Major flaws found in monitoring of teacher quality in NSW
The report found flawed performance strategies contributed to only 53 teachers – in a permanent and casual workforce of 88,000 – who were formally identified as underperforming.
Just 29 were dismissed or resigned because of poor performance. Principal reluctance was also a factor in the low numbers identified as underperforming.
Some were hesitant to begin performance management due to the time it took, and others because of past experience. “Several principals … recalled instances where teachers submitted bullying and harassment claims after being informed their practice was below standard,” it said.
The main strategy to improve teaching, the Performance and Development Framework (PDF), was not being used effectively, with little guidance to schools about setting quality goals, observing teachers at work or providing effective feedback.
Teachers also had to agree with all the goals in their Performance Development Plan, “which limits the ability of the principal or supervisor to set goals to target areas of greatest individual need,” the report said.
Teachers could select who observes them and negotiate what will be observed. “This introduces risks that underperforming teachers choose peers rather than supervisors to conduct the observation, and do not receive effective feedback,” the report said.
“Teachers must also agree to all written feedback. This limits opportunities for robust supervisor feedback to target areas for improvement.”
Even though quality feedback could increase teachers’ effectiveness by up to 30 per cent, the department also failed to clearly communicate its expectations about what teachers’ professional goals should look like, the report said.
It also found the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) did not check principals’ decisions to accredit teachers as proficient. “This exposes a risk that teachers may be accredited without meeting minimum standards,” it said.
NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the report was an indictment of Local Schools, Local Decisions, a 2012 policy that stripped central resources from the department and gave principals the power to choose resources as needed.
Mr Mulheron said that decision dramatically reduced teacher support and departmental involvement. “I think the Auditor-General has missed the point,” he said. “That policy decision has been catastrophic.
“The department’s capacity to support the teaching profession was gutted.” Any departmental response to the Auditor-General’s report would need to be negotiated with teachers, he said.
David Hope, the president of the Northern Sydney District Council of P&C Associations, said teacher performance was one of the most pressing issues facing the system.
“Kids can be in classes of the same subject at a school, and their experience can be quite different. The system doesn’t effectively deal with performance issues,” he said. “There’s more effort going into it now, but it’s still way below what I’d call best practice.”
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said the department welcomed the report, and accepted all its recommendations. It was in the process of implementing them in association with NESA.
Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald