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Symposium 2012

Solution for Effective Investments in Education

The Challenge

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing ...

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education. Inadequate education produces high costs for society in terms of public spending, crime, health, and economic growth. No country can afford to leave too many of its children behind and not to help them achieve the competencies needed for a self-fulfilled life in economic independence.

Governments should invest in fair, objective and comprehensive metrics for evaluating teacher performance.

Research shows that teacher quality is the most important ingredient in student achievement. The difference in effectiveness between teachers can spell the difference between success in education and dropping out of school. But there is no simple description of what makes a good teacher or how to develop a good teacher. Thus, the most important investment is a good system of teacher performance evaluation.

The ability to evaluate teachers fairly, objectively and comprehensively is the sine qua non for (i) rewarding the best teachers (and, therefore, creating incentives that will attract talent into the profession), (ii) removing the worst teachers (which is essential for long-term incentives as well as providing all students with a fair opportunity to learn), (iii) making efficient investments in teachers' professional development, (iv) identifying mentors for younger teachers, and (v) influencing the orientation and caliber of teachers' preservice education.

Traditional measures of teacher quality, such as preservice education and training, advanced degrees and experience, are not closely related with effectiveness in the classroom. Except for improvements during the first couple of years of teaching, none of these characteristics of teachers has been shown to predict performance very well in either developed or developing countries.

Instead, effective performance evaluations should focus on the core of teaching, including classroom observations, portfolio reviews and assessments by principals and master teachers. Such a system of teacher performance evaluation that is perceived as legitimate can sharpen the performance incentives for teachers at both ends of the spectrum.

But global experience suggests that only a very few education systems have been able to put in place adequate teacher evaluation systems—Chile, Washington, D.C., and Singapore are among the rare examples. Both developing and implementing such metrics are very hard—technically, politically and institutionally—as well as expensive, though it might be the most highly leveraged investment that a system can make.

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