The paper "Improvement of Teacher Quality by Use of Portfolios Documenting Teachers’ Work" is a wonderful example of a report on education. The key to improving students’ learning outcomes lies in placing effective and highly skilled teachers in the classroom. In order to realize this, practical standards and practices assessing teacher effectiveness are crucial (Darling-Hammond 2010). In a recent report presented to the Center for American Progress, Edward Crowe, a policy analyst, outlined the need for accountability systems for teacher effectiveness in the classroom (Crowe 2010). When talking about accountability systems for teacher effectiveness, the notion of teacher performance assessments intuitively comes in mind.
According to Palm (2008:4-5) performance assessment generally refers to the use of different strategies and instruments to collect data that will be used to evaluate and make decisions relating to the efficiency and effectiveness of an individual’ s performance. Similarly, Boud (2000: 151) notes that assessment entails identifying appropriate criteria and standards and subsequently making a judgment or an evaluation about quality. Performance assessments are often conducted with the aim of obtaining information that will help to improve the quality of performance.
A portfolio is a good example of an assessment strategy that can be used to gauge teacher effectiveness and the performance of students. Painter (2001:31) describes a teacher portfolio as; “ a documented history of a teacher’ s learning process against a set of teaching standards” . Painter further notes that a portfolio is more than just a collection of written documents or an elaborate scrapbook. Instead, it is a form of an individualized portrait of the teacher as a professional, showing and reflecting on his or her practice and philosophy.
This portrait is wholly realized through the teacher’ s deliberate and keen selection of artifacts and thoughtful reflections of the chosen artifacts (Painter, 2001:31). Darling-Hammond (2010) and Kennedy (2010) agree that teacher performance assessments significantly help to improve teacher quality. Kennedy (2010:2) particularly notes that teacher assessment can help to contribute to the quality of an individual’ s teaching profession and the quality of the teaching workforce as a whole. A considerable number of studies have identified teacher quality as one of the significant variables of enhancing student achievement (Darling-Hammond 2010; Sanders & Horn 1998).
It is therefore worth questioning what the term “ teacher quality” entails. Kennedy (2010: 3) observes that the term “ teacher quality” has over the years become so widely used such that it lacks a precise and clear meaning. Kennedy notes that most policy analysts and researchers use the phrase “ teacher quality” to refer to tested ability. This in turn implies that teacher quality is brought about by the ability of teachers to attain high test scores. Kennedy further notes that others use the term “ teacher quality” to refer to high credentials (Kennedy (2010: 3).
On the other hand, Lewis (1999:5) and Cochran-Smith & Zeichner (2005:40), assert that teacher quality can be viewed in two dimensions. The first dimension entails teacher preparation and qualification. The second dimension entails teacher practice and its effects of the performance of students. Personally, I think that the sentiments of Lewis (1999) and Cochran-Smith & Zeichner (2005) capture the notion of teacher quality best. This critical reflection will particularly focus on the second dimension of teacher quality which entails teacher practice and its effects on the performance of students.