Australia Adopts System to Assess Teachers Yearly

Australian education ministers have approved a new teacher assessment framework that will have instructors undergoing an evaluation every year. Although the details of the implementation are being left up to schools, every teacher must receive a performance review that will take into account student academic results, parent feedback and a classroom observation.

The new system has enthusiastic support from federal Education Minister Peter Garrett, who said that putting the evaluation framework in place will have a significant impact on the quality of Australian education. He added that regular reviews will give teachers more immediate feedback on their classroom performance, as well as giving schools the opportunity to closely tailor career development opportunities offered to their staff. He also believes that schools need this new tool to identify underperforming teachers early in order to provide them additional training before their classroom performance has a negative impact on students.

Mr Garrett said the reviews would allow the "many terrific teachers" to demonstrate their high performance, while "also providing opportunities to improve their skills where needed". Teachers will be given a set of documented, measurable and specific goals that will be agreed with their school principal or a delegate. Teachers will be able to collect evidence that they are achieving their objectives.

During the course of the meeting, education ministers were also brought up to date on progress by the Australian Curriculum Reporting and Assessment Authority to change how national student assessment exams are administered. Currently, schools use traditional answer sheets for the NAPLAN tests, but the authority is considering a plan to switch the test to an online format to allow for quicker grading and to reduce associated costs.

Ministers are also expected to endorse the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders, which sets out a national approach to professional development. Mr Garrett said the aim was to embed a culture of continuous improvement within teaching.

The ministers will also be asked to reaffirm their support for new standards for teacher training, including a minimum of two years of post-graduate training, to begin in 2015.

The assessment system is considered to be a step by Garrett to once again highlight the importance of teacher quality in Australia's education debate. How teachers are trained and certified has been discussed over the last several months, but the volume increased with last week's release of a paper by New South Wales Education Minister Adrian Piccoli that recommended a complete overhaul of teacher training programs around the country.

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