Using a Portfolio for Superintendent Evaluations


Traditionally, the evaluation process of the superintendent by the board varies from the very formal to the superficial and anecdotal.

When I assumed the superintendency of Livingston Educational Service Agency in Howell, Mich., the board and I discussed the possible use of a different approach to this important aspect of school administration. We looked for a more useful method than the traditional checklist and short narrative.

We chose to adopt a portfolio approach to evaluate performance, based on current research and the trend to have students, teachers and principals use portfolios for their evaluation. I felt that since the portfolio is a performance-based approach for evaluating others, it also is appropriate for leaders. In addition, I believe we should model the activities we expect of others, particularly in the evaluation process.

The superintendent portfolio evaluates the superintendent’s activities and the ability to lead. It also provides the board with documentation of the activities of the organization and its growth.

From the superintendent’s viewpoint, the portfolio helps board members assess if the chief executive is leading the organization in the direction desired by the board. The process also can be used to assess the growth and the progress of the organization on a longitudinal basis.

An Eight-Step Process
We used eight steps in implementing this method:

We used eight steps in implementing this method:

1. The board determines its goals and suggests additional evaluation items for the superintendent’s evaluation.

2. Throughout the school year, the superintendent develops the portfolio by gathering representative work samples or artifacts, writing narratives in support of each section of the portfolio and continually reviewing board goals and the school improvement plan to ensure that progress is being made toward achieving the organizational goals.

3. Prior to the board evaluation meeting, packets are prepared for board members by the superintendent. Each packet contains a cover letter clarifying expectations, a table of contents of the portfolio, a written narrative for each portfolio section and a listing of communication activities for the year.

4. The superintendent presents the portfolio at a regular board meeting, along with a brief overview. At this time, the superintendent provides some reflections on the accomplishments and the disappointments of the past year.

5. The portfolio is made available for review by board members over a two-to-three week period.

6. The board president requests feedback from each board member prior to the following board meeting.

7. The board president summarizes the information obtained from each member.

8. The board president provides the board with an overall rating of the annual performance at the following board meeting.

The Superintendent Portfolio
In a sense, the portfolio demonstrates two aspects of success in leadership.

The first illustrates the superintendent’s accomplishment of established board goals, and the second deals with the method of evaluating the performance of day-to-day activities of the organization.

The portfolio is divided into 12 sections, each having a short written narrative and artifacts in support of the stated accomplishments. The sections are: introduction, board goals, communication efforts, administrative style, financial monitoring, curriculum and instruction, promotion of the organization, organizational ability, staff development efforts, local, state and national service, facilities and other supportive materials.

Key Benefits
The portfolio approach keeps the board and superintendent focused on priority goals and objectives. The board and superintendent, on a periodic basis, can evaluate the progress made toward achieving short- and long-term goals and monitoring the overall growth of the organization.

This method of evaluation also is consistent with current thinking on evaluation. It has a focus on continuous improvement that can be documented. The board and superintendent can see the accomplishments of both the administrator and organization over a period of time.

In addition, the portfolio facilitates an understanding and appreciation of each other’s roles and responsibilities. In our case, it enhanced mutual trust and respect between the board and myself as we pursued our ultimate purpose of providing the best education for students and staff.

As with all processes, we faced challenges in developing and implementing the superintendent portfolio. The most significant involved creating a management system to collect appropriate supporting artifacts and finding the time necessary to implement the process. I have found both to be manageable hurdles.

This process has been of personal and professional value to me. It has given me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style, encouraged me to pursue continuous personal growth and learning and has created an appreciation for the accomplishment and dedication of our staff and the commitment of our board.

Kathleen Al-Rubaiy is superintendent of the Livingston Educational Service Agency, 1425 W. Grand River Ave., Howell, MI 48843. E-mail: