In its leap year edition, the newspaper Reforma published an official announcement by the Education Secretariat (SEP): “The efforts of teachers will be reflected in their paychecks. More than 10,000 teachers who attained outstanding or excellent results on the evaluation of teaching performance will receive a 35% increase in base pay.
“In addition, they will have preferential access to ISSSTE housing and personal loans.”
Problems are a foregone conclusion when generous benefits are based on an instrument of uncertain reliability and validity. Once given, they could well constitute acquired labor benefits in perpetuity for the few, and a source of frustration for many.
Eduardo Backhoff, member of the governing council of the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE), in an article published in El Universal at the end of 2015, wrote: “It remains to be seen in what measure the empirical information provided by teachers on the instruments utilized can sustain claims of technical validity and educational propriety . . . . The analysis of the quality of these instruments, of their administration, and of the social conditions under which they took place, which the INEE should initiate soon, will allow us to identify errors and correct them so that the process of teacher evaluation can be improved.”
Backhoff admitted that, if necessary, “we may have to stop along the way to insure that the results of the evaluation of teaching performance are valid and reliable, before we base any decisions on them.”
Unfortunately, important decisions have already been based on the performance evaluation. Often the very thing we know shouldn’t be done is the very same thing we race off to do. The exam for teacher evaluation was a developing instrument in process of validation, without terrible consequences (it has often been announced that no one who took the test would lose his or her job).
Suddenly it became a test that allowed 8% of Mexican teachers to get considerable material benefits and an elevated status with respect to their peers, without any requirement for classroom observation of teaching practice.
The uncertain validity of evaluation lies precisely in the fact that no one has been able to convincingly claim that being able to answer multiple-choice questions identifies a teacher capable of lighting the fire of learning in a diverse group of students.
If we want to reward outstanding teachers, at least we need to triangulate the results of a number of evaluative instruments to identify them. Fine, use the evaluation of teaching performance, but combine it with classroom observations by expert educators and the results of parent and student surveys, for example.
And yes, give outstanding teachers a 35% raise and preferential access to credit, but in exchange for service such as mentoring rookie teachers or coordinating the School Technical Council. Don’t give a perpetual salary bump for doing well on a particular test at a given time.
Instead of rewarding the individual exercise of outstanding test-taking ability regardless of commitment to school and students, use additional pay to leverage actions and attitudes which encourage leadership and collaboration by teachers tending to improve student learning.
Campbell’s Law states, “The more any quantitative social indicator . . . is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” (Wikipedia).
In the past we saw how one instrument for measuring student performance, the ENLACE, was corrupted by cheating scandals when teachers were given bonuses for high performance by their students on the test.
Let’s lower the level of pressure on this indicator so as to avoid further corruption of the process of teacher evaluation.
The writer is an educator with many years of experience in the administration of schools in North and South America. He lives in Pachuca, Hidalgo.