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Thought needed on evaluation of Teachers and Principals

23 January 2014

“The creation of hundreds of new Expert and Lead Principal and Teacher positions couldn’t have come sooner,” says Steve Thomas. “The new positions will not only give classroom teachers new roles to which to aspire, they will also further fuel research-informed teaching and learning.”

“Shanghai—which has the highest performing education system on the planet, according to the OECD PISA test—has been using this approach to build the leadership and capacity to reflect on which practices are effective in the classroom.”

But sound evaluations are needed to ensure the proposals deliver on the improvements in teaching quality and pupil achievement that have been promised.

For instance, according to Thomas, “Big questions remain about how the impact of these new teachers will be measured over time, and whether, and to what level, the proposals will be proven effective. A tenure of two years will not be long enough to judge whether a teacher had any discernible effect on a cohort of pupils.”

In firming up the details of how the new principals and teachers will be appointed, it would behove those in charge to design the process with evaluation in mind.

“Rather than committees appointing all applicants to these positions, it would be good if, at least initially, some could be randomly allocated to teachers within schools, or perhaps across similar schools, so that the true effect of the initiative could be observed,” says Thomas.

Question are also worth asking about how the allowances that have been announced today will be awarded to teachers.

“Will the money be dished-out automatically, or will teachers be paid-out the allowance depending on appraisals over the tenure of their appointment against the professional standards that will be developed this year?” asks Thomas. “The way the allowances are paid could have an effect on whether they induce the higher performance that the Government—and the public—wants to see.”


Steve Thomas is a New Zealand PhD Scholar at The Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, studying the impact of educational entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

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