Article Review #1:

Three Skillful Moves to Assessment for the Busy Principal

By: Kathleen Topolka Jorissen

Printed in Journal of Staff Development v. 27 no. 1 (Winter 2006)

p. 22, 24-6, 28-30


Written by Glen Dawursk, Jr., April 3, 2007


Dr. Kathleen Topolka Jorissen, a professor of educational administration and leadership studies at Bowling Green State University emphasizes that for most teachers, “assess, determine the grade, and move on is the norm.”  She claims that teachers are losing a significant opportunity to mold or develop the next step in a student’s learning rather than simply going to the next unit.  Grades have become the single focus for most teachers and they simply do not know how to develop and use assessment data properly.  She cautions that assessment is as “critical as curriculum and instruction in improving instructional quality.”  Jorissen speaks from experience.  Prior to being a college professor, she spent many years as a middle school principal in Kasson, Minnesota.  It was at this middle school that she developed three strategies that principals can use to promote a focus on classroom assessment.  She suggests that the principal should integrate (embed) classroom assessment into the school improvement process (educational plan), develop assessment literacy among the faculty and administrators, and incorporate classroom assessment within the “clinical supervision model.”


Jorissen promotes Richard Dufour’s recommendation that an effective principal is one who sees himself as a “learning leader.”  This is an administrator who encourages mutual efforts to improve student learning and ultimately test scores.  She states that the principal’s role in a school is “to provide training, resources, and support for teachers to develop common outcomes, write common assessments, and analyze student achievement data.”  Her contention is that by entwining this into the fabric of the school’s improvement process (educational plan), the teachers will have an incentive to acquire more knowledge and expertise in classroom assessment principles.  This in turn leads to her second strategy: educate the teacher.


There are several ways to educate a faculty on positive assessment processes. Training, collegiate support, and reflective inquiry were three of her suggestions.  The one idea she expanded upon and which I have tried as a faculty member, is to have the faculty all read one book together.  She suggested a variation on this called “jigsaw” whereby the faculty is divided into study groups which must each choose a chapter from the book to teach / present to the rest of the faculty. These “trainings” were presented chapter-by-chapter at faculty meetings throughout the school year.


Finally, Jorissen explained how the clinical supervision model could be adapted to include classroom assessment.  She broke each of the steps of the clinical supervision model (pre-observation, observation, analysis / interpretation, and post-observation conference) into smaller questioning elements and even suggested that a testing day could be an excellent opportunity for a principal to have a pre-observation conference.  The conference would allow the principal to mentor the teacher toward a better understanding of assessment and how it applies to the teacher’s overall curriculum plan.  Jorissen concluded her article with a thorough sample of an incorporating model using a teacher from her principal days.


The overall article taught me several concepts about supervision. It encouraged administrators to embed the assessment processes into the fabric of the school curriculum and explained how it is essential that the staff be well trained and be made accountable if it is going to be successful.  Jorissen emphasized that the principal as “role model” was just as important as the principal as “supervisor.” The most intriguing aspect to the article was the sidebar tangent she offered on how the principal must be a “lead learner.”  Her underlying message is that we all learn best by example.  When the principal is at the heart of a school’s passion for learning, then the phrase “lifetime learner” will be more engrained into the foundation of that school. 


I recommend this article as it fit well with our text book’s (Supervision: A Redefinition) unit on motivating a teacher (Sergiovanni, 324, 327) and was a compliment to Donald Haefele’s purpose for evaluation which we studied in chapter one of Danielson & McGreal.   Haefele stated that a teacher evaluation system should “provide direction” and “unify” teachers.  This article offers an idea toward such an end and encourages the principal to consider alternatives to the status quo.