#ISTP2013 travel log: Transcending teacher evaluation

The third annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession concluded yesterday on an interesting note. The parties in attendance still had conflicting thoughts on the purpose of evaluation: control or “liberation” of teachers. And the tensions between OECD, with its emphasis on measurement, and Education International, and its focus on support, remained.

The third annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession concluded yesterday on an interesting note. The parties in attendance still had conflicting thoughts on the purpose of evaluation: control or “liberation” of teachers. And the tensions between OECD, with its emphasis on measurement, and Education International, and its focus on support, remained.

But as the Dutch minister concluded, “evaluation must be much less about teacher quality and much more about teaching quality.” While the theme of the summit was teacher appraisal, the final session revealed that the vast majority of action steps, proposed by the 20 delegations, had little to do with evaluating teachers. Most of the focus was on supporting those who teach, and making sure they have the tools and resources they need to be effective.

Tony Mackay, the venerable emcee of the two-day teaching-policy fest, facilitated the crisp, 90-second presentations from each nation:

1.     Hong Kong commits to different school-based supports and a focus on teacher professionalism;
2.     Switzerland will focus first on improving the national dialogue between education and economy sectors and then evaluate without “naming and shaming”;
3.     Belgium commits to “muster all new technology” to support teachers;
4.     Sweden also calls for more teacher networking developed by and for teachers;
5.     Poland will enhance teacher networks and make sure any teacher evaluation system is transparent to all;
6.     Norway calls for more coherent teacher policy and wants to implement different forms of teacher appraisal systems;
7.     New Zealand wants to raise status of teaching as the key strategy of teacher appraisal;
8.     Japan seeks to use its teaching evaluation system to enhance, not undermine, teacher motivation;
9.     Indonesia commits to deeper and continuous professional development as its primary driver of teaching quality;
10.  Iceland commits to no “one size fits all” teacher evaluation, and will make sure their system respects each school context and uses diverse methods to increase reliability;
11.  China calls for quality, “regular registration” for teachers;
12.  Canada will identify needs of teachers and increase collaboration and trust;
13.  Germany will invest more (not less) in teacher education at the university level before focusing on teacher evaluation;
14.  The Netherlands commits to more support for young teachers and a focus on teacher quality in the context of professional communities;
15.  Estonia will foster teacher leadership in schools and teaching communities (it sounds like this fine country is ready for teacherpreneurs); and
16.  The United States commits to multiple indicators of student learning as well as time for more collaboration on teacher evaluation and implementing Common Core standards.

Fernando Reimers of Harvard University gave the closing remarks and made sure the delegates remembered an old-school reform lesson: bad implementation can undermine good ideas. Now is the time for teachers—who are the “street-level experts”—to make it much more clear how to turn these broad policy proclamations into action for their results-oriented profession.

Unlike what some U.S. reformers suggest, the summit deliberations confirm that teacher appraisal can have consequences and consider context. But it will take those who actually teach—like Margit Timakov (Estonia), Paul Anderson (Montana, U.S.), Rebecca Mieliwocki (California, U.S.), as well as Rogier Hilbrandie and Mathijs ter Bork (Netherlands)—to figure out how to make it work.

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