Paulo Santiago (Angola, 1968) believes that one of the great problems of education in Spain is the fear of teachers to open the doors of the classroom. A kind of aversion to external supervision. Criticizes that the culture of evaluation is far from the levels of other countries of the OECD, because teachers perceive it as a threat, as an accountability that can have negative consequences in their career. Data from some OECD studies, as the Talis (2013), confirm their perception: 36% of secondary teachers in Spain have never been subjected to formal and external evaluation of their work, while the average of the countries of the organization is 9%.
Santiago, who participated yesterday in the first forum held by the Ministry of Education to review and modernize the teaching profession, answered the EL PAÍS questions one day after the minister Isabel Celaá announce its intention to promote voluntary evaluation in primary, secondary and vocational training teachers.
Question. Why is it so important to evaluate teachers?
Answer. Teacher evaluation is a priority issue. If a profession is not evaluated, the message that is being transmitted is that it is not important. There is a second reading: the evaluation serves to improve professionally, because bad practices are detected. Exchange experiences with other colleagues and develop learning networks within the center is essential. Then there are other functions that have to do with accountability to the system, because the teacher has to justify that he does his job well. We must defend the interests of children. That's why evaluation has to exist.
P. What is the evaluation model of the OECD countries that you consider most appropriate?
R. There are several ways to achieve the same goal. It depends on the state of maturity of the evaluation culture of each country. For example, in Spain it is not conceived as an instrument to improve teaching practice. It is perceived as a control. There is not a glance of the advantage that supposes for the teacher. In countries like Norway, Finland Y Sweden, the evaluations arise from the teachers themselves, they are supervisions that are part of the daily life of the school, they are not imposed by the administrations.
They arise from the director of the center, which has greater autonomy. There the feedback between teachers is continuous, they enter the classrooms and give their feedback to other colleagues. The professor assumes that responsibility to guarantee the quality of his work. There are other systems with more formal processes, well established, such as Singapore or England, where there is an initial self-assessment, where the objectives are decided each year and there is an intermediate mid-course evaluation through observation in the classroom. At the end of the year, the teacher shows his progress with a portfolio. This happens in countries with a greater tradition of center autonomy, such as Estonia or Slovakia. In Chile there is also a long tradition of well-established evaluation.
Salary improvements should not be direct, but linked to promotion, to exercise other roles within the school
P. Should that process start with a mandatory or voluntary evaluation?
R. At the beginning you need an external push, with good communication, explaining well to teachers what it is for. The main purpose is the improvement of teaching. From the OECD we recommend two elements. On the one hand, a more institutional, external evaluation that serves to render accounts and climb steps in the race. On the other hand, let the school develop its evaluation system to measure that learning. They must develop a personalized plan for each teacher. The professor will be more open to discuss their weaknesses because there is no external control. The communication will be with your director or department partners. The Administration has to request accountability from the director, but not from the teacher.
P. Do you think that the evaluation should be linked to salary improvements?
R. Not direct, but linked to the promotion, to exercise other roles within the school, which in turn will allow a salary improvement. No bonuses can be given as a result of an evaluation. Where it has been done, it has not worked. These salary increases can have perverse effects: damage the climate of the school, generate competitiveness.
P. Do you think that competitive examinations are effective in selecting good teachers?
R. In most of the OECD countries – 60% – the hiring of teachers depends on the schools. In 50% of them, teachers are not public employees. The system of oppositions is very problematic, it does not ensure the fit between the needs of the center and the abilities of the teacher. A system that allows direct contact with an interview is always better. The opposition does not measure the elements that ensure effective teaching practice. In England or Glen it is the school district that contracts and the school is in the selection panel and is the one that defines the hiring criteria.
Oppositions are problematic. You can give favoritism. That model demands a lot of transparency
P. Are there disadvantages in that active participation of the schools?
R. There are problematic aspects. The favoritism. That model requires a lot of transparency, and controls to ensure that the director has the ability to choose well. It is also necessary to ensure that schools in disadvantaged environments have more resources to attract competent teachers. In a favored area there will be a greater number of quality candidates. With those aspects you have to be careful.
P. Is there an objective way to measure the performance of a teacher?
R. In most countries, teaching careers are defined at the institutional level. Equal promotion of all teachers must be ensured and, therefore, the necessary competencies for each level are defined. These categories are associated with tasks within the school and are defined by the central government. In Sweden, which is an exception, there is no career and salaries are defined by the director of the center at the individual level: each teacher has a different salary. But it is an extreme case that I do not recommend. It generates unfair situations among teachers.
P. Should the evaluation be voluntary or mandatory?
R. Every Five or seven years should certify that a teacher has the skills to be in a classroom. Then there is the development of the teaching career, different roles within the school that lead to improved salaries. That part must be voluntary, it depends on the career that the teacher wants to follow. Statistics show that the majority of teachers who leave the profession do so in the first five years. That is why evaluation in the initial phase is crucial.
P. The comparison between OECD countries shows that the salary of Spanish teachers is below the average.
R. The wage evolution in Spain is more compressed. At the beginning of the profession is higher than in the rest of countries, but after 15 years does not grow at the same pace. If a country that has a lack of teachers, it is a good idea to increase the starting salary to attract new profiles. If there is a problem of motivation, wage incentives must be implemented. Our data indicate that motivation decreases with the passage of time. It is true that this problem is not solved only with money, other recognition formulas are also important.