Education is the basis for a successful future of our societies. Equally, teachers are the building blocks of the success of a country’s education system. Indeed, a well developed system combines many different elements, including national curricula and standards, the management and performance of schools, the quality, motivation and perspectives of teachers, and an effective education evaluation system. But teachers are key and therefore many governments are putting more emphasis on their role.
Since the start of the Co-operation Agreement in 2008 to improve the quality of education, the OECD and the government of Mexico have co-operated closely to support current and future education reform efforts. The work has focused on effective policy design and implementation, evaluation and assessment, teacher incentives, teacher policy and school performance. This report presents the findings and main considerations for Mexico to support reform in these areas. As part of this work, the OECD has mobilised its existing stock of knowledge and expertise, reviewed relevant international practice on these issues, and participated in consultations with national and international experts, as well as with Mexican stakeholders through technical meetings, international workshops and review visits.
Mexico, as the world’s 14th largest economy (2009), faces important challenges in education. Despite the significant progress of the past decades in terms of access to education, improvements in completion rates for lower education levels and development of learning assessments, considerable improvement is still needed. Mexico already invests a high percentage of the public budget in education (at nearly 22%, it is the highest among OECD countries). Results from the 2009 round of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have shown that although improvement is possible in a relatively short period of time, important challenges remain. In addition to improving the quality of educational services, increasing attainment levels and reducing drop-out rates are also priorities. It is equally important, however, for Mexico to ensure that all students, including those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and indigenous families, have equal educational opportunities.
Mexico Responds to Education Challenges
To address persisting challenges in education, the Mexican government established clear policy priorities for education reforms in its Education Sector Programme 2007-12 (SEP, 2007). To monitor progress towards achieving objectives, the Programme established improvement indicators for student achievement as measured by the national ENLACE assessment and PISA (SEP, 2007). Other key indicators relate to the professional development of teachers, school empowerment, equity in educational opportunities, and reforms relating to content and curriculum. As an indication of its commitment to reform processes, the Mexican government established in 2008 the Alliance for the Quality of Education (Alianza por la Calidad de la Educación) with the national teachers’ union, which helped define the focus of the Co-operation Agreement with the OECD (SEP, 2008). The purpose of the Agreement was to determine not only what policy changes were required in Mexico, but also how to design and implement policy reforms effectively, given local conditions, constraints and opportunities.
The Public Policy Framework for Implementing Education Reforms
In this era of information and knowledge-based economies, education systems all over the world are facing the challenge of providing quality education to all citizens as a means of opening opportunities for current and future generations alike. With the global economic crisis, however, governments now have to face this challenge using policy options that allow sustainable public finances while enhancing long-term economic growth and development. Education systems are therefore under increasing pressure to deliver performance in terms of student learning, equity in educational opportunities, and value for the public investment in education (OECD, 2010a).
Accountability as a Policy Driver for Improving Student Learning Outcomes
Governments have increasingly focused on accountability systems as part of larger reforms in public sector management (OECD, 2009a). In the education sector, this has been reflected in a move away from a focus on inputs and processes to one which focuses on outcomes (Hanushek and Raymond, 2006; Hanushek, 2002). As the ultimate purpose of education systems is student learning, this naturally implies that actors should be held accountable to students’ achievement. Paradoxically, increased accountability also implies increased autonomy of actors in terms of how resources provided to them are deployed to realise the objectives to which they are held accountable. Accountability in this sense implies that actors should publicly demonstrate that they are effectively pursuing established goals, at the same time that they are given the capacity, support, and sufficient autonomy to do so.
Using Student Learning Outcomes to Measure Improvement
As discussed previously, student learning and growth over time are key criteria against which educational systems, local education authorities, schools and teachers are to be held accountable. An important challenge, therefore, is to properly assess student learning and growth. A single type of assessment cannot fully reflect student learning. All forms of assessments, from standardised tests to portfolios of students’ work have issue of validity, reliability and objectivity (Baker, 2010). It is important to develop a system that uses different measures of student achievement and multiple sources, in which assessment data can serve as a quantitative anchor (OECD, 2010).
Assessing the Value-Added of Schools: Enhancing Fairness and Equity
The previous chapter presented a summary of the main issues surrounding student assessment options, and considered the challenges and opportunities regarding the ENLACE assessment in Mexico. For education systems that conduct periodic standardised student assessments, however, performance data provide an opportunity not only to present a cross-sectional "snapshot" of where students are performing based on raw test scores, but also to explore student growth over time. Evidence shows that students’ backgrounds can largely influence performance (McCall, Kingsbury and Olsen 2004; OECD, 2008). Assessments that fail to account for this run the risk of having the top and low performers merely reflect the socio-economic conditions of students and families, as well as linguistic or ethnic characteristics.
In-Service Teacher Evaluation: Policy and Implementation Issues
As discussed in previous chapters, education systems should provide access to basic education for all children and improve student learning. This chapter addresses one of the key factors for improving student learning: the quality of teaching. Research has clearly shown that the quality of teaching, and therefore the performance of every individual teacher, is the factor that has the greatest effect on student achievement (Manzi and Sclafani, 2010; OECD, 2009b). At the same time, there is compelling evidence, as discussed in Chapter 2, that higher educational achievement is strongly related to economic growth, with benefits to society as well as to the individual (OECD, 2010a). Teacher evaluation systems should therefore help to ensure that every classroom has an effective teacher, even in the most challenging environments. The chapter begins by briefly reviewing some of the main elements of teacher evaluation systems based on international practices. It then considers the basic policy dimensions and issues commonly involved in implementing teacher evaluation systems. The chapter concludes with a series of considerations and recommendations for Mexico to support current and future efforts aimed at establishing an effective in-service teacher evaluation system.
Incentives for In-Service Teachers
As discussed briefly in the previous chapter, research evidence has confirmed the importance of quality teachers to student learning (OECD, 2009a, 2005). Research in the United States dating back almost 20 years found that students whose teachers are at the top of the effectiveness range achieve as much as an additional year of growth in learning when compared with those students whose teacher is near the bottom of the range (Hanushek, 1992). In another often cited study based on data sets from Tennessee, United States, researchers found that if two similarly performing students in Grade 2 of primary school are assigned to high and lowperforming teachers for each of the subsequent three years, the difference in their performance at the end of the three years may be as much as 54 percentile points (Sanders and Rivers, 1996). The most recent thinking regarding effective educational systems has confirmed that the quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers (OECD, 2009a; McKinsey & Company, 2007). In the face of increasing international competition and economic downturn, however, governments are increasingly being forced to do more with less. In addition to attracting and retaining the most qualified professionals into the teaching profession, one important challenge becomes how educational systems can motivate and support teachers already in service to improve performance and increase student achievement.
This report presents the main findings and recommendations of the Steering Group on Evaluation and Teacher Incentive Policies resulting from the Co-operation Agreement between the government of Mexico, represented by SEP (Secretaría de Educación Pública), and the OECD. The report forms part of a larger body of work: three related publications,1 expert papers, workshops and technical meetings with officials from SEP and relevant stakeholders. Much of the work was conducted jointly with SEP officials and on several occasions, the Education Minister was personally involved in meetings and workshops.
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