What is a ‘360 degree evaluation’ of a chief executive (superintendent or college president) and how is it used?

A 360 degree evaluation refers to evaluation data gathered from people all around the chief executive. This might include administrators, parents, teachers, other staff, community leaders, other associations and organizations your chief executive works with.

The most important concept to keep in mind when using the 360 technique is that the responses to the 360 questions are not by themselves an evaluation. The responses are information provided to the board for use in developing the board’s single voice evaluation of the chief executive. The board is still charged with filtering that input, determining its validity and relevance, and ultimately coming up with a board evaluation which may or may not directly reflect the comments and rankings given by those who responded to the 360 questionnaire.
Sometimes 360 evaluations are implemented by a chief executive as direct feedback for themselves. They may choose to report a summary to the board as a self evaluation. This is a good way to build confidence in the process.

The responses are usually gathered anonymously, but not always. A 360 evaluation is not often used in the first year of a chief executive’s tenure and is not recommended during difficult times (such as reductions in programs and staff due to budget cuts) because the responses may reflect a reaction to changes made outside the chief executives control. When times are tough responses are likely to represent venting, not an objective analysis of what has been accomplished.

Occasionally a board will choose to use a 360 evaluation because they are not happy with the chief executive’s performance and want to be able to point to another source for that dissatisfaction. While the responses can provide further justification of a negative evaluation, the 360 should not be used as a weapon in cases where the public is reacting to program cuts or layoffs made at the board’s direction due to financial constraints beyond the chief administrator’s control.

Questions asked on the survey should focus on the goals of the district and objective progress towards those goals, student achievement, services provided and alignment with policies and district priorities. Questions should not focus on personal characteristics. The 360 degree evaluation, process, questions to be asked, timeline, and those who will be surveyed should all be adopted as part of the full evaluation process a year before it is used. Evaluation should never be a last minute surprise, and this is particularly true when the 360 degree instrument is used as part of the process to inform the board in making the final board evaluation decisions.

Before implementing any evaluation process or specific method be sure to review your policies and the chief executive’s contract to be sure that your plans, timeline and process fit within any requirements. If you would like assistance in facilitating the process, gathering the information or further information be sure to contact the Oregon School Boards Association.

Most important to remember: a 360 evaluation is never THE evaluation and should not be represented as such. The results of the 360 serve to inform the board as they put together the single voice board evaluation of the chief executive officer.

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