Strengthening teacher and school leader appraisal to foster improvement

The introduction of the Assessment System for Teacher Performance in 2009 can be considered a positive development as it recognises the performance of effective teachers, which may have a positive impact on motivation (a key objective of MoES). Research evidence also shows that education systems benefit from clear and concise profiles of what teachers are expected to know and be able to do in specific subject areas (Schleicher, 2012; OECD, 2013f; Randi and Zeichner, 2004).

The assessment system does go some way to communicate the ministry’s expectations of key competences necessary for the development of an effective teacher. Its five key areas (see Box 1.1, Chapter 1) may not sufficiently recognise the complexity of good teaching, however, limiting their usefulness for supporting teachers’ career-long quest for better practice. The limited impact of teacher appraisals and feedback on teaching practices, and the fact that less than half (48%) of teachers reported having personal development plans to improve their work (OECD, 2014c), are worrying and suggests there is much scope to strengthen school leaders’ capacity to conduct appraisals and use them to inform teachers’ professional development.

One positive development is the work that Latvia has started to develop teacher standards. These can form the basis for developing a more comprehensive teacher appraisal system characterised by formal and informal discussions between teachers and school leaders and others. These should take place several times a year to facilitate a continuous cycle of professional growth.

One example Latvia could follow is Ontario (Canada) where each teacher must develop or review and update a professional development plan each year.

This plan includes the teacher’s professional growth objectives, proposed action plan and timelines for achieving those objectives. It is teacher-authored and directed and is developed in a consultative and collaborative manner with the principal. Teachers who move from the new to the experienced teacher appraisal process must develop an annual learning plan in their first year as an experienced teacher. Each year thereafter, teachers, in consultation with their principal, must review and update their learning plan as needed from the previous year. They must take into account their learning plan from the previous year, their learning and growth over the year, and the summative report of their most recent performance appraisal. In an evaluation year, the teacher and principal must meet to review and update the teacher’s plan as part of the performance appraisal (OECD, 2009).

Latvian school leaders are currently assessed at least once every six years as part of the school accreditation process. A recent amendment to the Law on Education introduced a requirement for the external evaluation of school heads conducted by an institution nominated by MoES. It is planned that the SEQS will be the delegated institution. The school leadership standards to be developed in 2016/17 will form the basis for this revised system. Appraisal results will be used to inform decisions on school heads’ performance and salary allowance (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015), and should also be used to inform their continuous professional development. This is a positive development that should not be delayed.

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