Teacher Evaluation Policy: From Accountability to Professional Development – DUKE (CSS)

DUKE, Daniel L. Ed. Teacher Evaluation Policy: From Accountability to Professional Development. New York: State University of New York Press, 1995. 203p. Resenha de: DOWSETT, Eric. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.4, 2001.

Teacher evaluation policies stand at a crossroads in North America. One road leads to a system created by legislators and special interest groups who push for competitive test score-driven, merit pay and incentive pay alternatives to a single salary scale. The other road leads to a system created collaboratively by educational stakeholders which follows a professional development orientation. Teacher Evaluation Policy is a scholarly work that is of value to members of teams working collaboratively to shape teacher appraisal systems. For those not involved in a collaborative effort, this text presents a clear argument for using collaborative action if the goal of improving instruction or successful school reform is ever to be realized.

The book is organized into nine chapters, with a useful index, which draw on the works of a number of authors through case studies and analysis from Britain and the United States. Duke’s introductory chapter creates the framework for the presentation of the case studies. He presents four central ideas for developing teacher evaluation systems over which policy makers have struggled in the past two decades: Accountability, Professional Development, Professionalism, and Pay for Performance.

Through the case studies, Duke demonstrates that past and future developments of teacher evaluation policies can be best understood in a political framework. Readers need to understand that change is the consequence of conflict and choice along with understanding why particular choices are made in order to make sense of policy formulations. Knowledge of the context is essential to comprehend choices which are made because teacher evaluation policies continue to evolve, even after adoption and implementation. Each of these case studies points to a generalized agreement that teacher evaluation should: 1) serve professional development as well as accountability purposes; 2) differentiate between new and experienced teachers; 3) include training for teacher evaluators; 4) provide extended periods for professional development; 5) be shaped by local school systems; and 6) avoid direct links to pay for performance schemes.

The book concludes with a cross-case analysis of the accounts which presents the conditions for creating new thinking about educational accountability and, with it, new changes in teacher evaluations. It is clear that the dual needs of accountability and improvement are not met through an individually focused accountability system. This new thinking represents an historic shift from a relatively exclusive focus on individual accountability to a combination of individual accountability and professional development. This shift is a result of people’s dissatisfaction with traditional teacher evaluation systems. Duke predicts that the evaluation of individual teachers, especially veteran teachers, will concentrate on professional development. The goal of accountability, on the other hand, will be addressed in ways other than the summative evaluation of individual teachers. Duke uses an analogy of a bomb disposal unit, where self-interest merges with collective interest, as an example of the type of challenge which fosters collective accountability. Successful schools of tomorrow will have a school culture that accepts collective accountability making everyone responsible for teacher development through a community of learners.

As a school administrator who has struggled with teacher evaluation and its role in school improvement, I appreciate the synthesis of research presented in this book. It validates a number of issues and concerns that have been experienced at the site-based level. The case studies afford the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of other’s experiences and draw parallels to one’s own situation. For those who wish a less detailed yet effective approach to the main ideas, one could read Chapters 1, 2, 8 and 9 to obtain a sense of where teacher evaluation policies need to be directed and still have a good grasp of this evolving field of school improvement.

Eric Dowsett – Neelin High School. Brandon, Manitoba.

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