” another teacher adds.  “They might not have known those feelings previously.  Now our headmaster has knowledge of what teachers are feeling.  And actions are taken to address issues of concern.  Everyone feels comfortable with [the process].”

Among the changes implemented as a result of the feedback process, CFS instituted a mentor-mentee program for faculty development.  Students also are part of the process through their own surveys, including an Elements of a CFS Student individual assessment.

Since the program was implemented, positive results include more than climbing survey scores.  In fact, student satisfaction, along with retention rates, also have risen steadily.

“The administration believes that the climate here is important, for all of us,” a faculty member says of the positive shift in perception and practice over the past several years.  “They know that if the people working here care enough, it’s productive for the students and everyone else.  We will work harder to reach for the goals of the school.  We pull together as a team.”