What value is a teacher?
Over the past few weeks I have read some posts whose titles have sparked an interest in these old bones. One such was ‘What value do teachers add to a classroom?’ by Matthew Needleman
At first I thought it must be one of those posts designed to shock. On reading the article it was centred on the assessment of teachers in the USA particularly in Los Angeles It got me thinking about the recommendations from the new Government that performance management of teachers here in the UK should contribute to their salary.
I have to admit that when it was first announced I didn’t think at great lengths about it beyond a cursory glance. My excuse is as a retired head teacher was that it was not going to be a problem for me. That is not good enough I hear you say but I also think it is to do with the fact that in many professions and industries such assessments are made so why not teaching? However, you’ll be pleased to know that I did think about it and here are some of my thoughts.
As a HT I knew about the quality of my teachers. I was expected to know and expected to do something about the inadequate ones. I was pretty good at that and hopefully the majority who fell into that category were helped to improve with support and guidance. Those who were unable to make the necessary improvements were ‘encouraged’ to find other careers.
Sadly no-one asked me about the successful ones other than linking it to test results. It was assumed by the powers that be that the most important factor was test results: successful children achieved high test results therefore their teachers must be successful. If salary increases depend on successful children does that mean it is all down to the test results? What is the difference between successful and good? Can you be one without the other? In the article mentioned the word ‘effective’ is used as the measure of success and therefore salary increase.
If I was still a HT and had the unenviable job of rating my teaching staff, test results would not enter the equation! I would be looking at the social development of children, their ability to move towards independent thinking and working. I would look for a classroom environment that was vibrant and inviting to all learners not just those who will make the test grades that so much hangs on nowadays. I would be looking at the progress all the children made across the board.
Obviously, to assess all teachers on the list above is impossible – isn’t it? My list may well differ from another HT’s yet both staff could be judged excellent. I’m glad that I will not have that task on my ‘to do’ list. However I am glad that it confirms my belief that teachers do add value to the classroom and assessment limited to test scores will take us down a road we do not want to go.
Are you a teacher? If so, what value do you add?
Are you a parent? How would you measure what your child’s teacher does? Are they worth a pay rise?