Excellence By Design

EVAL 2 ‘Peer evaluation’. There’s a term that’ll send a shudder down the spine of any garden-variety neurotic:

Employer questionnaire: Please evaluate your co-worker, Susie B. 

Employee answer: I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been wanting to bring this to your attention for some time now. I feel that Susie B. can be very insensitive (I wouldn’t even mention it but I have it on good authority that many others in the department feel the same way).  For instance, we do not like the way Susie works late every night. It really makes those of us who would like to leave early feel really bad about ourselves. This is not good for company morale.

At least with peer evaluation you’ve got the possibility of a level playing field. You don’t report that I take naps under my desk and I won’t report that you never, ever, not-once-in-10-years, EVER fill the paper tray in the copy machine. Peer evaluation. Second only to ‘self-evaluation’.  I mean, self-evaluation is lose-lose, isn’t it? If you give yourself high marks for all round terrific-ness, you’ll be accused of not being objective (I say, if you ask someone to grade herself, that’s the chance you take). And if you admit to one or ten teeny tiny little flaws, it’ll be thrown back in your face every chance a co-worker gets:

Co-worker: You know, Gilda, by your own admission, you roll your eyes at me every FEEDBACKtime I say something idiotic in a meeting. You really should try and control that. 

To me, if you’re going to actually admit to a flaw, it ought to count for something. I mean, what Gilda lacks in diplomacy, she makes up for in self-awareness. A fair trade-off in my mind.

The point is, it takes a strong and confident organization to say, “We’re going to evaluate ourselves,” and actually do so with transparency, honesty and rigor. But that’s just what NDP did recently. When it came time for Notre Dame to develop a new, long-term strategic plan they decided the best way to do so was to create their own protocols based on a Middle States Association model (MSA). There were other existing models but none were as comprehensive or demanding as the MSA model, which included a meticulous and exacting evaluation of every aspect of the school, categorized into 12 measures of success. They spent an entire year on the study and involved all stakeholders in the process including faculty, staff, students, parents, and neighbors. That means, they got input from everybody. About what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. They examined hundreds of details and asked thousands of questions. In the end, though, everything was measured against 3 simple questions: Who are we? What’s our mission? And, are we doing what we say we’re doing? As Sarah Myers, Chairman of the Language Department at NDP and the faculty member who spearheaded the effort said, “Simple. But not easy.” After the year long self-exam and evaluation of the data Sarah, Sr. Patricia, and their extensive team got down to developing the new strategic plan, one that would

Strategic Plan
Strategic Plan

take the school through 2018. The plan, called Excellence By Design, has 4 main objectives, with several strategies to help meet those objectives. The objectives include opportunities for NDP students to demonstrate initiative and accountability in an effort to help them take ownership of their education; to develop student leadership and global citizenship in accordance with the school mission; to communicate clearly the NDP mission, culture, and expectations to all constituencies and to the greater community; and to create and maintain a curriculum in accordance with 21st century best practices that meets and exceeds expectations. As Sarah Myers said, the strategic plan is a tangible tool that will help NDP “remain innovative, see ‘what’s coming,’ and stay ahead of the curve.”  As a result, NDP has become a community that is constantly evolving and continually planning.  It is a work in perpetual progress. Progress being the operative word. “Excellence By Design is a living document,” Sarah said. And because they involved all stakeholders from the beginning, the entire NDP community feels good about it. They asked for input and they got it. Pretty brave. Pretty strategic. Pretty smart.


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