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CHAPTER 3 WHOLE SCHOOL EVALUATION AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO WHOLE SCHOOL DEVELOPMENT
As the move into a new schooling dispensation continues to gather momentum in South Africa, problems related to management of schools will be compounded. Schools more than ever before, will have to construct such issues as radically changed curricula, new conceptions of and arrangements for teaching and learning in a multi-cultural context and pressures for greater democratization in school governance. Although it is to be hoped that schools will become more equitably resourced and will be supported adequately in confronting these and other challenges through the agency of employing authorities, nevertheless it would seem an unavoidable certainty that the schools themselves will have to assume a major responsibility as agents of their own change and development if they are to make real progress in becoming effective, affordable and rewarding places both for their learners and their educators. In short, and to use a somewhat overworked term, there will be a strong imperative for schools to become ’empowered’. According to Thurlow (2003: 65) if schools are to respond positively to pressing imperatives for change they will need to develop an ability to be self-evaluative and a capacity to manage change effectively. School development planning represents a powerful process whereby these needs may be addressed. In order to develop this argument of whole school development it will be helpful first to contextualize the notion of development within a brief consideration of whole school evaluation.
WHAT IS WHOLE SCHOOL EVALUATION?
According to the Department of Education (2000b: 17) Whole School Evaluation (WSE) is part of the quality assurance initiative by the National Department of Education (DoE) in an attempt to improve the overall quality of education in South Africa. This evaluation will facilitate improvement of school performance by partnership, collaboration, mentoring and guidance provided by school district support teams. For this to succeed, schools need to be given guidance and support to ensure that they buy into the initiatives of the departmental programmes like WSE, and to ensure that schools know exactly what is expected of them, how they will be affected and what contributions will be derived so that school goals are achieved (Department of Education 2000b: 17). Whole School Evaluation is a national policy to reinstate supervision and monitoring at school level. The policy is designed to help supervisors reach conclusions on the overall performance of schools using agreed-upon national criteria. This policy indicates ways in which very good schools should be recognized and under-performing schools supported. Implementing the policy is an important step towards improving school education, helping educators to work more effectively and ensuring that all learners get the best opportunity to succeed (Department of Education 2000 b: 25). WSE is the cornerstone of the quality assurance system at schools. It enables the school as well as supervisors to provide an account of the school’s performance and the extent to which a school meets national education goals.
The term “quality assurance” is relatively new in South African education. Though quality assurance as a concept may represent a new feature in post apartheid education, many of its elements such as inspections and standardized learner testing (for example examinations at Grade 9 and 12) have been part of our education system for decades. The purpose of quality assurance is twofold, namely:
improvement (Gauteng Department of Education 2003: 2).
The researcher contends that accountability can take different forms, such as published national examination results, parents’ choice of school, financial audits and publication of evaluation reports. External evaluation of schools can help to increase internal accountability by principals, educators and school governing bodies.
The researcher further believes that development can take place if principals evaluate the present provision and identify priority areas for improvement with clearly defined measurable goals. Such plans form the basis of educator development and appraisal, as well as identifying the targets against which to assess the impact of schools’ management.
Prior to 1994, the South African system of inspection weighed predominantly on accountability, hence inspections lost credibility and legitimacy because they were more punitive than developmental. In the shift from the old inspection system WSE was introduced. WSE aims to provide a more supportive district environment and the dual terms of accountability and improvement will be constantly reflected in the process of evaluation (Gauteng Department of Education 2003: 3 -4).
WSE is a national policy to re-instate the supervision and monitoring mechanism at school level. The policy is designed to help supervisors reach conclusions on the overall performance of schools using agreed national criteria. WSE encapsulates schools’ self-evaluation as well as external evaluation. Implementing the policy is an important step towards improving school education, helping educators work more effectively and ensuring all learners have the best opportunities for success (Department of Education 2002: 5). Douglas (2005:14) views WSE as a policy that is cumbersome and dis-empowering for educators, with 50% or more of the supervisor’s time spent on observing lessons and a little time set aside for discussion and joint reflection. The system appeared to be top-down and non-democratic. Although it was claimed that the policy was the outcome of discussion from a range of stakeholders, it immediately met with resistance from unions and educators who felt that there had not been sufficient consultation. Although large scale WSE was not implemented, all stakeholders in the ELRC approved IQMS in August 2003. IQMS aims to bring together DAS, PM and WSE.
Conceptualization of WSE
WSE is one of the many interventions by the state to encourage schools to become more effective by providing quality education (Department of Education 2001: 18). On the other hand, all effective schools continually seek to improve their overall performance. To do this, they need to establish their strengths and weaknesses. Many will have a good idea of what these are, but “blind spots” do occur and it is valuable to measure performance against national and international criteria and judge how well the school is performing (ISASA 2003: 5). There are various models of WSE, for example, the model of the United Kingdom and the Canadian models. According to Harris (2003:12) two school improvement projects have been shown to have a positive effect upon teaching and learning outcomes. The Improving the Quality of All Project (IQEA) in the United Kingdom and the Manitoba School Improvement Project (MSIP) in Canada have both demonstrated considerable success in their work with schools. The IQEA model of school improvement is based upon a fundamental belief in the relationship between educators’ professional growth and school development. It is the project’s view that schools are more likely to strengthen their ability to provide enhanced outcomes for all learners when they adopt ways of working that are consistent both with their own aspirations as a school community with the demands of external change. Young and Levin (2001: 18) identified seven similarities between the MSIP and the IQEA in terms of the process of improvement. An essential component of both IQEA and MSIP is the emphasis upon pressure and support for school-based change termed an external agency. In both programmes the emphasis is upon teaching and learning developmental goals. Professional interchange, collaboration and networking forms a basis for both ensuring a commitment to teacher development and professional growth. Schools in both programmes put in place groups of educators to act as catalysts for change within the school. The feedback loop provided by formative evaluation mechanisms enables educators to take stock of innovation and development. This allows changes to be made using data to inform development. Similarly, external evaluation procedures allow for a check on the programme as a whole and provide data that allows judgements to be made about the impact of the programme as a whole. The emphasis placed on internal and external evaluation in both projects establishes enquiry and reflection as central to school development and growth. The evaluation findings concerning IQEA and MSIP demonstrate the potency of their respective approaches to school improvement and provide useful information for South African schools. The following section compares the South African model with that of the United Kingdom.
The South African model differs in approach and scope. All these models have their strengths and weaknesses, but what is important is that they are essential instruments to inform the type of intervention required to help schools to improve their operations and also to help national policy in providing and shaping education (Mgijima 2002: 2). Some of the differences between the South African and United Kingdom WSE models can be seen in the following table.
Although there are these differences, all models aim to help the schools to identify issues that are central to improvement. The “whole” in the phrase “Whole -School Evaluation” depicts the intention of this evaluation process, namely that it does not look at individuals or isolated aspects within the school, but looks at the school holistically as a system or unit, where all aspects of the school fit together and influence one another; an integrated approach. WSE will therefore have to be viewed as a dual mechanism: to improve schools’ performance and also to encourage effective accountability of the school system in South Africa. The evaluation should therefore promote quality improvement and evaluate school performance in terms of agreed upon national criteria and performance indicators, which are in line with instruments used by accredited WSE supervisors (Mgijima 2002: 2-3).
Evaluation criteria and descriptors
WSE criteria have been developed to ensure that supervisors make sound evaluative judgements on the quality of a school’s performance and the achievements of its learners. It is important to ensure that a common approach is applied among different supervisors and to ensure consistency among different teams. Descriptors are phrases that aid in defining and outlining the expected conduct for a particular criterion (Gauteng Department of Education 2004: 82). They provide guidance to supervisors and schools on how to interpret the criteria. The descriptors tell the supervisor exactly what are “outstanding”, “good”, “acceptable” and “needs improvement” schools. It should be noted that the descriptors are not all-inclusive listing of conduct that might be associated with a criteria. The rating then becomes self-evident in the light of the adjectives used in the descriptors. Guidance is provided on the issues to be considered when reviewing the evidence and the factors to be taken into account when reaching judgment. The criteria, however, are not watertight because there is still a possibility of different judgements being made in practice. Each of the nine Areas of Evaluation, which constitute the major aspects of the school’s work have specific criteria. The supervisors report on the quality of provision in these areas and on any other aspect that the supervisor may consider relevant. The Areas of Evaluation are:
Basic functionality of the school
Leadership, management and communication
Governance and relationships
Quality of teaching and teacher development
Curriculum provisioning and resources
School safety, security and discipline
Parents and the community (Department of Education 2000 b: 1-2).
The above section highlighted the evaluation criteria and descriptors. The following aspect is directed at the use of performance indicators.
The use of performance indicators
As early as in 1998, the Department of Education started a process of identifying and selecting appropriate indicators, which could be used to measure the quality of the South African education system. They indicate whether progress is being made in achieving the school’s goals. These indicators are statements with a qualitative value that provides a picture of the current state of affairs and, which changes over time.
Through broad consultation with various role players, a set of indicators of school quality was agreed upon and adopted. These have been classified into the following categories:
Context indicators, provide information on the socio-economic context of learners. This helps to inform the department whether the funding norm of schools is acceptable or whether it needs to be reviewed, which might form part of the recommendations.
The input indicators measure economic efficiency. They look at what it costs the education department to purchase the essentials, for example learning and teaching support material for producing desired outputs and whether the organization achieves more with less in resource terms(efficiency) without compromising quality.
Process indicators refer to how the school seeks to achieve its goals. They include the effectiveness with which the school tries to ensure effective governance, leadership and management, safety and security measures and the quality of teaching and learning, curriculum planning and effective assessment. It is also interesting to look at what the school does to capacitate its staff around developments in curriculum and other aspects. This will then lead to looking at the implementation of Developmental Appraisal, which in turn will impact on development.
Output indicators measure whether a set of activities or processes yields the desired outcomes as envisaged by the school, the department and the community. They measure, for example in terms of milestones in achievement of the school goals (orderliness, efficiency with which the school uses resources, provisioning of safety and security); learner standard of attainment (standard of attainment, learner standard of behaviour); and the progress that learners have made while at school (consider both co-curricula and extra curricula and also behaviour generally) (Gauteng Department of Education 2003: 3-5).
The indicators and the nine Areas of Evaluation assist WSE supervisors to make informed judgments of the school. The rating of schools is based on the following scale.
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