This report for the Czech Republic forms part of the OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes (see Annex A for further details). The purpose of the Review is to explore how systems of evaluation and assessment can be used to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of school education. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation.
Acronyms and abbreviations
Student learning outcomes in the Czech Republic are around or slightly below the OECD average, depending on the skills assessed. However, there is some evidence from international student surveys of a significant decline in student learning outcomes in the last decade. There are also indications that both performance and choice of educational track are strongly influenced by family background. Another concern relates to the basis for attending a special school, sometimes as a result of learning difficulties and/or a social disadvantage and not following the identification of a learning disability.
School education in the Czech Republic
School governance in the Czech Republic is fairly decentralised and involves three levels of administration: the central government, regions and municipalities. This follows a major reform of public administration in 2002 which strengthened self-government. Each region is the organising body of secondary schools, while municipalities take responsibility for pre-primary and basic schools. The content of instruction in the Czech Republic is established at two levels as dictated by the 2005 Education Act, the main legislative document governing education. At the central level, the Ministry determines Framework Education Programmes (FEPs) for each educational area within pre-primary, basic and secondary education. In agreement with such framework, schools further develop School Education Programmes (SEPs), which consist of the operationalisation of FEPs to fit the context of individual schools. This reflects increased autonomy for schools from an education system which, prior to 1989, was characterised by a strong central direction and the standardisation of processes. Student learning outcomes in the Czech Republic are around or slightly below the OECD average but have shown a serious decline in recent years. There are also concerns about strong social selectivity and inequities in the education system, including misplacement of some students in special schools.
The evaluation and assessment framework
Evaluation and assessment in the Czech Republic operates at four key levels: (i) system (national and regional subsystems) – namely through education indicators and international student surveys; (ii) school – external inspection by the Czech School Inspectorate and school self-evaluation; (iii) teacher – through school-dictated approaches to performance management; and (iv) student – with instruments ranging from external national examinations to ongoing daily formative assessment in the classroom. The overall evaluation and assessment framework appears fragmented with individual components which developed independently of each other over time. Particularly positive characteristics of the framework include the existence of common references at the national level; good conditions for adapting learning to local needs; a good articulation of responsibilities; a range of initiatives to strengthen evaluation and assessment; the "open door" climate among teachers; and the growing understanding of the need to support policy work with specific expertise. However, considerable challenges exist in building an effective evaluation and assessment framework. These include the incipient development of some key components; missing links between different elements of the framework; insufficient attention to equity and inclusion; student learning objectives not perceived as specific enough to guide teaching and assessment; a narrow understanding of the purposes of evaluation and assessment; insufficient competencies for evaluation and assessment across the system; limited support from the centre; and inadequate articulation between levels of government.
Student performance in the Czech Republic is assessed by a wide range of instruments, ranging from externally-based examinations to ongoing daily formative assessment in the classroom. All students are assessed in an ongoing manner throughout the school year in each curriculum area. Students are assessed both orally and through school-based tests/examinations. Marks used to report student achievement are on a scale of 1 to 5. Assessment criteria and methods are defined by each school. There are no externallybased national final examinations at the end of basic (and compulsory) education. By contrast, exit examinations are mandatory at the end of secondary education. These refer to the school-leaving examination and the final examination to obtain the apprenticeship certificate. As of 2011, the school-leaving examinations have a common national standardised part. Finally, full-cohort national standardised tests are currently being introduced in grades 5 and 9 of basic education in the Czech language, foreign language and mathematics. A major asset is that assessment is seen as part of the professional role of teachers in the Czech Republic. Other strengths include the introduction of an external dimension to assessment and the increased focus on student outcomes. However, considerable challenges exist in building effective student assessment approaches. These include the currently traditional approaches to learning and assessment; the incipient development of assessment for learning; concerns about current approaches to summative assessment; the limited consistency of student assessment across schools and classes; the potential risks of national standardised tests; the little interaction among teachers around student assessment; the insufficient attention to assessment skills in initial teacher education; and the narrow information reported to parents and legal guardians.
In the Czech Republic, there are no national requirements for teacher appraisal and no formal procedures exist to periodically evaluate the performance of teachers. However, teacher appraisal is typically conducted by school principals in approaches defined locally by the schools. Teacher appraisal takes place (1) when teachers are hired as a way to assess their teaching capacities; and (2) as part of teachers’ regular work in the school through observations made by their school principals. There are no national performance criteria or reference teaching standards to guide the process. Appraisal criteria are decided by the schools and often by the school principal in processes which tend to include interviews and classroom observation. In the context of their autonomy, school principals generally use the results of teacher appraisal in defining professional development plans of individual teachers and in determining their career progression and pay levels. Particularly positive features of teacher appraisal include the wide acceptance of the principle that teachers should be evaluated; the focus on evaluating classroom teaching; the legal recognition of the importance of teacher professional development; the existing linkages with school evaluation; and the plans to develop teaching standards and a new career system for teachers. However, the development of teacher appraisal is faced with a number of challenges. These include the non-existence of a shared understanding of what constitutes high quality teaching; the non-systematic implementation of teacher appraisal; the little tradition of educational leadership in schools; the tensions between the accountability and improvement functions of teacher appraisal; the lack of transparency in linking teacher appraisal to salary rewards; and the poor links between teacher appraisal and professional development.
There are two main forms of school evaluation in the Czech Republic: school selfevaluation and school external inspection. The latter is the responsibility of the Czech School Inspectorate. Mandatory external school evaluations are conducted in a 3-year cycle. These involve, for each school in the system, a sequence of activities comprising a preparatory phase for the school; a visit by a team of inspectors including the observation of teaching and learning in the classroom; the publication of the team’s report; and a follow-up phase to respond to the recommendations in the report which typically involves the organising bodies (regions and municipalities). The precise nature of school self-evaluation varies across schools as the legal requirement to undertake it does not come with a prescribed approach (but guidelines are available). Schools are required to reflect the results of self-evaluation in the school annual report. Organising bodies also inspect their respective schools but typically concentrate on compliance with financial regulations. Particularly positive features of school evaluation include the good establishment of external school evaluation; the features of best practice embodied in the external evaluation model; the follow-up support to the more challenged schools; the importance of classroom observation in school evaluation processes; and the new emphasis on schools’ self-evaluation. However, the development of school evaluation is faced with a number of challenges. These include the limited emphasis on school improvement of external school evaluation; the little emphasis on student results and progress; the incipient development of school self-evaluation; the limited use of data in school development; the limited scope and impact of the evaluation by organising bodies; and the limited recognition of the role of school leaders.
Education system evaluation
A range of tools are used to monitor performance of the education system. The monitoring system includes a range of statistics on education based on snap-shot data collected from schools on a standardised format. Also, international benchmarks of student performance provided by international student surveys such as PISA and TIMSS have been influential in driving policy development at the system level. At the moment, no national-level information on student learning outcomes which is comparable across schools and regions and over time is available but the Ministry is currently developing national standardised tests in grades 5 and 9 in Czech language, foreign language and mathematics to address this gap. In addition, there has been a growing interest in undertaking studies of the impact of policy initiatives and in preparing thematic reports which can inform policy development. Particularly positive features of system evaluation include the well-established education indicators framework; the concern to assess the progress of the education system towards pre-established objectives; the qualitative analysis undertaken in thematic reports; and the participation in international student surveys. However, system evaluation is faced with a number of challenges. These include the little emphasis on the evaluation of the education system; the absence of student performance data for system monitoring; the lack of measures on students’ socio-economic background; the little emphasis on investigating inequities in the system; the limited information on the teaching and learning environment; the challenges faced with monitoring at the region and municipality levels; and the room to better exploit system-level information.
Conclusions and recommendations
Student learning outcomes in the Czech Republic are around or slightly below the OECD average, depending on the skills assessed. In 2009, achievement levels of Czech students in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were not statistically significantly different from the OECD average in mathematics and science and were just below the OECD average with statistical significance in reading literacy. However, trend analyses of PISA results have shown a serious decline in student learning outcomes, among the most serious in the OECD area – for instance, the Czech Republic is among the four OECD countries for which performance in reading literacy between 2000 and 2009 decreased significantly.
The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes
The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes is designed to respond to the strong interest in evaluation and assessment issues evident at national and international levels. It provides a description of design, implementation and use of assessment and evaluation procedures in countries; analyses strengths and weaknesses of different approaches; and provides recommendations for improvement. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation. The Review focuses on primary and secondary education.
Composition of the Review Team
Comparative indicators on evaluation and assessment
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