For each objective, the leader must know in advance what success looks like. An organizational vision statement is a long-term indication of what success means, but it can only be viewed from a distance, as the mast of a ship on the horizon. An assessment tool, by contrast, creates a vision of success for a specific organizational activity. Consider the example of a school system that wants to improve classroom assessment, the heart of improving teacher expectations of students. The initiative might begin with a vaguely worded goal such as “improve classroom assessment,” but now the leader must define what such improvement means in a way that is absolutely clear to every classroom professional and school administrator.

A standard of action-totally objective and not subject to analysis- might be that “each ninth grade algebra class will use a common end-of-semester assessment for students, and the results of those assessments will be reported within five days after the end of each semester.” But if we are to really improve classroom assessment, progress will be made along a continuum from relatively poor classroom practice, through teaching behavior that was originally expected by the leader, to performance that is distinguished.

To create this vision of success along a continuum of performance, leaders can create the same assessment for themselves. For example, if the challenge is time management, the leader might develop an assessment describing in detail the behaviors and activities associated with exemplary time management, those associated with proficient time management, and a vivid description of what it looks like when a leader fails to manage time well. Many important elements of leadership behavior and practice can be analyzed on such a continuum; this is far more helpful for self-reflection and in coaching others than a simple checklist of characteristics.

Develop an Assessment Tool :

Goal: improving classroom assessment practice.

Distinguished Practice:

A review of teacher-created assessments reveals use of multiple measurements (at least three) of each essential concept and different assessment methods, including multiple-choice, extended written response, demonstration, and oral presentations. This teacher collaboratively evaluates student work with colleagues at least weekly. The teacher regularly helps colleagues improve assessment practice and shares new assessment items. High expectations linked to state standards are evident in all assessments and evaluation practice.

Proficient Practice:

A review of teacher assessment practice reveals creation of at least eight teacher-made assessments and regular use of multiple-choice and extended response assessment items. The assessments are clearly linked to state standards. This teacher participates in collaborative scoring of student work at least monthly.

Approaching Proficiency:

A review of teacher assessment practice reveals almost exclusive reliance on assessments created by external sources, such as textbooks or other teachers. Although multiple methods are used, there is unbalanced reliance on multiple-choice assessment. Collaborative scoring occurred fewer than nine times during the year.