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Rethinking Teacher Performance Appraisal



When I reflect on my educational leadership training during my master's program in administration, I recall that learning about teacher appraisals was very rote and straightforward, focusing primarily on adhering to the written protocols of the school organization. This one- or two-course training was very basic, categorizing educators into boxes and leading me to believe that there were only outstanding, proficient, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory teachers. Upon assuming my role as a new leader, I was expected to evaluate all new and tenured staff on an annual or biannual observation period. The formal observation became nothing but a "Dog and Pony Show" performed by classroom teachers. The evaluation process mainly involved ticking boxes and providing evidence for the ratings assigned to each educator. I found the teacher appraisal process to be very tedious and uninspiring.

 

When I was employed at a level three and four public school, the administrators underwent comprehensive training sessions focused on the meticulous planning of their daily classroom visits. The protocol was clear - every visit had to be carefully documented, with comments recorded and shared with the respective instructor via an online evaluation platform. These routine visits were not simply perfunctory; they served as tangible evidence of a teacher's performance and were factored into their formal observations.


While the structured schedules for classroom visits had their advantages, they also came with their fair share of drawbacks. The system was closely scrutinized by the teacher's union, and any deviations from the prescribed process could have serious repercussions for school administrators. This created a significant pressure to adhere strictly to the established guidelines.


In the midst of managing classroom visits, administrators were also tasked with handling disciplinary issues, addressing parental concerns, and overseeing various operational responsibilities. The sheer volume and urgency of these additional duties often left me feeling overwhelmed and struggling to prioritize my obligations. As a result, my focus on conducting teacher evaluations through classroom visits sometimes took a backseat, only resurfacing when contractual deadlines loomed large and necessitated urgent attention. The delicate balance between fulfilling administrative duties and meeting evaluation requirements posed a constant challenge in an already demanding work environment.



Why Evaluate Teachers If The Appraisal System Does Not Examine Student Learning and Growth?


I found myself pondering whether the current teacher evaluation process truly guarantees effective teaching. How can I be certain that a teacher is truly effective amidst all the performance and presentations? What are the indicators of effective teaching? How can I be sure that students are actually learning? Is there any evidence of genuine progress or comprehension of the subject matter? The traditional assessment methods such as multiple-choice tests only seem to test memorization skills - is this a true measure of understanding? I felt extremely restricted and powerless as a principal in a public school, particularly with strict regulations imposed by institutions like the state board of education and national educational guidelines.


Shifting to working in founding international schools sparked my determination to develop a robust performance appraisal for teachers. I delved into creating an evaluation system that not only showcases student learning but also identifies effective teachers. In my quest to establish a groundbreaking appraisal system at one of the schools I founded, I stumbled upon a pivotal journal article titled "It’s Time to Rethink Teacher Evaluation" by Kim Marshal (2005). The article highlighted a stark reality - principals may witness as little as 0.1% of instruction if they observe just one teaching period per year based on 5 periods per day and 180 school days annually. Even with an increase to observing 3 periods per year, the coverage remains a mere 0.3%, leaving a significant gap in understanding what truly occurs in the classroom during the remaining 99.7% of the time. As evaluation deadlines loom, principals typically fall into three categories: saints who meticulously adhere to the guidelines, cynics who haphazardly complete the process, and sinners who neglect their responsibilities. This scenario resonated deeply with my experiences.


Marshall argues that "the theory of action behind supervision and evaluation is flawed and that the conventional process rarely changes what teachers do in their classrooms." I agree with Marshall that the theory of action is flawed, and from my experience, I concur with his alternative theory where he states: "The engine that drives high student achievement is teacher teams working collaboratively toward common curriculum expectations and using interim assessments to continuously improve teaching and attend to students who are not successful."


My observation is that in the majority of public schools, both local and international, principals are often compelled to prioritize teaching performance over learning outcomes. It was only when I started gaining experience in schools that adopted Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs that I noticed a shift. These educational frameworks have similar evaluation methods that align with Marshal's educational philosophy, emphasizing collaborative efforts among teacher teams to meet shared curriculum standards.

The programs evaluate on four criteria: Student-Centered Assessment, Formative Assessment, Holistic Development, and Authentic Assessment. 

The Key Points:

  • Student-Centered Assessment: All three programs emphasize this method, focusing on observational assessment and student self-reflection.

  • Formative Assessment: Continuous assessment is a common thread, providing ongoing feedback and adjusting teaching methods based on student progress.

  • Holistic Development: Each program assesses not just academic skills but also social, emotional, and creative development, ensuring a well-rounded educational approach.

  • Authentic Assessment: Real-life projects and tasks are used to evaluate students, connecting learning to practical applications.

These effective programs  generate conditions for collaboration among administrators and teachers and create space for administrators to provide meaningful and actionable feedback.

 

This Alternative Theory Made a Significant Impact!


The effectiveness of these programs lies in the continuous training provided to educators. Crucially, I have observed that having middle-level leaders or subject experts mentor and support educators in mastering the four criteria of Student-Centered, Authentic, Formative Assessment, and Holistic Development is key. Consistent training, curriculum planning, and scheduled meeting times promote collaborative teacher teamwork. It is essential to allocate a 90-minute block in the school-wide schedule for grade levels and subject areas to facilitate meetings. Based on my experience with three different international curriculum frameworks, I have witnessed that team planning is more efficient than individual teacher planning. Collaborative teams generate stronger ideas, offer better support, and significantly increase the likelihood of the supervisory guidance being impactful as the unit progresses.

 

Each one of the schools I had the privilege to work in had a well-established agreement on a common language for basic effective teaching strategies. This foundational aspect not only streamlined the teaching process but also provided a cohesive framework for professional development. However, what truly enhanced my supervisory role and made the experience remarkably effective was my commitment to being visibly present in the classroom. I made it a point to conduct regular check-ins, frequent walk-throughs, engage in 15-20 minute informal observations, and comprehensive formal evaluations. As a principal dedicated to the growth and success of both educators and students, I made it a priority to visit three classrooms per day consistently throughout the school year. This deliberate approach not only allowed me to stay attuned to the pulse of the teaching environment but also enabled me to compile a detailed journal tracking each teacher's performance, progress, and areas of improvement.


Upon transitioning to the role of Head of School overseeing a PreK-12 institution, my focus naturally shifted towards nurturing and empowering new teachers. I delved into exploring innovative ways to provide comprehensive support, tailored training, and impactful mentorship programs to guide them through their professional journey within the school community. This strategic focus on new educators not only fostered a culture of continuous learning and growth but also facilitated a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities that emerged. By actively engaging with new teachers and collaborating with divisional principals, I was able to address concerns effectively and implement targeted strategies to enhance the overall teaching and learning experience within the school.


 If you are considering reevaluating your performance appraisal system for teachers, it is crucial to understand the intricate details involved in the process. International Educational Consultant team can provide you with a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just numbers and ratings. As international consultants, we delve deep into the cultural nuances and expectations set forth by the Ministry of Education of the respective country, as well as the foundational philosophy of the schools.

By aligning the overarching goal of developing students into well-rounded global citizens, International Educational Consultant team will ensure that the appraisal system is not just a formality but a strategic tool for student and teacher growth. Our focus on Key Educational beliefs are what is needed for the essential skills in today's interconnected world. Please do not hesitate to contact us and establish a connection.





 

 

 

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