Opinion: Appraisals

POSTED: 02/10/12 2:19 PM

The Windward Islands Teachers Union Witu has welcomed the use of professional development appraisals – a system that will allow school boards to link performance to salary.

The appraisals are already in use with the St. Maarten Academy and with the Catholic School Board, but others are bound to follow.

The question whether introducing these appraisals is good news or bad news is an interesting one. Wiclu first vice president Claire Elshot sees the system as a way to reveal strengths and weaknesses of individual teachers.

There are without any doubt many good teachers; there are also teachers one could consider average. And then there are – also without any doubt – teachers who should urgently consider a career change, because they’re no good at all.

How does a professional development appraisal affect these teachers and, more importantly, the children in their care and quality of the education system? Good teachers will get rewards for their performance, while average teachers will strive to join the class of good colleagues.

The teachers at the bottom of the pile are going to have problems, no matter how much Elshot wishes that the system will not be used as a hire and fire tool.

In the long run, this is of course exactly what will happen. Which school wants to employ teachers that are no good to them? With basketball team wants to contract a player who is only good at cricket?

So the appraisal system will put some pressure on teachers, that seems certain, but it is not necessarily bad. Teachers will learn through the appraisals what they’re good at and in which fields they need to improve. Those who are ready to make a serious effort will improve. They have nothing to worry about and the education system as a whole will benefit.

But the teachers that are unwilling or incapable to improve their performance will in the end be confronted with a choice: do or die.

Finding out that you are doing a job at which you are not good at all is of course not news anybody wants to hear. But we are talking about our future generation here – about the children that will become our future leaders. They are entitled to the best education possible. If this means that extremely weak teachers have to start looking for another job, so be it.

After all, everybody is good at something, and teachers who are forced to leave the profession because they do not meet the required standards, may find their own departure towards a new future even liberating.

At the same time, we agree with Mrs. Elshot that the country needs a uniform appraisal system, so that teachers will be appraised in a consistent manner. That is something to look at very carefully. All in all, we are with Mrs. Elshot in welcoming the appraisal-system. It will give teachers the opportunity to improve on their weak points – and it will also give them some bragging rights for their strong points.

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