Thursday, 3 November 2011

Teacher Evaluation - Is MORE better?

One of the advantages of visiting New Zealand was that we have very similar educational systems. There are always advantages of having a national strategy to education (topic for another day). There are huge savings, more consistency which hopefully leads to better educated students; but I digress.

I was very pleased to hear that teachers are evaluated two times per year in New Zealand instead of our current practice of every 3 to 5 years. My thinking was always that if we evaluated teachers more we would be able to identify teachers who needed support and of course be able to 'manage' those that shouldn't be in the classroom.

After speaking with some teachers in New Zealand though - this is not the end result. As here - it's more an administrative nightmare to manage than the real results that parents expect.

I do need to say that the percentage of bad teachers is the same as any profession and has the same challenges as other professions. We are cautious whenever a staff member is accused of any misconduct and step in quickly to have them suspended until a thorough (sometimes here too thorough but erring on caution is always best) investigation is completed. We do have supports in place to help those that need it.

So does more mean better? No, as the real challenge is how does any system manage out  bad fits? In the private sector it is easier in the sense that the labour laws allow an employer to sever the relationship as long as the laws are followed. In public education we have the challenge of union contracts and union representation. It's a difficult and onerous process.

In New Zealand, they have the same challenges as we do in dismissing staff - so more is not better; it seems to be more work for everyone. Good teachers don't need to be evaluated constantly as so little changes but the real challenge is those that should not be in the classroom.

So often as a Trustee I have heard "oh there is nothing in the file", "this is the first we have heard". The solution - we need to be more accountable to our public and to our children.

It's very disheartening to staff as well that put their heart and souls into doing the best for every student to see colleagues who are not meeting the bar. Again a few taint the whole.

We need to figure out a better way to 'manage out' those that are not a good fit as the damage that they can do can cost a lot of kids their future. Fortunately in most cases, we have an amazing teacher the next year who plays catch up and 'fixes' the missing links.

Remember its only a very small group that are not a good fit. So how do we do teacher evaluations to make good teachers great, help those that just need some support and finally manage out those that should be in a different profession? More evaluations is not the answer! More diligent evaluations is the answer with 'real teeth' to support and develop good staff and deal with those that should be in a different career sooner rather than later.

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