Part 4: Appraising experienced teachers

Institutional arrangements for training, registering, and appraising teachers.

When a teacher has become fully registered, the individual teacher and their employer (the school and, in particular, the principal) become primarily responsible for maintaining and developing the quality of that teacher's work. External organisations have a role in either:

  • checking or responding to complaints; or
  • general guidance to help schools make appropriate judgements.

Through its formal disciplinary process, the Council has final responsibility for removing a teacher from the register and profession, where necessary.

The Ministry of Education's professional standards

In most employment situations, performance reviews and improved performance are reflected in salary adjustments. For teachers, the link is not so direct because the Ministry controls salaries within the terms of nationally negotiated collective employment contracts.

In 1987, performance management systems were first introduced in schools and the Ministry prepared guidelines and professional standards for teachers to support those systems. In 1999, as part of the Government's negotiation of the Primary and Secondary Teachers Collective Employment Contracts, these professional standards were included in the contracts to provide a basis for annual increases in salary.

These professional standards describe three basic levels of classroom teachers:

  • beginning classroom teachers – provisionally registered teachers in the first two years of teaching;
  • classroom teachers – registered teachers who have generally been teaching for between three and five years; and
  • experienced classroom teachers.

Leaders and managers of teachers – such as deputy principals and assistant principals (primary schools) and holders of additional responsibility (secondary schools) – must meet the classroom teacher standards and additional standards.

The roles of the Board of Trustees and principal

As the employer, the Board of Trustees is responsible for overall personnel management in a school, within the terms of the relevant collective employment contracts. Usually, the Board delegates responsibility for staff performance to the principal. Therefore, school leaders have a pivotal role in:

  • appraising teachers;
  • ensuring that procedures for appraising teachers are set up and work well; and
  • using the results of appraisals to improve the standard of teaching.

Within the quality assurance and accountability framework, a Board of Trustees can design performance appraisal systems to suit its school and community.

Boards of Trustees must ensure that what they expect of teachers reflects teachers' main professional responsibilities. In 1997, the Ministry set major responsibilities for teachers including:

  • teaching responsibilities, such as planning and preparing lessons, teaching techniques, managing classrooms, maintaining classroom environments, knowing the curriculum, and assessing students;
  • school-wide responsibilities, such as contributing to curriculum leadership, school-wide planning, school goals, the effective operation of the school, pastoral activities, student counselling, and community relationships; and
  • management responsibilities, such as planning, making decisions, reporting, professional leadership, and managing resources.

Because Boards of Trustees may design a system for appraising staff performance that suits their schools and community, procedures for appraising teachers vary widely.

Depending on the size of the school, principals may delegate the responsibility for appraising teachers to a professionally competent third party.

Appraising teachers

Teachers are assessed against the Ministry's professional standards contained in the collective employment contracts. Under the terms of the contracts, Boards of Trustees (through their appraisers) must follow these standards. The standards closely mirror the responsibilities set out in the Ministry's 1997 guidance for performance management systems.

The guidance for managing performance requires that appraisers be professionally competent. There is no definition of the knowledge and expertise required to be an appraiser. In most schools, the principal is the usual appraiser.

The results of appraisals are used to guide salary progression up a stepped scale. In practice, most teachers progress up the salary scale each year.

The results of teacher appraisals are also used to work out recommendations about the applications for full registration and for renewing practising certificates. These recommendations should be in line with the Registered Teacher Criteria and the Guidelines for Induction and Mentoring and Mentor Teachers.

If a teacher appraisal identifies problems, the relevant collective employment contract contains sections that outline how competence issues will be dealt with.

Section 139 of the Act requires some concerns to be reported to the Council. Reporting to the Council is mandatory when, despite completing a competence procedure, a teacher has not reached the required level of competence, and when a teacher resigns after the school tells them it is dissatisfied with some aspect of their competence.

Education Review Office reports

ERO's reports on individual schools provide evaluative information about:

  • the quality of teaching of The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa; and
  • the school's policies and practices that support teaching and learning.

As part of its review processes, ERO seeks assurance that:

  • the Board of Trustees has satisfactory processes in place to manage teachers' performance; and
  • schools have suitable processes for checking and maintaining the registration of teachers.

ERO does not assess how well individual teachers teach. This is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees, through the principal. If, as part of a review, ERO identifies concerns about aspects of teacher practice, it seeks assurance that school managers are aware of and are addressing these concerns through appropriate performance management and professional development.

ERO regularly publishes National Evaluation Reports, which include comment about teacher practice related to specific government priorities.

ERO's National Evaluation Reports Managing Professional Learning and Development in Primary Schools (2009) and Managing Professional Learning and Development in Secondary Schools (2009) show that how well schools manage professional learning and development varies widely. A significant factor affecting how well teachers' professional learning and development is managed appears to be how well the principal leads and manages the school's professional learning and development programme.

The New Zealand Teachers Council's role in appraising teachers

Renewing practising certificates

The Act requires registered teachers to renew their practising certificates every three years. The Council requires teachers to provide information on their recent teaching experience and to sign a declaration on matters relevant to their fitness to teach. The Council arranges for Police vetting, and requires the principal to confirm that the teacher:

  • is of good character and fit to be a teacher;
  • has satisfactory recent teaching experience;
  • has performed satisfactorily against each of the Registered Teacher Criteria; and
  • has completed satisfactory professional development.

When a possible problem with a fully registered teacher comes to light, the Council has other functions.

Handling complaints

The Act requires people who want to lodge a complaint about a teacher to complain, in the first instance, to the teacher's employer. This allows the employer to consider and respond to any performance concerns with the teacher in the usual way. In some circumstances, the Council may hear a complaint directly.

The Act requires employers to report issues of possible incompetence to the Council when:

  • a teacher is dismissed;
  • a teacher resigns and the employer has told the Council of a competence issue in the last 12 months;
  • they receive a complaint about an employee who has left within the last 12 months;
  • they have reason to believe (after investigating) that a teacher has engaged in serious misconduct; and
  • they believe that a teacher has not reached the required level of competence, despite completing competence procedures.

The Teachers Council Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) must consider any complaints or reports that the Council receives. First, the CAC must consider whether to refer the matter back to the employer. If it considers that it should not, the CAC can investigate. A CAC investigation can have several possible outcomes. The two extremes are that the CAC could dismiss the matter or refer it to the Council's Disciplinary Tribunal for a hearing. Other options are to:

  • refer the teacher to a competence review or impairment process;
  • agree with the teacher and the complainant to censure the teacher; or
  • suspend or impose a condition on the teacher's practising certificate until some additional supervision or training requirement has been met.

The emphasis of the Council's competence process is on helping the teacher to be competent.

Where matters are referred to the Council's Disciplinary Tribunal, the Tribunal can, after a hearing:

  • dismiss the matter;
  • refer the teacher to a competence review or impairment process;
  • formally censure the teacher;
  • suspend or impose conditions on the teacher's practising certificate until specified conditions have been met;
  • impose a fine; or
  • cancel the teacher's registration.

Complaints about teachers

The system for ongoing registration of experienced teachers is similar to that of many other professions.

In 2010, the Council reported that it had received 265 complaints or mandatory reports under the Act during 2009/10. The CAC resolved 235 of these.8 Overall, the number of complaints and the numbers requiring a disciplinary response are small relative to the number of registered teachers.

Although the number of complaints is small, it has been increasing in recent years, as shown in Figure 1. For 2009/10, the Council received one complaint about a teacher for every 358 registered teachers (0.28% of teachers) or about one complaint for every 189 practising teachers (0.53% of teachers).9

Figure 1 shows that each year, except for 2008/09, about 20% of complaints were about competence. The number of complaints about competence is small relative to the number of registered teachers. There were such complaints about 0.06% of registered teachers or 0.12% of practising teachers in 2009/10. As a comparison, the number of complaints to the Nursing Council about the competence of nurses is similarly small (0.15% of registered nurses in 2010/11).10

Figure 1
Number of complaints about teachers received by the New Zealand Teachers Council, 2006 to 2010

Figure 1 - Number of complaints about teachers received by the New Zealand Teachers Council, 2006 to 2010.

Source: Annual reports of the New Zealand Teachers Council, 2007-2010.

The Council's Disciplinary Tribunal considers the most serious complaints against teachers. In 2009/10, 22 complaints were referred to that Tribunal one complaint for every 4318 registered teachers or for every 2273 practising teachers.11

The low rate of complaints against teachers about competence, or resulting in disciplinary action, is not surprising. Some complaints raised with the individual teachers or their schools will be resolved, end with remedial professional development, or never be escalated to the Council.

The system has safeguards designed to protect against the risk of incompetent teachers moving to another school and continuing to practice. In certain instances where there is concern about a teacher's competence, the Council is able to annotate the register, even if the teacher resigns before the complaint has been formally dealt with.

Our overall comments about appraising teachers

Two sets of standards

There are two separate sets of professional standards. The Council uses the Registered Teacher Criteria to register teachers. These criteria are minimum standards for entry and ongoing membership of the teaching profession. The Ministry has professional standards that are used to assess teachers' pay, competence, and professional development.

Performance management systems in schools need to reflect both the Council's and the Ministry's standards. Some evidence suggests that, in practice, the Ministry's standards are the default standards used in schools and many early childhood centres.

There is a risk that there are multiple interpretations of the standards used in the system, as well as different standards being used for the same purpose. A clearer explanation and understanding of the discrete purpose of each set of standards would be helpful.

The OECD has said that "agreement to a coherent set of professional standards would assist in the definition and exemplification of quality".12

The main ways to improve the quality of registered and working teachers are through the arrangements that the Ministry negotiates in collective employment contracts and the performance management frameworks that schools use.

Employment relationships are the main means to manage and improve the quality of experienced teachers. Because of this, it is important to support principals to appraise and manage teachers' performance. This is especially so given that, because of collective employment contracts, some of the tools typically available to employers to reward and manage performance are not directly available to principals.

Although the Council can support better teaching by providing information, research, and guidance, one of its main roles is to remove those teachers proved to have fallen below a minimum standard.

8: New Zealand Teachers Council Annual Report 2009/10, page 8.

9 Assumes 95,000 registered teachers and 50,000 practising teachers. Information is from New Zealand Teachers Council Annual Report 2009/10, page 8, and from the Ministry of Education.

10 Assumes 48,527 nurses – information from Nursing Council of New Zealand Annual Report 2010/11, page 35.

11 Assumes 95,000 registered teachers and 50,000 practising teachers. Information is from New Zealand Teachers Council Annual Report 2009/10, page 8, and from the Ministry of Education.

12 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2011), Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes, section 5.3, paragraph 337.

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