Newsletter 84 Teacher Appraisal

Teacher Evaluation in South African Schools

This CDE publication is the third in a series on the lessons for South Africa from international and local research on teacher evaluation as a means of improving teacher effectiveness. The first CDE publication in 2012 examined the international experience of teacher pay for performance initiatives and found that there was no consistent evidence that they improved learning outcomes.

Accordingly, in 2014, CDE decided to investigate teacher evaluation more broadly across a wide range of countries to explore the connection between teacher evaluation, teacher effectiveness, and student achievement. The key finding was that well-designed performance-based assessments, which assess on-the-job teaching based on multiple measures of teaching practice and student learning, can measure teacher effectiveness. An integrated teacher evaluation model which combines these assessments with productive feedback and professional learning opportunities can increase teacher effectiveness and student achievement (see CDE’s 2015 report, Teacher Evaluation: Lessons from other countries).

This report, the final in the series, examines teacher evaluation policy in South Africa and looks for best practice, using the international findings as a reference point. From interview research we present key stakeholders’ perspectives on the evolving policy framework and how school leadership in a small sample of public and independent schools experience teacher appraisal and professional development.

  1. CDE’s analysis reveals that the current policy is deeply flawed, resulting in very limited implementation in those public schools interviewed.
  2. We identify some examples of best practice in the sample of innovative and well-resourced independent schools.
  3. These findings and CDE’s international research raise fundamental questions about the new performance-based teacher appraisal policy (the Quality Management System, or QMS) that is in the wings, as well as the new system for managing professional development.
  4. Are they good enough to significantly improve teacher effectiveness and learning achievement?

Concluding Remarks

  • The failure of the IQMS points to the importance of developing a new policy in South Africa.
  • The QMS is waiting in the wings for implementation and separates performance assessment from professional development, as advocated at the Teacher Summit of 2009.
  • The reasons for this separation appear to arise more from the legacy of the past and the flawed design and implementation of the IQMS rather than best practice examples in other countries and international research evidence.
  • The QMS is seen by government and the teacher unions as an improvement on the IQMS, but in light of CDE’s international research findings and the public schools’ experience, is it good enough?
  • CDE’s international and local research suggest that it is highly unlikely that the QMS or the CPTD system will lead to greater teacher effectiveness and increased learner achievement. CDE therefore would raise four strategic questions for policy makers and key stakeholders to consider:
  • Should the QMS be implemented when it is unlikely to achieve quality teaching and learning gains?
  • Will the cost and effort of implementing a new system be worth it?
  • Given the negative history of quality management might it do harm?
  • Should the CPTD system be fully implemented or re-designed for greater effectiveness?
  • In CDE’s view South Africa cannot afford to implement another system of teacher performance appraisal that does not contain the essential elements for its success, or a professional development system that will be ineffective.
  • Given the pressing need to improve teacher effectiveness and learning achievement, only systems that have the potential to make a real difference to teaching quality and learner achievement in the country should be designed and implemented.
  • To that end, the development by accomplished educators of professional teaching practice standards that are shown to support learning gains and are agreed to by all key stakeholders is an essential first step. 

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