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A critical analysis of teacher evaluation policy trends.

Modernising the teaching profession has become one of the main goals of contemporary educational system reform. The evaluation of teachers has been integral to the new teacher quality policies and programs. This article provides a comparative and critical analysis of the evaluations that teachers now confront during their professional careers. Examples of teacher evaluation practices and processes from Australia, Canada, the United States, and England are described and analysed.


Teaching, it is argued, is 'at the heart of education, so one of the most important actions the nation can take to improve education is to strengthen the teaching profession' (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2005, p. 1). Improving student learning and school effectiveness are consequently viewed as dependent upon the implementation of a wide range of 'quality teacher' programs and policies related to the selection, training, certification, hiring and retention of good teachers in public school classrooms (Australian Commonwealth Government, 2005; Ontario Provincial Government [Ont. Prov. Govt], 2001; United Kingdom Department for Education and Skills [UK DfEE], 1998; UK DfES, 2001; United States Federal Government [US Govt], 2002).

Teaching is being reshaped through the constant and continuous process of evaluating teachers throughout their educational and professional careers. These teacher evaluation schemes have been driven by demands for public accountability. Yet, as the evidence presented in this article suggests, accountability-based teacher evaluation practices tend to increase stress, anxiety, fear and mistrust amongst teachers, and limit growth, flexibility and creativity. Teachers, as we will see, are scrambling to keep up with the demands of such evaluations, often at the expense of the high quality teaching that these policies aim to encourage.

This article provides a clearer understanding of the following questions: How and why are accountability-based teacher evaluation policies being implemented at this point in time across a wide variety of settings? What are the implications and effects of these evaluative policies and practices? And finally, how can we envision alternatives to the current regime of accountability-based teacher evaluation policies?

I Economic globalisation and teacher evaluation policies

Teacher evaluation policies are best understood within the context of the neo-liberal policies and processes associated with economic globalisation. Economic globalisation, the result of major transformations in the production of goods and services, is related to changing trends in the nature of work. Under economic globalisation we are witnessing the development of a global market that privileges a neo-liberal economic ideology. Moreover, the imperatives of global capital have imposed neo-liberal economic discipline on all levels of government so that politics has now become the practice of 'sound economic management' (Held & McGrew, 2000, p. 27). Characterised as managerialism, these policies entail the introduction of business values and practices into the public sector.

Bottery (1989) posits four reasons to explain why the public sector has turned to business for its management theory. First, there is the assumption that management strategies for one organisation (e.g. a private business) are appropriate for any organisation (e.g. an education system). Next, there has not been a history of public sector management strategies separate from those developed for businesses and therefore, when an area (or organisation) is weak in its own theory, it is likely to be vulnerable to external approaches. Third, given the emphasis on neo-liberal market economics, not surprisingly, policy makers have attempted to apply these approaches to non-business settings. Finally, during periods of financial cost-cutting, there is a general perceived need for all public sector domains to become more efficient as businesses have had to be.

Education systems have not been immune to the pressures of managerialism and other market-driven global forces. Education has become repositioned as a competitive system operating according to the values and approaches of the market. Under this approach, management is viewed as central and the key aim is the efficiency of the organisation. Business approaches are deployed such as cost-cutting and streamlining, consumer-driven sales, standards setting, the delegation of power within managerial hierarchies and the disempowerment of other groups. The norms of managerialism are promoted including accountability, efficiency, individual and organisational performance, and customer satisfaction (Bottery, 1989).

In line with these general educational trends, reforms aimed at improving the teaching profession have also been influenced heavily by management practices and values. Restructuring processes aimed at modernising and professionalising teachers are couched in the neo-liberal language and practices of accountability, quality control, standards and performance (New South Wales Department of Education, 2000; Ont. Prov. Govt, 2001; UK DfEE, 1998; UK DfES, 2001; US Govt, 2002). The spread of teacher evaluation programs has accompanied the acceleration of the processes of economic globalisation over the last two decades. The accountability function of teacher evaluation has received a great deal of attention from the public and policy makers. Teacher evaluation systems aim to provide stakeholders (or educational customers) with information about how well, and in what ways, teachers are able to perform their jobs. Accountability models of teacher evaluation are seen as quality control mechanisms. The intention is (a) to assuage public fears that incompetent teachers will be allowed to remain in the classroom and (b) to improve performance amongst classroom teachers to improve student achievement outcomes.

Accountability-based teacher evaluation policies have been taken up by governments across the political spectrum, indicating that managerialism is now considered by governments and the publics they claim to represent as having taken-for-granted benefits, and essential for the proper functioning of public services. As a result, the state, both at the federal level (England and Scotland) and at the local/state/provincial level (Australia, Canada and the United States) has played a key role in the production, implementation and monitoring of teacher evaluation policies. While any analysis of teacher evaluation policies cannot ignore the role of the state, this article addresses the need for a more complex and refined view of its workings with respect to educational reform. First, attention is directed towards the role of the state in devolving the details of governance to other policy actors, such as teaching councils, federations and unions, and school and board administrators. The state does not wither away, but rather leaves the 'murky details' of governing to the policy levers on the periphery and concentrates instead on setting and measuring outputs or targets to achieve its goals (Neave, 1998). In this sense, the state is steering from a distance. This analysis points towards the ways in which teachers have come to be governed by external means, as well as internally, through self-governing practices. Hence, the shift to a broader and more refined notion of the state is needed to understand the effects of teacher evaluation policies (Ball, 1997; Dean, 1995; Rose, 1999).

2 Teacher evaluation policies and practices

Teacher evaluations vary according to their objectives (i.e., selection, public accountability, professional development), what they measure (i.e., basic skills, general knowledge, subject matter knowledge, subject-specific pedagogical knowledge), format (ranging from multiple-choice tests to more holistic forms of performance-based assessments), and the mode of referencing used (i.e., norm, criterion, standards or growth-based). Further, teacher evaluation occurs at various points throughout a new teacher's entry to the profession or a practising teacher's professional career. In terms of initial teacher training, this includes the early evaluation of those who seek to become teachers, as a condition of entry to a teacher preparation program, and the evaluation of teacher candidates throughout their formal teacher preparation programs. However, the focus in this article is upon the evaluation of new and experienced teachers, through the testing of teacher candidates or new teachers for the purpose of certification, and the evaluation teachers through on-the-job performance-based assessments or appraisals.

In some jurisdictions, induction into teaching begins with a certification examination. In England and most US states, certification is based on the successful completion of an examination, generally following completion of a pre-service teacher education program. Certification examinations test candidates' basic skills, subject matter knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, educational legislation, school administration, practical teaching knowledge, or a combination of the above. Most certification examinations are written, short-answer, paper-and-pencil assessments that are easy to administer and evaluate. All teacher candidates in England, for example, must pass a computerised skills tests in literacy, numeracy, and information and communications technology before they can be recommended by their initial teacher training institution for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (Teacher Training Agency, 2005).

Compared to England, there has been a much long history of competency testing for teacher licensure in the United States and, in this respect, it is critical to point out the differences across and within these settings in approaches to teacher evaluation. In fact, the rapid growth of teacher testing has become one of the fastest movements in US educational history. In 1983, only 5 per cent of educational institutions required an exit examination for teacher licensure. Only 20 years later, the figure is almost 90 per cent with over 40 states currently employing some form of standardised test (Mitchell, Robinson, Plake & Knowles, 2001; US Dept. of Education, 1987). A report commissioned by the National Research Council (Mitchell et al., 2001) showed that of the 600 different licensure tests that were used in 1998 and 1999, the vast majority of states used basic skills tests, followed by tests on pedagogical knowledge, general knowledge and subject matter knowledge.

While standardised and standards-based certification examinations tend to be the norm in England and most US states, other jurisdictions have developed and experimented with performance-based teacher assessments for the certification of beginning teachers and, in some cases, for the evaluation of more experienced classroom teachers. In this respect, we can speak of 'softer' versions of teacher evaluation that appear to be more acceptable to the teaching profession than standardised teacher tests, which have yet to be taken up within Australia and most Canadian provinces. Performance-based evaluations (otherwise known as performance appraisals or performance management schemes) for assessing the work of experienced classroom teachers have been introduced in a few US states (e.g. North Carolina, Connecticut, and California), Canadian provinces (British Colombia, Ontario), England, and some Australian states (Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, with NSW currently in transition). Further, across a number of US and Australian states, performance-based assessments are used to certify or register new teachers (Larsen, Lock, & Lee, 2005).

In the 1980s, the United States led in the field of the performance-based assessment models. Georgia implemented the first systematic, state-wide program to evaluate the performance of new teachers. This model was the first generation of a government-mandated, classroom-based teacher evaluation system to license new teachers. Other states followed Georgia's lead, by implementing a wide range of performance-based assessments for new teachers. These schemes, which started as evaluation systems for the certification of beginning teachers, were extended to other contexts such as career ladders (e.g., Texas, Tennessee, and Utah), merit pay in Florida, and professional renewable certification in Louisiana (Ellett & Teddlie, 2003). Many of these early performance-based assessment programs do not exist today, as they have been overhauled, slashed, or disbanded altogether, mainly for political reasons and the need to reduce educational budgets. In their place, most US states have implemented teacher evaluation systems based on cognitive performance measures.

Competency-based classroom teaching assessment tools generally rely on the development of a set of discrete cognitive skills and knowledge that can be easily evaluated. For example, experienced classroom teachers in Ontario are evaluated on 16 mandatory competencies, based on the 'Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession'. Competency statements are descriptors of the required skills, knowledge and attitudes that teachers are expected to have. The overall performance of the teacher is summarised with a comment on each competency and awarded a performance rating of unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good or exemplary (Ont. Prov. Govt, 2001).

Evaluating (or appraising) classroom teachers usually consists of pre-arranged classroom observations and in some cases, additional 'walk-throughs' by the school principal. Meetings before and after classroom observations are intended to be diagnostic as well as prescriptive regarding teacher development and improvement. In addition, other evidence of teaching performance is collected, including course syllabi, lesson plans, student records, and, in some cases, parent and student surveys. Self-assessment is another significant component of performance-based evaluation systems. Teachers are expected to develop career-entry plans, annual learning plans or some other kind of self-report that includes plans for improvement. In some cases, teachers are expected to create a teaching portfolio or dossier as evidence of their teaching practice. Reflection is an integral element of these self-assessment tools.

Connecticut has developed one of the most comprehensive professional portfolio systems for beginning teachers. Connecticut certification is dependent upon the successful completion of a teaching portfolio over the first two years of a teacher's career. The portfolio is comprised of documentary evidence of a unit of instruction, including lesson logs, videotapes of classroom teaching, teacher commentaries, samples of student work, and reflections on their planning, instruction, and assessment of student progress. The portfolio requirements are highly structured and content-specific. Connecticut teachers are also required to demonstrate how they think and act on behalf of their students through reflections on their practice (Barnet, 2002). Given the extensive time and cost commitment, Connecticut's program is not the norm across the jurisdictions reviewed here. Most rely on the accumulation of a set of standardised forms, checklists and summary reports for teacher appraisal. At the conclusion of the process, a summative report is drawn up by the principal, often with the assistance of a panel, signed by the teacher and forwarded to the local education authority or board of education for final approval (Kleinhenz, Ingvarson, & Cowan, 2001; Ont. Prov. Govt, 2001; Queensland Board of Teacher Registration, 2005; Texas Legislature, 1995; UK DfEE, 1998).

Performance appraisals for experienced teachers are high-stakes, being tied to increases in salary, promotion and maintenance of employment. For instance, teachers in Texas whose appraisal is unsatisfactory are deemed in 'need of assistance.' Principals must draw up an intervention plan to address the areas where the teacher shows less than proficient performance, and another appraisal is carried out to ensure compliance (Texas Education Agency, 2005). In England, performance appraisals are linked to teachers' opportunities for career-ladder and pay advancement. Teachers who perform correctly are also able to move through the performance threshold, leading to a new upper pay range, and if desired be appointed advanced skills teachers and head teachers (UK DfEE, 1998).

To conclude, teaching is now characterised by continuous and thorough evaluation, by others and by the self. Teacher evaluation policies and practices range from certification examinations to performance-based assessments, the latter both for the certification of new teachers and the appraisal of experienced classroom teachers as indicators of effective teaching practice. Teachers exist within this web of evaluations; assessed, appraised and monitored closely throughout their educational and professional careers. The effects of these policy trends are addressed in the next section.

3 Teacher evaluation: policy effects

In attempting to understand the effects of these policies, this article looks to the work of Ball (1994) who distinguishes between 'policy as text' and 'policy as discourse'. Policy, according to Ball, is 'both text and action, words and deeds, it is what is enacted as well as what is intended' (1994, p. 10). The emphasis in positing 'policy as text' is on the micro-political processes through which policies are coded and decoded in complex and changing ways. As with any text, multiple interpretations are possible and while there are 'correct' readings expected by policy authors, 'policy as text' analyses also allow for discussions of agency of individual practitioners in constructing policy at local levels. The point is that action may be constrained or enabled by policies, but it is not necessarily determined.

However, it is Bali's second formulation, 'policy as discourse', that informs the bulk of this analysis. Discourse, according to Foucault (1972), is understood as the relation between bodies of knowledge (disciplines) and (disciplinary) technologies. Specifically, discourses are comprised of statements whose organisation is regular and systematic, consisting of all that can be said and thought about a particular topic. Discourses are constitutive, systematically forming the objects they speak about. Discourses produce truths through which people are governed and come to govern themselves. The essential point is that behaviour or responses to education policies exist within particular regimes of truth produced through discourse. Agency is constrained within the regime of 'what is possible' to say, think, know and do. Accountability reforms, based on the managerialist paradigm, have become a part of the dominant discourses of educational change. Hence, for example, the perception that evaluation is positively correlated with improved performance has become the unspoken 'truth' in educational policy reform. Such taken-for-granted assumptions inherent in these discourses make resistance difficult and tenuous, but not impossible.

Drawing upon both of these formulations, the following section will outline some of the effects of teacher evaluation policies. I will focus on both the general and specific effects, mirroring the notions of policy as discourse and policy as text in order to show how these reforms are operating to reshape the nature of teaching and teachers. First, the attempt to capture the complexity of teaching in paper-and-pencil tests and performance assessment tools has resulted in the simplification of the art of teaching into linear testing formats and performance competency checklists. For example, performance appraisal systems rely upon lists of competency statements that are descriptors of the required skills, knowledge and attitudes that teachers are expected to have. Each competency usually has a series of 'look fors'; statements that provide concrete examples of observable behaviours characteristic of that competency. Such checklists measure decontextualised skills and knowledge rather than holistic, contextualised understandings and teaching practices.

These types of assessments have been primarily grounded in the mastery conception of practice whereby teaching is viewed as a set of discrete skills and competencies. This approach to teacher evaluation stems from research dating back to the 1970s on determining teacher characteristics and personality traits that would be universally effective in having a positive impact on student learning. In effect, what we are seeing is the transference of the values of standardisation and outcomes-based production from the business to the educational sector. However, the assumption that effective teaching can be guaranteed by isolating sets of skills that can be measured through the use of multiple-choice tests, checklists, or schedules of competence statements ignores the complexities and highly-contextualised nature of teaching.

Moreover, assessment models that emphasise accountability have been found to inhibit creativity, flexibility and sensitivity to the contextualised nature of teaching. Research has shown that teachers tend to be less creative and tend to engage in fewer risk-taking teaching practices and activities (such as employing new teaching strategies) when they know they are being evaluated for summative purposes associated with the accountability aims of teacher evaluation (Duke, 1995). Research on the Ontario teacher qualifying test indicated that preparation involved additional time, energy and anxiety for test-takers (Bower, 2003). Further, in a study of the Texas Examination of Current Administrators and Teachers, Shepard, Kreizer and Graue (1987) found that some teachers spent more than 100 hours preparing for the basic literacy test. They explained the unforeseen consequences of the test:
 enormous costs, frenetic preparation and worrying about the test,
 demoralised teachers and a public unimpressed by the extremely high
 pass rate. Although these outcomes were not intended, they may be
 inevitable features of a reform that hangs so much importance on a
 test pitched to the lowest level of performances on the lowest
 teaching skills. (Shepard et al., 1987, p. 115)

The result of these changes in the nature of teachers' work is higher levels of stress and anxiety. Accountability-based teacher evaluation reforms have left classroom teachers experiencing a loss of autonomy and increased levels of stress in their work (National Foundation for Educational Research, 2002). In particular, research on the effects of performance appraisals demonstrates the stresses and strains that experienced teachers are confronting in their attempts to meet accountability demands. Performance appraisals can be particularly stressful experiences for teachers, especially if the results of the assessment determine their pay level and opportunities for career advancement (Gewirtz, 1997). Further, Tucker, Stronge, Gareis and Beers (2003, p. 589) in their study on portfolio efficacy noted that one teacher's response typified the responses of many of their teacher participants: 'It's hard to make the portfolio a priority with all the other things a teacher must do' (p. 589). Such findings echo other research that suggests that teachers' workloads have increased, and that the patterning of teacher's time has been restructured so that they are spending less time in contact with students and more completing accountability paperwork requirements associated with teacher evaluation expectations (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2001; Travers & Cooper, 1996).

Accountability-based teacher evaluation systems also do little to foster collegiality and trust amongst those working within the same school. Due to demands on workloads, performance appraisals are often implemented in such a way to inhibit the maintenance or growth of trust between principals and teachers. Assessments that are summative in nature, providing little diagnostic feedback, position the evaluator (often the principal) as the provider of high-stakes summative judgements, rather than fostering the role of assessor as the facilitator of professional growth and development (Peterson, 1990). Other studies have pointed to teacher concerns over the proficiency and effectiveness of evaluators in using assessment tools consistently, objectively and fairly. Principals, who are now repositioned as school managers, have also indicated their own dissatisfaction with the time and expense required to implement performance appraisal programs in their schools and potential conflicts of interest between their role as supportive instructional leaders and external evaluators (Davis, Pool, & Mits-Cash, 2000; Ovando, 2001).

While teacher assessment may screen out teachers deemed to be incompetent, it also has negative effects on teacher morale, and siphons off scarce resources that could be more productively used to promote growth. Deming, in his research on business settings (see Walton, 1986), has argued that placing too much emphasis on the evaluation of individuals for accountability purposes can foster an unproductive climate of fear and detract from the establishment of shared professional responsibility (Duke, 1995). Moreover, performance appraisals, which require teachers to compete against one another and in some cases to assess one another, do little to build trust between professional colleagues. Research on teacher stress in England shows how these changes have shaped the social relations of low-trust schooling, negatively influencing teachers' relations with students, parents, principals and one another (Troman, 2000).

Power (1994) argues that rather than solving the problem of trust, audit models of accountability displace it. If those engaged in work are not trusted, then the locus of trust shifts to the experts involved in policing them and to forms of documentary evidence about system integrity. In this 'audit explosion', the audit becomes the benchmark of institutional and individual legitimacy. Audit becomes the 'control of control' where what is being assured is the quality of control systems. What becomes more important is that the individual teacher is seen to be audited. The paradoxical result is that while audits are conducted in the name of making visible the inner workings of organisations or individuals, audit is an increasingly private and invisible expert activity.

This focus on being 'seen' is central to these performance-based reforms. Teacher evaluation for accountability purposes is predicated on the notion of visibility. Teacher certification tests have been implemented with the aim of demonstrating publicly that governments are serious about screening incompetent teachers out of the profession. Classroom observations and surprise 'walk-throughs' open up the teacher to the gaze of the principal. Teaching portfolios, as Shulman's (1998) research has shown, have become mere exhibitions as style and glossiness have taken precedence over substance. And reflection becomes important only when it is documented and made visible in annual learning plans and written portfolios. These forms of teacher evaluation yield 'truths' about teachers, which place them in visible hierarchies, organised around professional and measurable standards. Through these forms of assessment, teachers can be compared, judged, measured and ranked against one another. More importantly, these types of accountability mechanisms allow teachers to be more closely monitored and governed. Hence, professionalism is now bound up with spending more time accounting for appropriate skills, knowledge and dispositions. What becomes more important under this new globalised managerial-based regime is not whether a teacher upholds professional standards, but whether teachers can demonstrate publicly that they fulfil accountability expectations. The distinction is subtle, yet important.

Through performance measurement mechanisms, teachers become accountable to external bodies: their principal, students, parents, and board of education. Understanding the effects of policy formation entails paying close attention to these policy actors and levers. While governments, as one part of the apparatus of the state, play a key role in the conception and formulation of accountability education reforms, there are other components of the state that should not be neglected. For example, governments in England, Queensland and Ontario have legislated the formation of professional teaching councils and registration boards that are charged with developing the professional standards upon which these accountability mechanisms are based. The Queensland Board of Teacher Registration (2005) oversees and makes final decisions regarding teacher registration based on evaluation reports completed by school principals. In such a way, teaching councils and registration boards comprise one of the many components of the reconfigured twenty-first century state that governs or steers from a distance.

State steering from a distance constitutes the new paradigm of public governance, and is an alternative to top-down (sovereign) control. Here the imperatives of economic globalisation appear most clearly, as the state devolves responsibility for governing to teaching councils, schools, principals and teachers themselves. This is, as Neave (1998) has argued, the rise of the 'new Evaluative State' which uses formal assessment procedures as a mode of control while appearing to devolve power to individuals and autonomous institutions. In this context, self-government through self-assessment replaces external coercion. Through the standards-based regime of tests and performance appraisals teachers begin to regulate their own behaviour in line with what they perceive their peers, the principal, parents or the inspector expect. Teachers engage in mutual surveillance and documenting of each other's activities (Troman, 2000). If the gaze of one's peers, principal or inspector is felt to be inescapable and continuous, the teacher 'assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection' (Foucault, 1977, pp. 202-203).

What these accountability reforms do is construct self-managing teachers, who learn to internalise the gaze, observe and govern themselves. As a Teacher Training Agency board member explained: 'if your ultimate model is a profession which is of very high status, and achieving very high standards ... then the only appropriate model for that is a very high degree of self-government and self-regulation' (quoted in Mahony & Hextall, 2000, p. 104). Dean's (1995) notions of practices of governmental and ethical self-formation are useful in understanding how these reforms operate to shape the teachers' practices, plans, and capacities.

Teacher evaluation reforms operate to create the conditions whereby teachers come to govern themselves. This is the constraining element of discourse. However, there is another side to this story. Discourse also enables action, and in this way we can examine how the spaces for subversion are carved out within this regime of truth. For example, Larsen (2002) identified emerging practices where teachers are going through the motions of preparing their portfolios with minimal effort to reach performance levels. They develop efficient strategies to deal with the public nature of accountability demands, downloading ready-made lesson plans from websites to include in performance appraisal portfolios, freeing up time to continue teaching using with their own lesson plans behind classroom doors.

4 Conclusion and alternatives

Teacher evaluation policies have spread rapidly throughout the world over the past decade, implemented as quick-fix solutions to assure the public that governments are addressing educational problems. Overwhelmingly, these policies are driven by a neo-liberal business imperative that has captured the imagination of public-sector policy makers. Hence, the discourses of managerialism and accountability have become the taken-for-granted paradigm shaping teacher evaluation policies.

Accountability reforms reveal that the state is far from abandoning its efforts to control the teaching profession. However, it is also important to acknowledge the state's varying and contradictory role in educational policy making. While this article has argued that many jurisdictions have implemented teacher evaluation policies that are predicated on neo-liberal, business principles, there are governments that have either rejected these pressures or engaged in educational policy making that is more sensitive to local contexts. The new provincial government in Ontario, Canada, for instance, has abandoned the controversial teacher test and is currently engaged in a consultation process with representatives from faculties of education, teachers' federations and the Ontario College of Teachers to develop an alternative assessment for teacher certification (Larsen et al., 2005).

Further, there is still much to be gained from a policy--sociology approach that examines the roles of actors beyond the state in the educational policy reform process. Teacher evaluation policies formulated by governments and implemented by teacher registration boards, professional teaching councils, boards of education, principals (who are removed from teachers' unions so that they can now function as managers of teachers), and by teachers themselves demonstrate how the state now governs from a distance by devolving power to other institutions and individuals.

While teacher evaluation policies may provide some of the accountability that the public demands, we need to ask 'At what price?' There is ample research evidence to suggest that many of these policies have had a detrimental effect upon teachers. Teachers are spending more and more time and energy preparing for evaluation, time that could be used preparing and teaching lessons and working with their students. Stress and anxiety levels have increased and school relations have deteriorated with the development of new cultures of fear and mistrust.

High-stakes teacher testing and performance appraisal programs, like many other educational reforms that have been implemented over the past 20 years have been introduced to the educational system from the business sector, on the heels of the wider processes associated with neo-liberal economic globalisation. In place of the values and norms associated with economic globalisation, we need to envision an alternative set of values to guide our thinking on how to ensure that we have the highest quality teachers in our schools. Rather than construct teacher evaluation systems that are premised upon the managerialism paradigm associated with economic globalisation, perhaps we need to consider cultural globalisation as a paradigm for quality teacher policies.

Featherstone (1995) describes an image of cultural globalisation that entails the compression, complexity and movements of many cultures. According to Featherstone, globalisation has provided a stage for showcasing global difference, pluralism, and competing ways of knowing and seeing. What would this mean in terms of quality teacher programs and policies? First, we need to reject the standardised, one-size-fits-all approach to quality teaching. While, standards- (or outcomes-) based reforms may provide a framework to start thinking about quality teaching, it is important that mechanisms are not put in place (e.g. checklists, short-answer tests) that ignore the complexities and highly contextualised nature of teaching. Standardised approaches are more efficient, easier to administer and evaluate, but they do not allow for the valuing of pluralism, difference and discord. Rather than approach educational reform with the sole aim of providing public accountability, we need to focus on creating systems and environments that foster excellence and recognise that teaching is work that is creative, continually changing, pluralistic, diverse and complex. This is the challenge that confronts educational policy makers in these still early years of the twenty-first century.

Key words


teacher evaluation

comparative education

teaching conditions

policy analysis

teaching profession


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Marianne A. Larsen is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, 1137 Western Road, London, Ontario CANADA N6G 1G7. E-mail:
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Author:Larsen, Marianne A.
Publication:Australian Journal of Education
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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