This national evaluation report focuses on the implementation of teacher appraisal within the wider context of improving teacher capability and student outcomes. It explores the relationships between schools’ appraisal practices and:

  • improved teaching practice and student outcomes
  • cohesion with other self-review components
  • professional learning and development (PLD)
  • organisational support for appraisal processes
  • school culture.

This report is part of a suite of ERO reports on board of trustees’ employer responsibilities to improve outcomes for students.[2]

Why was this review undertaken?

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) asked ERO to evaluate teacher appraisal and report on the quality of current practice, in particular how appraisal supports the improvement of teacher practices and student outcomes.

This request was in response to the 2011 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) evaluation of New Zealand’s evaluation and assessment framework to improve school outcomes.[3] The OECD concluded the following:

  • Annual principal and teacher appraisal has been a requirement for many years, but its implementation across and within schools is variable. The alignment of appraisal with other assessment and evaluation processes within schools is also variable.
  • New Zealand has a commendable, highly collaborative and improvement-focused emphasis within each evaluation and assessment component, such as school-based appraisal, but it needs high levels of knowledge and expertise to be effective.
  • While New Zealand has well designed evaluation and assessment components, policy does not articulate an overall plan, therefore schools could not always see how evaluation and assessment at student, teacher, school, and education system levels are intended to link together and complement each other.

In New Zealand the key self-review components are within the school planning and reporting cycle that includes the strategic plan, the annual plan, principal performance management, teacher performance management (of which teacher appraisal is part), and a focus on student achievement data and information about valued student outcomes (this includes student retention and engagement information).

This report focuses on teacher appraisal and its link to school planning, student targets, and teacher PLD.

Other 2013 ERO reports related to employment and appraisal are:

  • Board Employment Responsibilities: Linking Charter Targets to Appraisal in Primary Schools which highlights the link of charter goals and annual targets to both teacher and principal appraisal
  • Student Safety in Schools: Recruiting and Managing Staff which focuses on the recruiting, appointing and managing aspects of teacher performance management.

What are the teacher appraisal requirements?

Performance management systems were first introduced in schools in 1987. Annual appraisal of principals and teachers became mandatory in 1997. The Ministry published a series of guidelines[4] in 1997, which provided boards, principals and teachers with an overview of performance management. The guidelines described the mandated requirements and provided information to help schools develop and implement an appraisal system. The guidelines outlined how appraisal can meet two purposes:

  • improvement - appraisal supports personal development and school capability to meet student outcome goals
  • professional accountability - appraisal provides assurances to the wider community that teaching standards are rigorously applied.

The guidelines explain that effective appraisal involves observation of teaching, self‑appraisal, and opportunities for discussion.[5] Boards of trustees appraise the principal and most delegate responsibility to principals to ensure teachers are appraised annually. Principals must then report the appraisal outcomes to boards.

The mandatory appraisal requirements consist of two sets of teaching standards.

  1. The Professional Standards set out the Government’s expectations of professional performance. The standards are included in the various industrial agreements as a teacher’s progression on the salary scale is linked to their achievement of the standards. In 1998 the Ministry published the professional standards for primary school teachers, and in 1999 a similar set of professional standards and criteria was published for secondary school and area school teachers.
  2. The Registered Teacher Criteria (RTC) sets out mandatory criteria for teachers seeking to gain full registration or renew their practising certificates. The criteria describe elements of professional knowledge in practice and the relationships and values successful teaching requires. These elements are common to all teaching, regardless of the context or teachers’ experience.

In 2011 the New Zealand Teachers Council (Teachers Council) developed Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners as a guide to developing cultural competence for teachers, for their employers, and for providers of initial teacher education and ongoing teacher professional learning. These cultural competencies align closely with the Registered Teacher Criteria.

How does appraisal support system improvement?

School leaders have a pivotal role in ensuring appraisal processes are working well and result in improved teaching and outcomes for students. They need to develop processes that balance the focus on improvement with the requirements for accountability.[6] A summary of the research (for example, Fullan 2011, Sinnema 2005[7]) highlights that appraisal must:

  • not be the lead driver to improve culture
  • be experienced as part of a systemic focus on improvement for all
  • focus on improving teaching practices and outcomes for students by using evidence to understand the impact of practice on outcomes
  • have goals that focus on student learning and outcomes, and are clear, specific and measurable
  • build personal and collective knowledge, skills and practices
  • ensure all practice and results are discussed.

This same research was used to develop Ruia: Teacher Appraisal for Māori learners’ success.[8]Ruia guides schools through a robust process to use appraisal as a tool to improve Māori student outcomes. The research and work in schools shaped the following principles highlighting how appraisal:

  • focuses on the learning of Māori students
  • is inquiry-based, interrogating the relationship between teaching and learning
  • is informed by data
  • builds knowledge that links to teachers’ professional learning needs
  • is improvement-oriented (for both the appraisee and the appraisal process)
  • emphasises individual responsibility and accountability
  • recognises the importance of school-wide collaboration and collective responsibility
  • is rigorous, providing real opportunities for change and for exploring what works and what does not work
  • is embedded and ongoing.[9]

Sources of information for this report

Information for this report was drawn from three sources:

  • an online survey of a random sample of principals about teacher appraisal (204 principals, 69 percent response rate)
  • an investigation of a range of performance management practices in 173 primary schools in Term 1, 2013
  • an investigation of a range of performance management practices in 27 secondary schools in Term 1, 2013.

What did the online survey ask?

The online survey gathered detailed information from principals about the schools’ documented policies and procedures, monitoring processes, training, sources of information and advice, and appraisal practices. It also asked them to report how effective they thought their appraisal system was in improving teacher practices and outcomes for all students.

The demographic characteristics of responding schools were generally similar to those of all schools nationally.

Further information about the methodology can be found in Appendix 1.