I am writing to you today to express my displeasure with the teacher evaluation process’s current policy. Several factors prevent the standardized assessment of teaching from demonstrating quality and relevant data in the modern education system. First, standardized tests cannot identify the whole set of results desired from the teaching-learning process. Second, student performance is outside the teacher’s absolute scope and depends on the students themselves and their motivation and interest in taking the tests. Third, value-added measures are not usually available to all teachers in education systems but only to those whose students take the standardized tests on which they are based (Grissom & Bartanen, 2019). Fourth, reliability depends on the validity of the student knowledge exams, a factor that is not always guaranteed. Fifth, there are doubts about the degree of reliability of these measures since their annual correlation is relatively low, which only increases to acceptable levels with averages over five years. Sixth, they provide little information for teachers and the education authority to understand how each teacher can and must improve.
According to Smith and Kubacka (2017), teachers consider that evaluation systems based significantly on this instrument have a limited impact on their teaching strategies and see them as a purely administrative and inadequate training process. One of the most important objectives is to improve teacher quality, which can be achieved through systemic actions that promote high quality and relevant pre-service and in-service teacher training.
Reform of the teaching assessment system should include several aspects to maximize efficiency and reflect actual results. First, it is necessary to have teacher performance standards that detail the characteristics that a teacher must have in terms of pedagogical skills and content knowledge. These standards are also useful for policymakers who can use them to regulate other aspects of the profession—including pre-service and in-service training—and for teachers themselves, so they know what the expectations are concerning their knowledge and skills.
Second, it is essential to be clear about what is the objective to be achieved with the implementation of teacher evaluations. Teacher evaluations can have two general purposes: i) improve the teaching practices, content knowledge, and pedagogical skills of teachers, and ii) improve the composition and motivation of the teaching force through positive or negative incentives (Putnam et al., 2018). Achieving these two objectives with a single tool or type of evaluation is difficult since teachers will be willing to reveal their actual weaknesses or skills depending on the review’s purpose. An assessment with a training objective can allow teachers to act more naturally and honestly during the evaluation because they know that this can support improving their teaching practice. On the other hand, an evaluation with labor consequences can lead teachers to focus their teaching practice exclusively on the aspects to be evaluated to receive the benefits or avoid the adverse effects.
Third, irrespective of the type of evaluation that policymakers decide to implement—entry, probationary period, regular mandatory or promotion or bonus pay—their design and implementation must produce reliable and valid results. These characteristics are essential for ensuring that teacher evaluation provides useful and relevant information for teachers and the education system and becomes a measure accepted as a good indicator of the performance (Cohen & Goldhaber, 2016). Moreover, it would be desirable for regular mandatory teacher evaluations to detect teachers’ primary pedagogical and content knowledge weaknesses and overcome them through professional development programs.
The fourth key to a successful teacher evaluation is that its results should be used to make decisions about the professional development and careers. It is essential to make effective and appropriate use of the information produced by the evaluations. It will only be possible to improve the teaching quality through changes in the professional development and the teaching force’s composition. Suppose the evaluation system’s main objective is to improve the pedagogical skills and content knowledge of teachers, the evaluation must be accompanied by in-service training programs that directly aim to address the assessments’ weaknesses.
The fifth key to implementing a successful evaluation system is researching and continuously reviewing the instruments, processes, outcomes, and impacts of the evaluation. The decision on the appliances included in an assessment and their implementation is not trivial. Implementation of successful evaluation also requires a great effort in time and money by all the education system actors. Consequently, research is essential to ensure that there is an exemplary process for developing the instruments (i.e., that these are aligned with performance standards), that evaluations provide accurate and reliable information, and that the system favors improving educational quality.
Despite the effectiveness of the described measures, several factors can slow down the implementation of innovations. First of all, the proposed actions to reform the teacher assessment system cannot be applied immediately. It will take time to collect the necessary data to better the quality of teaching. It is also worth noting that most students are not motivated to take an active part in the teacher assessment process since they see this as a bureaucratic necessity and not a tool for improving their learning. Additional work will need to be done with students for them to be more involved in teacher assessment. This will help obtain more accurate data describing the real picture of what is happening in the educational institution.
The use of the above innovations will allow obtaining more objective data on teachers’ work quality. If the reform is implemented, the regulatory authorities will have a better understanding of particular teachers’ motivation, which will allow them to focus on those teachers whose indicators are below standard. The fact that there is more information about the quality of teaching will indicate the reform’s effectiveness since there will be more opportunities to regulate teacher involvement in education. Creating a more open system will give students the understanding that their opinions are being listened to, which will create an additional level of trust between all participants in the educational process.
To summarize, the implementation of changes in teacher assessment will allow for a multifunctional reform that will meet the needs of the modern education system. Objective accounting and evaluation of all factors of the teaching process will contribute to creating a format in which all participants in the educational process will be motivated for quality and results. The structure of the reform involves the introduction of five key innovations: performance standards for teachers, a clear goal of teacher assessment, gaining useful data about the teachers, using this information for future career perspectives. Finally, researching and continuously reviewing the instruments, processes, outcomes, and impacts of the evaluation should be observed. Even though the reform requires time and additional work with students, the proposed measures will make the teaching assessment procedure more efficient.
Cohen, J., & Goldhaber, D. (2016). Building a more complete understanding of teacher evaluation using classroom observations. Educational Researcher, 45(6), 378–387. Web.
Grissom, J. A., & Bartanen, B. (2019). Strategic retention: Principal effectiveness and teacher turnover in multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems. American Educational Research Journal, 56(2), 514–555. Web.
Putnam, H., Ross, E., & Walsh, K. (2018). Making a difference: Six places where teacher evaluation systems are getting results. Web.
Smith, W. C., & Kubacka, K. (2017). The emphasis of student test scores in teacher appraisal systems. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25(86), 1–21.