Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

This annual publication from the OECD always carries a wealth of information, mostly more of the same depressing news about lagging American achievement. But this edition, which focuses on four areas (education levels and student numbers; economic benefits of education; paying for education; and school environment), has a nifty new section: TALIS, OECD’s new Teaching and Learning International Survey. It surveyed some 73,000 lower secondary teachers in 23 countries (16 OECD members and 7 partner countries) during the 2007-2008 school year, asking them about four main topics: professional development, pedagogical beliefs and practices, teacher evaluation and feedback, and school leadership. Unfortunately, the U.S. did not take part in the survey, but from some similar American data sources, such as the NCES Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and the New Teacher Project’s recent report The Widget Effect, we can see that many lands are tackling the same issues we find within U.S. schools. For example, only 9 percent of teachers reported that evaluations had a moderate or large impact on their salary (read: merit pay). Almost three-quarters of them reported that fellow teachers would not be dismissed for ongoing poor performance. And a third or more of teachers in Austria, Ireland, and Portugal reported that no evaluations, internal or external, had occurred in their schools in the last five years. The survey also found that teachers, who reported their own pedagogical beliefs in two categories--direct transmission (i.e., teacher-centric) and constructivist (i.e., child-centric)--strongly preferred the latter in every country save Italy. It would, of course, have been helpful for the report to tie these findings to student achievement. But it’s still useful in picturing the rather similar condition of teachers in other nations. Read all 472 pages (for free online or for a fee in hardcopy) here or a shorter “highlights” version here.

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