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.

Value of teacher - Google

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?

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  • Great post Julia. This is a really interesting question. Having done lots of work with special schools I spent a lot of time demonstrating the value that teachers / the school added without the aid of a string of GCSEs to ‘prove’ what a good job had been done. There is certainly a lot more to education than simply learning to pass exams. For some of our students fantastic outcomes would include learning to travel to school on their own for example.

    • Anonymous

      As a past SENCo I know exactly where you are coming from P! It is so difficult to quantify and therefore evaluate EVERYTHING achieved in classrooms. Many thanks for stopping by!

  • Chelltiger

    Dangerous ground for a parent to answer this especially a parent governor. As a lay person I am not qualified to make a judgement on what is good or bad teaching, but what I do have to say is that teaching and learning are seperate but very closely linked.The best teachers (IMunqualifiedO) will be able to differentiate for different styles of learning and get the best out of all of the students. Not just in terms of education but as whole individuals. The worst teachers can still have children learning but it maybe that that learning is done elsewhere and can be a mask to poor teaching. (which is why I believe teaching and learning or seperate issues but closely related) A parent will be able to tell what their child has learnt but not what the teaching was like. For me this is the same with exam results. They tell what a child has learnt but not what the quality of teaching has been like for that child.
    Are they worth a pay rise? To me teachers who have succeeded in going up the pay scale have an ongoing increase in bonus type pay each year. In industry if you are successful you get a one off work related bonus. An amount due to the good work you have done. If you don’t do so well the following year you just get your standard pay with no bonus. In teaching if you are successful you go up the payscale and even after an appaling year you continue to get that same rate of pay so ineffect getting a bonus where quality of work need not be part of the answer. It sort of loses the incentive to drive forward good standards especially for those teachers who are at the top of the upper pay scale and have no more opportunity to increase.
    I have recently come across a competancy case and instead of being able to reduce the payscale accordingly the school had to continue paying this teacher at the level they had previously been awarded untill they had left. It took some time to prove the case of incompetancy too, which meant the school was not getting it’s value for money.

    • Anonymous

      Many thanks for such a detailed comment! I agree that the present system does seem to take away any incentive and dose cause difficulties if there is a problem with performance.

  • Linguista Es

    Excellent post, thank you!
    Lingüista (http://www.linguista.es)

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