JIS News

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture says its Performance Based Review Programme should be fully underway in secondary and primary institutions island wide by September of this year.
Director of Communications and Quality Co-ordination in the Ministry, Dorrett Campbell, tells JIS News that implementation of the programme, which completed its pilot phase in some 30 secondary and primary schools last July, has been ongoing.
She notes that although the programme was not yet fully integrated into the system, the Ministry envisaged full implementation by September 2005.
The Communications and Quality Co-ordination Director points out that despite the differences in opinion surrounding the issue, the concept was not a novel one to the school system. She says the idea is similar to the Teacher Development Appraisal Programme, introduced in 1984 with similar intentions in addition to various appraisal programmes devised by individual institutions.
She notes however that while there have been positives, the success of the former initiatives have been somewhat stymied, the main contributing factor being inadequate feedback and cases of inconsistency.
“It went well in some schools but it didn’t seem to have taken on the consistency that we wanted it to take on in other schools.there were schools, which did the evaluation but didn’t give us any kind of feedback in terms of the challenges and weaknesses that they found in their teacher,” she says.
This time the Ministry has taken the decision to focus on a standardized accountability mechanism with each school striving to meet context tailored targets.Mrs. Campbell informs that the objective behind the renewed effort remained the same, being geared towards diagnosing the training needs of teachers to identify deficiencies and performance gaps, and attempting to close those gaps through training if they were so related.
According to Mrs. Campbell, “the standard programme would be based on target setting so that the uniqueness of these schools would be considered within the context of the targets that they set. It’s a question of whether you meet your target or not.”
She explains that this is due to the fact that some schools might be faced with more challenges in terms of resources as well as other factors, which might render them incapable of realizing outcomes that other schools not so challenged, would achieve.
She says further that the targets, which are school related, will cascade from the primary objectives of the Education Ministry, an integral part of which would be the mission and vision for education and the schools’ developmental plan.
The programme which is three tiered, has a developmental aspect aimed at continuing the professional development of teachers by diagnosing their strengths and weaknesses, and treating the weaknesses through training to add more value to the system.
The initiative strategically monitors the activities of teachers to ensure that they are aligned to the objectives of the system, placing greater emphasis on accountability.
Furthermore it serves as an administrative implement, which not only monitors but assists in determining the readiness of teachers for promotion and helps to determine whether they are appointed when the time was appropriate.
A number of checks and balances are being imposed to improve accountability. These are in the form of informal quarterly reviews and daily supervision carried out internally with a formal review to be conducted at the end of the year. Following feedback to the Ministry, the necessary remedial action will be taken.
Mrs. Campbell says the identifiable difference between this and former approaches is the policy driven nature of the initiative. “It is policy driven, it extends beyond a needs assessment instrument, which was perhaps the primary purpose for the first programme,” she says.
Furthermore the requirements are within the scope of the principal’s job description. The principal will also be judged on the basis of his/her ability to administer and monitor human resources.
She says it is hoped that the increased emphasis on accountability and teacher empowerment will create a ripple effect on student performance. “The fact that they would be more closely monitored, the fact that the monitoring would include professional development for them we expect that this would spill over on the students and that the students performance would in some way be positively affected by the professional growth of the teachers,” she adds.
Addressing beliefs that persons would be compensated based on their performance she emphasises that the programme was not developed on the basis of a productivity linked performance appraisal scheme.
Mrs. Campbell however notes that since performance management schemes are generally predicated on rewards and sanctions, consideration was given to the matter “not in the context of teachers being paid for their performance, or in the context of a productivity linked compensation scheme, but in the context that performance will be rewarded and unacceptable performance sanctioned.”
The Communications and Quality Co-ordination Director further emphasizes that rewards are not necessarily monetary.
Last April Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson speaking at the launch of the Pre-Pilot training session for the evaluation programme, emphasized that, “performance measurement is an attempt to come up with some objective basis on which to determine how a system is being managed,” and “not the same as performance related pay.”
She however added that this did not mean that the sector would never get to the stage where this was done, but that the present focus was “performance evaluation to determine what kinds of improvements and professional upgrading is needed” as well as the “best practices that can be adopted”.
Noting the “negative responses” to the initiative, Mrs. Campbell says it is “unfortunate” as the programme is a workable one that can be vouched for and had been widely consulted on through a series of island wide meetings involving the Jamaica Teachers Association.
“We are confident that we have a very workable programme. We also recognize that the system needs greater accountability for us to satisfy our main customer. What we do, we do in the best interest of our students because we believe that every child can learn and every child must learn,” she emphasizes.

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