Hodges, D. (2008), "Accountable Teacher Evaluation: Toward Highly Qualified and Competent Teachers", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 313-315. https://doi.org/10.1108/09684880810886303
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The central argument of this book is that the evaluation of teacher effectiveness is a critical factor in the improvement of teaching. In particular, it argues that student and peer evaluation of teacher effectiveness are either unreliable or of little real value. Rather, in the eyes of the author, administrative evaluation is the most effective form of evaluation: “Well‐prepared administrative individuals are necessary to conduct in‐class observations and evaluation of the other aspects of a teacher's work with a legally defensible framework” (p. 101).
The book is divided into three sections: justification for accountable evaluation systems that includes how improved evaluation will lead to better educational outcomes, the process for developing support for evaluation and an especially useful chapter on the process for establishing standards for teachers. The second section, establishing teaching and evaluation standards, focuses on forms of evaluation, quality standards and the need to provide recognition. In the third section, the focus is on establishing teaching and evaluation standards and the focus shifts to implementation.
When invited to review this book I was asked to analyse it in term of its applicability for “all the institutions of education internationally”. Accordingly, this mission was firmly in mind during the reviewing process. I acknowledge that Dr Andrews may have had a more limited audience in mind when he constructed this book. I also acknowledge that while I am aware of key American educational trends and initiatives, the diverse nature of American education and the No Child Left Behind Act spring to mind here, I have to admit that I do not have an intimate understanding of the nuances of American education.
Improving teacher quality and the effectiveness of teaching is a key challenge for education systems worldwide. In part, this challenge is driven by the acknowledgement of the link between educational participation and quality on the one hand and economic development on the other. Quality education is also seen as a vehicle for increasing international competitiveness. As an Australian, I am most familiar with the Australian system. Across the Australian system of education (primary and secondary, vocational and tertiary education), there has been an animated debate about teacher quality and how to improve it. Politicians are quick to provide ready solutions – performance‐based pay is an obvious example. For the record, this book argues – correctly in my view – that this simple but often enticing prescription ought not be a priority. For countries such as Indonesia where improving educational participation has been a key objective, attention is increasingly turning to the quality of education. Teacher qualifications and teacher effectiveness are essential concerns for the Indonesian Ministry of National Education Educational. For a system such as Indonesia, administrative evaluation as envisaged in the text is unlikely to be successful – district education offices, a key component of any evaluation system, are themselves struggling to improve the quality of their own services.
Singapore has a very different educational profile to Indonesia. It continues to invest heavily in education and is forging a role as a regional educational hub. It is implementing the teach less learn more approach to classroom teaching. A systematic teacher evaluation and professional development system has been developed and implemented. Although the teacher evaluation system was developed centrally and data is reported to the ministry, local school‐based staff, such as heads of department are the key implementation agents.
The quest to improve teacher quality has a social and a personal dimension. Teachers, wherever they may work, have to take personal and professional responsibility for their work and are accountable for the actions that they take. This book provides some good examples of how this aspect of any quality improvement project could be developed and implemented. Quality also has a social and system dimension that needs to recognise particular challenges of the local context. In Singapore, Australia and Indonesia, to name but three examples, teacher quality is too often adversely affected by a mismatch between subject needs and teacher qualification. In Australia, there is a shortage of maths, science and language teachers. In some Singaporean schools, humanities teachers; in Indonesia there are too many religion teachers and insufficient maths teachers. In all three countries, sometimes hapless teachers are thrust into classrooms to “fill a gap”. In such circumstances, administrative evaluation is unlikely to address either the learning needs of the students or the professional needs of the teacher.
The difficulty with teacher evaluation is not so much conceptual as one of implementation – how to implement an evaluation system that is transparent, systematic, acknowledges local complexities and most importantly, motivates teachers to improve their classroom teaching so that their students learn. Case studies are an effective way of communicating the complexities of the context and enabling the reader to grasp the key problems and how they were resolved. The reader is then able to appropriate the idea and apply it to their situation. Telling the story of the context or issue without bombarding the reader with superfluous details can be challenging. As an outsider of the US education system, I would have appreciated more detail about how quality was actually achieved. For example, Chattanooga reverses the pattern! relates how education officials set out to improve teacher quality and “change past history”. About 9 of the 20 lowest performing schools were “put on notice”. Subsequently, 100 of the weaker teachers were moved to other schools. This case had the potential to expose how a real problem was resolved. However, like many of the cases in the book the reader was left with fleeting generalisations. What does “put on notice” actually mean? How was it done? Educational problems are resolved when individuals or teams take particular action. It is this particular action that provides insights for the wider educational community and enables real improvements to quality.
Individual teachers can and do make a difference to their students' learning. Unfortunately on some occasions, the actions of individual teachers can have a deleterious effect on students. One way to improving teacher performance is through teacher evaluation. Accountable Teacher Evaluation provides some insights into how a teacher evaluation system could be developed and implemented. It is unlikely that the ideas presented in this book could be readily adapted internationally.