A little while ago I was involved in a forum convened by the Grattan Institute which was looking at teacher performance and evaluation, and how that all fits together.
So, I was interested to see a report coming out of that institute by Ben Jensen called ‘Investing in Our Teachers: Investing in Our Economy’. All economic metaphors aside, the basic premise; that good teaching is what matters most, is hard to deny. The report argues that we’ve spent too much on reducing class sizes for no good effect (have we actually really given that a go?) and argues that teacher effectiveness is the lever for real improvement.
Agree! But the next step is always blurrier and I don’t think it’s as clear cut and quanifiable as the report makes out. But the report outlines 5 ways to improve teacher effectiveness:
1. Improve the quality of applicants to the teaching profession
2. Improve the quality of teachers’ initial education and training
3. Evaluate and provide feedback to develop teachers once they enter the profession and are working in our schools
4. Recognise and reward effective teachers
5. Move on ineffective teachers who have been unable to increase their effectiveness through development programs.
Hard to argue with much of that but the word ‘effective’ is tricky, and that’s often when these things turn to standardized test results in isolation from other factors. However, this report seems to have a better handle on all that and also says:
Many of these problems stem from a lack of meaningful teacher evaluation and development. It is, therefore, ineffective (and grossly unfair) to dismiss poorly performing teachers who have never before received effective teacher evaluation and development. All teachers need to have effective evaluation that identifies their strengths and weaknesses and feeds into individualised development plans.
A development program may aim to increase the performance of teachers found to have specific weaknesses. Development steps should be undertaken so that they can raise their effectiveness to sufficient levels. Many will improve. Some will leave the profession of their own accord and some will be dismissed for not improving their performance. As shown, this will improve learning in schools and lift Australia’s students to amongst the world’s best.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the approach the Federal Government wants to take on teacher performance and performance pay.