A Critical Analysis of Teacher Evaluation Policy Trends

By Larsen, Marianne A. | Australian Journal of Education, November 2005 | Go to article overview
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A Critical Analysis of Teacher Evaluation Policy Trends

Larsen, Marianne A., Australian Journal of Education

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.

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