The “renewed” education assessment system: will it do any good?

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On August 19th, the Chamber of Deputies’ Commission of Public Education and Educational Services approved in its evening session the drafts of the regulatory laws that rule the education reform issued on February 25th this year. The Law of Professional Teachers Service (LSDP) – whose discussion would be made during the extraordinary session period, but ended up being delayed with the pressure of dissident teachers -, along with the General Law of Education and the Law for the National Institute for Education Assessment (INEE), will be key elements in establishing a new normative platform of teaching. On that regard, LSPD has the purpose of giving the State the power of selecting, maintaining and stimulating teachers and consequently, weaken the SNTE and CNTE’s interference with public education.
The regulatory legislation of the educational reform contemplates positive mechanisms, which would make teaching a profession regulated by performance and training parameters, and not determined through the whims of rigid union and bureaucratic networks. Even though the LSPD is a step on the right direction, it has weaknesses that should be noted. Firstly, how would the “limbo” in which professors that have thrice failed their evaluations (yes, thrice), would be removed from teaching and reassigned to “other activity within the sector work”? In the face of the recent teaching evaluations – where only 3 out of 10 assessed individuals obtained passing grades within the 2013 National Contest for Teaching Positions – we’d probably have 70% of teachers occupying an irrelevant and inefficient administrative post. Secondly, the law suggests that, in order to improve the professional practice of teachers, an assessment is just enough. That is, evaluation is compared to professionalization when, in reality, professionalization is a much broader issue. A professional service implies offering constant training that is up to the standards of new tendencies and might contribute to improving educational quality.
The potential strike to the most vicious customs of the teachers’ union has provoked the emergence of protests (some of them violent) from those who refuse being evaluated out of fear of losing their jobs. This was foreseeable. Nevertheless, if legislators surrender upon these demands and “freeze” the LSPD, the importance of the education reform would be substantially diluted. In addition, if dissidents have their way, they would turn into a factor for showing opponents of energy and tax reforms that violent protests are an effective way to tumble government projects.
Lastly, it is not clear whether the new tools emerging from education reform will be conformed to essential aspects in order for it to be implemented. For starters, according to Sylvia Schmelkes, head of INEE, its institution would need a 25% budgetary raise in 2014 with the purpose of hiring the 5000 evaluators required by the process established within the law. On the other hand, it should be ensured that assessment mechanisms are made with the greatest transparency possible as to avoid a black market of exams just like it happens nowadays. If what is sought is truly an improvement of education system, not only will it be important to watch the autonomy and efficiency of assessments, but to take advantage of the opportunity of professionalizing teachers towards criteria based on the development of capacities that fit our everyday reality. The matter is not accumulating passing grades of teachers and students. The objective should focus on preparing individuals better gifted for facing the complex world they now live in.


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