Teacher evaluation in other countries and South Africa: What works?

The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) today released a reportTeacher Evaluation in South African Schoolsas the third in a series that explores the connection between teacher evaluation, teacher effectiveness and student achievement. From its international and local research, CDE raises major doubts about South Africa’s new Quality Management System (QMS), which is in the wings awaiting implementation. CDE questions whether it should be implemented as it is unlikely to produce greater teacher effectiveness or higher learner achievement.

Similarly, it finds that the recent Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system for managing educators’ professional development is unlikely to achieve these goals. Yet given the poor quality of teaching and learning achievement in most South African schools, improving them is national priority.

CDE points out that the fundamental flaw in the QMS is that it separates educator performance assessment from professional development. The schools would no longer have a responsibility to support individual teachers’ learning. This would be left to the self-reflection and initiative of each educator, who could earn the required 150 professional development points over three years from certain activities, and courses on the central CPTD database.

Earlier this month CDE released its second report, Teacher Evaluation: Lessons from other countriesThe international survey found that an integrated teacher evaluation model, which combines well-designed teacher performance-based assessments with productive feedback and high-quality professional learning opportunities, can increase both teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

In the words of Professor Linda Darling-Hammond from Stanford University, an international expert on teacher policy brought to South Africa by CDE: “If such a model uses multiple measures to assess the quality of teaching and closely links feedback from the assessment to job-embedded professional learning that meet individual teachers’ needs, research has shown that it can both predict and increase teacher effectiveness and student learning.”

In its South African report, CDE provides an analysis of the evolving policy framework for teacher performance appraisal and professional development in South Africa, using international best practice as a reference point. From interview research, the perspectives of government, unions and other key stakeholders, as well as school leaders’ experience of the current Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) for performance appraisal and development, are also presented. “Although the school sample was small and the results are not generalisable to either sector, rich illustrative insights were obtained from five relatively well-resourced public schools achieving good results and five well-resourced, high-quality independent schools”, explained CDE’s Education Programme Director, Dr Jane Hofmeyr.

CDE’s analysis reveals that the IQMS for public schools is deeply flawed, as all key stakeholders recognise. Even in the sample of good public schools, as a result of a lack of capacity and the IQMS’s huge administrative demands, it has become largely a compliance exercise, to the neglect of professional development. By all accounts, it has not improved accountability or teaching, but it has increased educator scepticism of quality management.

Although CDE found no examples of international best practice in the public schools, it did find them in the independent schools, which have the freedom and capacity to innovate and implement their own appraisal models. They value the teacher appraisal process, yet indicate that it can take five years to embed it in an established school. The schools prioritise professional development over accountability and have found that it becomes a drawcard for recruitment and retention.

CDE’s research produced other important insights. Pay was not seen by principals as a performance incentive. Independent schools have the freedom to appoint the best teacher for their needs, but public school principals felt they had little control over teacher appointments. Dismissal of persistently non-performing teachers was very rare in public schools and last resort after remedial action in independent schools. Consequently, ‘re-allocation’ of poor teachers to less important subjects and good teachers to critical subjects happened in public schools, and to some extent in independent ones. As Jane Hofmeyr asks, “If numbers of teachers are not teaching in their areas of specialisation what are the quality implications?”

CDE argues that although the QMS may be seen as better than the current IQMS, neither it nor the CPTD system are good enough be fully implemented, given the cost and effort involved. Indeed, against the negative history of quality management in public schools, might they do harm?

The full report can be obtained from the CDE website. For further information, please contact Dr Jane Hofmeyr (082 784 9190) or Buhle Hlatshwayo (078 340 2772)

About the CDE:

For 20 years, the Centre for Development and Enterprise has been gathering evidence, consulting widely and generating constructive policy recommendations to meet South Africa’s core socio-economic challenges. It has an exceptional track record in presenting sound ideas based on scholarly and stakeholder contributions, focused on South Africa, but always within an international context. CDE advocates a high-growth and labour intensive economic strategy reliant on market-based solutions.

The organisation’s convening power brings together cabinet ministers, MPs, senior officials, business leaders and experts (local and international) in frank discussions about moving the country forward. There are few other organisations whose conversations, discussions, and workshops on the country’s most important and often the most controversial issues can span such a wide range of diverse and senior participants.

CDE works in three core areas: jobs and growth, education reform and scouring international experience to influence domestic policy. The organisation has a special focus on the role of business in development.

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