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Principal Observations
Take Many "Forms"

Every school or school district has its own unique take on the evaluation process. Then there are the forms. Reams and reams of forms!

Education World has collected some sample teacher evaluation forms. These forms reveal the wide variety of approaches that schools and districts take. If your district is revamping its evaluation forms, this collection might serve as a reference source.


At Clinton (Michigan) Elementary School, principal Marcia Wright uses a form that measures teacher performance in four domains of teaching (Planning and Preparation, The Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities) based on the work of Charlotte Danielson and Thomas McGreal. The form she uses for formal evaluations is five pages long and in rubric format.

Excellent Evaluations

This article is presented in six parts. Click the headlines below to link to other parts of the article.

Excellent Evaluations (Main Article Page)

What Do Principals Look For As They Observe And Evaluate?

It's Not a Dog-and-Pony Show: Tips for Teachers

Evaluation Advice from Principals in the Trenches

Appendice: Sample Evaluation Forms

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Walk-Throughs Are On the Move!
Principals use walk-through observations to engage teachers in conversations about student learning.

Community Evaluates Superintendent Online
Nashville's superintendent Dr. Pedro Garcia opened himself up to being evaluated online by the community.


For the purposes of everyday teacher observation, Wright uses a simple NCR form she created. "The form is divided into four boxes, one for each domain," she explained. "As I observe, I note specific comments in each box. I leave a copy of the form so the teacher can rate him or herself in each domain on a four-point scale: Outstanding, Proficient, Needs Improvement, or Unsatisfactory. Later, we meet to talk about how the teacher thought the lesson went."

Wright finds that the form works well for initiating dialogue. "Teachers often rate themselves harshly or as outstanding when, in fact, they are adequate."

In Ontario, Canada, the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession serve as the foundation for the form that principal Deepi Kang-Weisz uses to evaluate teachers. The standards are categorized under five domains: Commitment to Students and Learning, Professional Knowledge, Teaching Practice, Leadership & Community, and Ongoing Professional Learning.

"I suggest that teachers in my school use the Standards of Practice to reflect on their practice," Kang-Weisz told Education World. "I ask them to write down on a daily basis examples of how they demonstrate those standards.

"The standards also serve as the basis for 'look fors,' which are statements that provide concrete examples of effective teaching practices. Our province's ministry of education provides a checklist of more than 160 look-fors. It's a great tool for keeping track of observations."

That list of look-fors can be found in the Supporting Teaching Excellence: Teacher Performance Appraisal Manual (see Appendices F and G).

In the state of Alabama, principals have been thoroughly trained in the use of a standardized teacher evaluation system. "The observation form (scroll down to pages 2 to 8) details specific areas that relate to the state's teaching competencies for teachers," explained Teri Stokes. "After each observation, principals conference with teachers to obtain their scores for that observation. The observation scores plus scores from a written or oral interview and a supervisor's review form are compiled for a total score. From that observation, an 'area for improvement' is listed, and the teacher's professional development plan for the following year is determined based on the total evaluation."


Principal Pat Green has created her own form, a checklist based on the teacher evaluation criteria that are published in her district's negotiated agreement. "I make sure that during the course of the year I have observed evidence of each of those criteria," Green told Education World. "I also use a checklist that notes teacher and student interaction patterns."

Principal Contributors

Click here to view a list of the "principal contributors" to this article on teacher evaluation.

"We have several forms for evaluation," said Heather Nicole Hamtil, "however many times I construct my own form or meet with a teacher before an evaluation and have the teacher help me construct an evaluation form based on what he or she wants me to observe."

Hamtil says she is free to adapt the forms except when there are extenuating reasons for keeping with the district-provided forms. "Being able to be creative with the forms gives teachers some flexibility and a chance for creativity, and it allows me just to enjoy the lesson and see the pro go to work," she said.

Marguerite McNeely uses several forms. "One -- a simple checklist that lets teachers see what I observed -- is for informal visits. A second form is a formal observation form, much like the informal one, but the subgroups of the evaluation are more detailed. The third form is for the final evaluation, which is cumulative of the prior forms."

The teachers have copies of all the forms in their school handbook, McNeely noted. Those forms spell out what is expected in the lessons they prepare each day.

Michelle Gayle uses a district form, but she also uses a form developed to support the school's objectives and some expectations that the teachers and she have agreed should be part of every lesson. "That form is a checklist that the teachers helped to develop based on our School Improvement Plan," she said.

Duane Kline doesn't stick to the form either. "I'm constantly reconstructing my observation forms to suit what I'm looking for. There's always a spot for feedback to the teacher -- especially on the form I use during my less formal walk-throughs. Formal evaluations and comments are governed more by a state/district sponsored format."

Principal Gretchen Schlie uses a pre-scripted checklist. "In addition," she said, "at the beginning of the year I ask teachers to write down three goals. At evaluation time we talk about how they are doing on those goals. I think this part of the evaluation process is the most helpful part for teachers. It helps them stay focused on their goals."

Mary Smith uses forms that are part of a computer program she has on her laptop computer. "The program I use is TeacherEvaluation Works," said Smith. "I like the format because the layout of the software directs you to actually describe the lesson in an analytical way. The program is two parts, formative and summative. It is a little more time consuming but, in my opinion, it's more meaningful than a checklist."


When Ron Tibbetts observes his teachers, he does not use a form. Rather, he takes notes that reflect what he observes. Those notes are sometimes general in nature, and, at other times, he takes notes related to a specific goal.

"I make notes about interactions between the teacher and students," explained Tibbetts. "In addition, I often do time-sweeps. Every five minutes I will take a 'sweep' of the students to see who is on task and who is not. Five minutes later I sweep again. Are those students who were off task 5 minutes ago still off task, or have they been redirected? How many children are off task before the whole class is brought back?"

At a post-observation conference with the teacher, Tibbetts uses his notes to spark discussion and to support any recommendations he might have. "The data supplied by those sweeps can lead to productive conversations with the teachers," he added.

Many other principals supplement the standard checklist or fill-in-the-blank forms by taking detailed notes as they observe a teacher. A "script" of what was said -- interactions between teachers and students -- and what is seen in the classroom provides a written picture of a lesson that can be used as a coaching tool. Scripting is "clinical" in its form. It sticks to what is true; it does not include judgments or interpretations.

A typical script form provides lines on which the principal records, in his or her own kind of shorthand, the details of the class session.

Often principals focus scripting on a singular, pre-determined goal. For example, the teacher and principal might agree in advance that the teacher's efforts at asking higher-level questions or integrating technology or using cooperative learning strategies is the criteria for a scripted observation. In that case, the principal only records detail and data related to that goal.

Principal Pat Green records detailed clinical notes for one observation of every teacher each year. "In that way the teacher can review his or her actions and their students responses and reactions," Green told Education World. "The resulting script gives a 5-minute snapshot of the entire class period and presents some data worthy of additional conversations."

"I believe in trying to script a lesson," said Les Potter. "A typical checklist form for teacher observations only tells things that were seen or heard. It doesn't put those 'things' in the context of the classroom. It doesn't tell when or what or how those things happened, but a script can do that."

Addie Gaines uses her Palm Pilot and portable keyboard to script exactly what goes on in a lesson. "My notes include all that is said as well as background info I might need to understand the context of what is said and what is happening," said Gaines. "I try to get the students' names in the script as much as possible so I can analyze who is being called on."

Scripting a lesson takes practice, and, with experience, principals get better at doing it and analyzing it. "I use a lot of my own 'shorthand' as I type," Gaines added, "so I have to do some major editing when I go back to my office and hotsync to my computer. After I have edited the script, I write compliments about things that I feel were well done and exemplify where we are going instructionally as a school."

In a follow-up to the scripted observation, Gaines and the teacher talk about the lesson, the students' reactions to it, and the teachers' reflections on it.


In Neepawa, Manitoba, the district's Teacher Supervision and Growth plan involves input from all parties in the process. The plan requires staff to survey parents and students too. Those surveys can often provide feedback that suggests goals that should be part of a teacher's growth plan. "The surveys can challenge staff to look at and take ownership of personal traits and styles that might otherwise not get attention," said principal Phil Shaman.

Teachers are able to create their own surveys, Shaman explained. "I review the surveys before they are presented to parents. I might offer specific suggestions. For example, if I am concerned about discipline in a teacher's classroom, I might ask that teacher to survey response to a statement such as 'The teacher maintains a good standard of discipline and student conduct.'

"Once surveys have been returned, the teachers and I review the results. We talk about areas that are identified as needing improvement. Some of those might help provide focus for the teacher's growth plan."

If no areas that require improvement jump out, then the teacher's personal professional development becomes the main focus of the growth plan.

Administrators do personal growth plans that include parent surveys too, so "I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to receive feedback from parents and students," Shaman added. "Our growth-plan approach is a year-long process. It doesn't just involve a few visits in the classroom. I feel this is a good form of evaluation for strong staff while a more formal evaluation has merit with marginal teachers."

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2009 Education World


Originally published 03/25/2005
Last updated 06/21/2011