(C) Julie Boyd
Not everything that can be counted, counts, and not everything that counts can be counted Albert Einstein
The Grattan Institute recently wrote that a new system of teacher appraisal and feedback in Australia would improve teacher effectiveness, recognise our best educators and lift the outcomes of Australian students to the best in the world, http://www.grattan.edu.au/pub_page/081_report_teacher_appraisal.html, however this is far from a new issue. The quantification of teacher performance dates back to at least 1970 and today, as I write this, the respected Albert Shanker Institute in America just released a report entitled The Year in Research On Market-Based Education Reform: 2011 Edition. (http://shankerblog.org/?p=4483). In this report a number of teacher performance pay programs were canvassed to the conclusion that a review of this year’s research shows that one thing remained constant: Despite all the lofty rhetoric, what we don’t know about these interventions outweighs what we do know by an order of magnitude.
As educators it is incumbent on us to consider why this issue is taking so long to resolve.
Historically, the first discussion of teacher performance appeared in February 1970, the year I commenced my teaching degree, in a paper presented at a conference sponsored by the Office of Education, Bureau of Educational Professions Development called Do Teachers Make a Difference. The author, Alexander M. Mood stated The collection and analysis of data concerning teacher effectiveness will continue to be of very limited use to teachers and administrators until our models of the educational process become much more sophisticated. Teacher performance indicators appear more relevant for judging teacher effectiveness than certification, education, and experience. At the time the question of whether excellent teachers are born or made was forming the basis of extremely lively discussions during a university subject called ‘Philosophy of Education’.
In 1986 Christopher Pollitt wrote in the Journal of Financial Accountability & Management (Volume 2, Issue 3, pages 155–170, September 1986http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1468-0408.1986.tb00262.x/asset/j.1468-0408.1986.tb00262.x_p1.png?v=1&s=c1fa39b24265c33d6b458f4be28aab36d304b993) that one does not have to dig too deep into the mass of recent documentation about improving management in the public services sector to see the bureaucracy of the future. Perhaps it is the form this bureaucracy has evolved into that we need to address before we will finally be able to develop a set of performance measures which will be fair, equitable and place Australia as world leaders in the genuine recognition of excellence in teaching.
In 1998 as the result of consultancy work with Education Departments across Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory who were, at the time, grappling with the distinction between Teacher Professional Appraisal and Performance Management, I published an article and small book called ‘Collaborative Approaches to Professional Learning and Reflection’ which proposed a menu of appraisal processes for teachers to improve their practice. (http://julieboyd.com.au/creating-sustained-professional-growth-through-collaborative-reflection/ )The same year, consultancy on the same issue in Florida, USA coincided with the election of Governor Jeb Bush who mandated standardized testing in Florida’s public schools, eliminated social promotion for students and established a system of funding public schools based on a state-wide grading system using the FCAT test. Bush also co-founded the first charter school in the State of Florida and established private education companies, before going on to help his brother, George W. win an election as President. The measures Bush put in place in Florida appear to have influenced the current conservative push to ‘corporatize’ and privatize education across America, where “reform” is now considered to be a synonym for firing experienced teachers, cutting salaries, benefits, lowering standards for teaching, and to link teacher pay to performance. This has angered and bemused teachers, and deeply concerned educators across Australia and New Zealand as well as America See http://julieboyd.com.au/a-day-in-the-life-of-the-american-education-saga/
Teacher performance pay: A review by M J Podgursky, M G Springer in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (2007) concluded that evidence clearly suggests an upsurge of interest in many states and school districts; however, expanded use of performance pay has been controversial. (http://www.mendeley.com/research/teacher-performance-pay-review-1/)
On 24 November 2011 the (Australian) Productivity Commission very sensibly said the federal government should defer its national performance bonus scheme for teachers until it is known how to design one effectively. http://www.educationreview.com.au/pages/section/article.php?s=Breaking+News&idArticle=22726
A very brief SWOT analysis of the topic, simply to trigger further discussion, might currently include:
Strengths – Our reputation for student centred learning.
Weaknesses – A top heavy bureaucratic system which has become increasingly inward looking and internally political over the past decade.
– Lack of understanding of how societal, economic and political pressures are impacting education- and what we can do about it.
Opportunities- To develop a world-class system. To be leaders in the field rather than followers
Threats – A bureaucracy which seeks homeostasis
– Further pursuit of Americanisation of our education systems.
– Complacency re the corporatization of education in the U!S and a belief it
‘cannot happen in Australia. It already is!
S0- how do we resolve this:
1. Acknowledge that teaching is a multi-faceted profession and simple measures will not suffice.
2. Clarify the purpose of teaching in a contemporary world.
3. Accept that all teachers are, and need to be held accountable for their impact on the future lives of their students and this nation.
4. Separate out the issues of Appraisal for Professional Growth and Performance Management. It is the the blurring of these concepts that confuses people.
5. Look to our own ‘systems’ to remove enforced nepotism, find ways to slim them down by removing the number of people in bureaucratic positions unable to make decisions, and open them up to new ideas which are not held to ransom by line managers.
6. Raise proposals. Don’t sit back and wait for others to do that just so you can just criticise!
Julie Boyd is a semi-retired educational consultant and writer who has remained engaged in educational debate and teaching practice across a broad range of fields for three decades. She is committed to leadership through education and learning, and deeply concerned about the connection between education and our broader society. http://julieboyd.com.au Twitter: jboyded
ARTICLES that were not damaged in the construction of this very brief article