Home' Teacher : March 2011 Contents 18 TEACHER MARCH 2011
go a long way toward achieving this aim.
The highest paid staff members in every
school should be its expert teachers. Why do
we want expert teachers in our classrooms?
Because expertise begets expertise.
The problems caused by poor perform-
ing teachers must also be addressed. Good
teachers are disheartened when they see
less effective colleagues receive greater rec-
ognition. Sadly, this happens all too often
in our schools. Research conducted by the
Boston Consulting Group in 2003 for the
then Victorian Department of Education
and Training found that up to 30 per cent
of teachers are considered by school prin-
cipals as being either below-average or sig-
nificantly underperforming, yet, as Jensen
notes, 'nearly all Australian school princi-
pals report that they would not take steps to
alter the monetary rewards of a persistently
Australian teachers typically undergo a
review of their performance each year. The
problem with annual performance reviews,
though, is that they offer no rewards to
those who perform well as teachers and few
consequences for those who perform badly.
Moreover, you simply cannot measure a
teacher's effectiveness in the classroom by
compelling them to undertake a written
performance review each year.
Good teachers like to observe and strive
to emulate the performance of better teach-
ers. They reflect continuously on their prac-
tice, which is why they are good and how
they improve. But much of what school
systems and principals currently demand
from teachers in performance reviews has
more to do with the rhetoric of education
than with performance in the classroom.
And most of this is couched in meaningless
education jargon and managerial language.
At best, performance reviews maintain
the status quo in schools. At worst, they
protect incompetence, as poor-performing
teachers need only to write well, interview
well and speak the language of education
in order to survive and, dare I say, flourish.
So, how should school principals review
the performance of teachers? By opening the
classroom door and spending time in their
classrooms, just as parents do on Open Day.
And how can principals inspire their
staff to aspire to become more effective
teachers? The best principals lead by exam-
ple from the classroom. Every school prin-
cipal should have a teaching allotment; they
should model expert teaching from their
There is nothing that I do in my present
school, or have done at other schools in
which I've worked, that is more important
than my classroom teaching. While aspects
of my role as a curriculum dean are impor-
tant they pale into insignificance when com-
pared with my teaching. I may be a leader in
many forms or guises but my leadership may
be validated only against my performance
in the classroom.
What teachers do after closing the class-
room door, four to five periods a day, five
days each week, changes lives. Open Day
is a good time to remind ourselves of this.
We should explicitly, rather than implicitly,
value and reward our expert teachers, and
we should do so regularly, not just on Open
Day, as effective teaching is the best route to
improved student achievement and greater
Russell Boyle is an education consultant,
author, teacher, and a poet.
Boston Consulting Group. (2003).
Schools Strategy Workforc e Development.
Melbourne: Victorian Department of
Education and Training.
Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers m ake a dif-
ference: What is the research evidence?
2003 rsearch conferenc e of the Australian
Council for Educ ation al Research --
Building teacher quality: What does the
research tell us? Melbourne: Australian
Council for Educ ation al Research.
Jense n , B. (2010).
Investing in Our Economy. Melbourne:
We must keep our expert
teachers in the profession
and in the classroom.
Rewarding expert teachers
with the status and salary
currently enjoyed by
school principals would
go a long way toward
achieving this aim.
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