On February 2013 the 3rd article of the Mexican constitution was reformed to establish that the State must guarantee education quality. The reform also established that entry into the teaching profession and promotion to supervisory positions in elementary and secondary education provided by the State, must be competitive in order to guarantee appropriate capabilities and knowledge.
In September of 2013, a new Law of Teaching Service was enacted. The Law of Teaching Service establishes that teachers must be evaluated at least once every four years and if deficiencies are identified, support would be provided, in order to achieve sufficiency in up to three opportunities in three years.
What do we know about how teachers should be evaluated to improve the quality of education?
Here are three suggestions
First, there is qualitative evidence that teachers must be evaluated based on professional teaching standards, multi-faceted evidence of teacher practice, student learning, professional contributions and teacher collaboration. A recent study reviewed successful approaches to teacher evaluation and concluded that there are seven criteria for an effective teacher evaluation system.6
- Teacher evaluations should be based on professional teaching standards.
- Evaluations should include multi-faced evidence of teacher practice, student learning and professional contributions.
- Evaluators should be knowledgeable about instruction and well trained in the evaluation system.
- Evaluations should be accompanied by useful feedback and connected to professional development opportunities.
- The evaluation system should value and encourage teacher collaboration,
- Expert teachers should be part of the assistance and review process.
- Panels of teachers and administrators should oversee the evaluation process to guarantee useful and high quality information.
Second, we know that the inclusion of student performance acts in favor of the students, but results in a partially unfair allocation of teacher recognition.
Teacher evaluation as a function of student performance reflects factors that are beyond teacher control, because student learning depends on other factors such as the student herself, parents, school constituents and institutions. Parents that are more concerned on their children’s education choose the best schools, creating differences in student composition between schools.
A comparison between teachers in similar socioeconomic status decreases the problem but does not solve it. An alternative is to evaluate the teacher as a function of average changes in student performance. This measure has high variability between student cohorts and across tests even with the same teacher. Therefore this measure is unstable and unreliable.
On the other hand, student performance improves when financial incentives are linked to it (here, here and here). Moreover, there is evidence that teachers may be aware of its own effectiveness. As a result, a link between teacher evaluation and student performance may attract individuals with more potential to become effective teachers. As a result, the inclusion of student performance on teacher evaluation favors student learning at the expense of teachers which face limited complementary inputs facing less recognition.
Third, we know that teacher evaluation is a tool that depends on complementary inputs. In order for teachers to be able to improve their practice, they must use the information derived from evaluation to identify needs specific to their groups, develop strategies and take action.
For this to happen teachers must have time to analyze the data and count on the necessary support to bring their strategies to an improved instruction practice. The improvement of the quality of education supply is a process that required continuous knowledge.
Concluding, teacher evaluation is a tool to improve the quality of education that depends on complementary inputs and should ideally consider professional teaching standards, multi-faceted evidence of teacher practice, student learning, professional contributions and teacher collaboration. Just in case you wonder, what you think about your teacher probably does not matter. It is likely you think your best teachers are those that gave you best grades.