This report presents the findings of ERO’s evaluation of schools’ approaches to teacher appraisal. ERO gathered data for this evaluation in Term 1, 2013. Information was gathered from online surveys completed by principals, investigations during scheduled education reviews of 173 schools with Years 1 to 8 students, and focused reviews on employment related matters in 27 schools with Years 9 to 13 students.
Research has recognised the importance of building professional capability to improve outcomes for all students. It is not enough to develop an appraisal system that focuses on professional accountability alone. Schools, and the agencies that support them, need to focus on improvement as well. Effective appraisal should be experienced as a component within a self-review framework that focuses on improving achievement for all students in the school.
ERO found that the schools in this study with highly robust appraisal processes balanced a professional accountability focus with a strong desire to make improvements for their students. They looked deeply into student achievement results to determine the impacts of changes in teaching practice and to decide what aspects of their teaching they needed to improve. Necessary teaching improvements identified through Teaching as Inquiry often contributed to their appraisal goals. Teachers recognised the relationship between effective appraisal, strengthened professional practice and the ongoing processes used in the school to identify and support improvement.
High quality teacher appraisal was implemented as part of the planning and reporting cycle in the most successful schools. It was linked to the goals of the strategic plan, to the annual plan, to the principal’s performance management system, and to decisions about teacher professional development (PLD). ERO found a strong relationship between the rigour of teacher attestation and registration, and the quality of the appraisal process in these schools. These schools had leaders who knew how to embed appraisal into an improvement-focused self-review system that was implemented consistently well across the school.
The system-wide challenge identified through ERO’s evaluation is that, although we found models of the good practice described above, appraisal systems in the majority of schools in this study did not contribute sufficiently to improving teacher capability and student outcomes. Although most of the schools reviewed had compliant appraisal systems that included all the accountability aspects required, there was limited evidence of appraisal systems as an integral component of overall school improvement.
In some large schools pockets of robust appraisal were found in parts of the school but not consistently across the school. This was particularly evident in secondary schools where the quality and robustness of appraisal often varied considerably between subject departments.
In some schools or departments, the appraisal systems’ limited focus on improvement reflected wider issues, such as leaders’ poor understanding of curriculum management, assessment, or self review.
ERO’s findings highlight the need for schools to move from the prevalent compliance approach to realise the potential of appraisal as a tool for both individual teachers and the whole school. The examples of good practice in this report confirm that when appraisal is firmly linked with other school self‑review components there is a synergy and an urgency that can strengthen professional capability and improve outcomes for all students.