Who’s testing our teachers?

2015-10-05 14:11

An education think-tank has called for a more stringent evaluation of teacher competence and says the current instruments are “woefully inadequate”. 

The issue of teacher competence and evaluation has become a political hot potato, with powerful teachers’ union Sadtu opposing any moves to link teacher performance to remuneration. 

The Centre for Development and Enterprise is calling on the department of basic education to put in place minimum standards that will guide teacher assessment and evaluation. 

In its report on the issue, released last week, the centre said none of the current teacher evaluation and assessment methods – continuing professions teacher development (CPTD), the integrated quality management system (IQMS) and the quality management system (QMS) – was working. 

The IQMS is a peer review mechanism that incorporates teacher appraisal and performance management, linking them to rewards and professional development. 

But the think-tank found there “was no evidence that [the IQMS] would be able to serve as an effective accountability instrument because most teachers did not know how to conduct proper performance assessments. It also found that the outcomes were heavily weighted in favour of teachers because of the peer review component. 

Realising that the IQMS was not effective, the department of basic education and teachers’ unions came up with the improved QMS. It measures the performance of teachers based on their current responsibilities to see if they are suited for the subjects and grades they teach, or if they need further professional development.

The QMS places the assessment role in the hands of a supervisor. 

But Dr Jane Hofmeyr of the Centre for Development and Enterprise said this instrument was equally flawed because it did not emphasise the professional development of teachers. 

The CPTD, which is implemented by the SA Council for Educators, requires that teachers accumulate 150 professional development points over three years. The points could be collected for attending staff meetings, reading sectoral magazines and attending training courses offered by external service providers. 

But this system also came in for criticism from the centre, which found that the professional development of teachers was also being overlooked. 

Hofmeyr said the minimum standards for professional teaching that the centre was proposing were an improvement on current instruments. 

She said it would offer different and preferable outcomes for all teachers, from the newly qualified to those in mid-career and experienced ones, and be strongly linked to their professional development. 

“Professional teaching standards are about performance. You look at the quality of teaching and not the teacher. You look at how the teacher performs as a practitioner, and not as an individual. 

“You develop the professional teaching standard and measure the teacher against that particular standard. If you want to assess teacher performance, you use the standard to check if the teacher is effective,” she said. 

Hofmeyr also proposed the introduction of an intensive induction course for newly qualified teachers. Once they had obtained their qualifications, new recruits would go through the programme for a year before being allowed to teach. They would only be deemed fit for the classroom if they passed. 

“They will repeat the induction programme if they don’t show the necessary competency. If they [pass], they will be registered, licensed and allowed to practice. The induction will also help improve initial teacher education,” said Hofmeyr. 

Professor Sarah Gravett, dean of the faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg, said she was in favour of introducing such teaching standards. 

“It is important that they are developed by the profession so that teachers take full responsibility. They provide a solid base for the assessment of teachers. I know that a conversation has begun around the topic. There is a sense that it is the way to go,” she said. 

Rej Brijraj, CEO of the SA Council for Educators, said they had agreed “in principle” to introduce professional standards for teachers and an induction programme for newly qualified teachers. 

“All professions have standards and we have been lagging behind. All role players and unions are discussing this. We are working out how it will be done,” said Brijraj. 

Sadtu was willing to discuss the development of professional standards for teachers, despite the union’s opposition to linking performance to salaries. 

Its general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said: “We are prepared to talk. Teaching standards are necessary.”

Read more on:    sadtu  |  teachers

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