ERIC Identifier: ED259452 Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Ellis, Thomas I. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Teacher Competency: What Administrators Can Do. ERIC
Clearinghouse on Educational Management: ERIC Digest, Number Nine.
Recent concern for the quality of education has placed pressure on school
administrators to assess and upgrade the competency of their teaching staff. No
simple formula exists for measuring teacher competency, however, nor are any new
methods guaranteed to improve the quality of instruction.
Nevertheless, by combining clinical supervision, teacher evaluation, and
inservice education, on one hand, and incentive programs and innovative
instructional leadership, on the other, administrators can increase the
likelihood of attracting and retaining competent and devoted professionals in
WHAT IS A COMPETENT TEACHER?
Before instituting minimum standards of competency or assessing teaching
staff, administrators must carefully define competency. According to Pearson
(1980), three judgments must be made to identify a person as a competent
--What standards must a teacher meet to teach satisfactorily rather than
--What skills are required in general for a person to perform at this level?
--Does the person in question have these requisite skills?
Researchers, who must rely on measurable outcomes, tend to define effective
teachers as those whose students show statistically significant gains on reading
and mathematics achievement tests. The researchers then identify teaching
behaviors correlated with these gains.
Other, more subjective qualities have been associated with effective
teaching. These include positive expectations, inspirational leadership, and a
wide repertoire of teaching skills and motivational techniques (since no one
instructional technique or model will work with all students all the time). An
essential attribute of good teaching is therefore sound judgment and good
sense--qualities that cannot be reduced to finite, measurable skills.
Established criteria for teacher competency can at best delineate what is
necessary, but not sufficient, for effective teaching.
HOW SHOULD THE COMPETENCY OF PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS BE ASSESSED?
Until recently, the assumption has been that state certification
requirements, as implemented by colleges of education, were sufficient to ensure
an adequate level of teacher competency. In response to widely publicized
reports of teachers deficient in basic skills, two more rigorous methods of
screening prospective teachers have been proposed: standardized tests for
teachers and internship programs (or probationary appointments).
Proponents of teacher testing draw an analogy between education and other
professions such as law or medicine to suggest that entrance examinations are an
appropriate way to maintain professional standards, to weed out incompetent
teachers, and to attract higher quality applicants.
Opponents of teacher testing question whether it will lead to higher quality
applicants. As Hyman has observed, people are attracted to a given field by
improved working conditions and higher salaries--not simply by more stringent
entrance requirements (1984). If such tests are to be adopted, most educators
maintain that they should be criterion-referenced and validated against
performance requirements, rather than against training programs.
WHAT POLICIES ARE CONDUCIVE TO IMPROVING TEACHER COMPETENCY?
According to Joki (1982), school boards can help improve the quality of
teaching by writing strong, clear policies on administrative accountability
(including provisions for instructional leadership); on teacher recruitment,
supervision, and evaluation; on an instructional model keyed to specific
objectives; and on inservice training for administrators and teachers.
Superintendents also might provide principals with clerical assistance to free
more time for classroom observation, clinical supervision, demonstration
teaching, and staff development (Joki 1982).
Teacher evaluation, in addition to its customary function of establishing a
basis for promotion, retention, or dismissal of teachers, can also be a valuable
tool for improving instructional effectiveness. A good evaluation program should
emerge from the cooperative efforts of teachers and their evaluators in
identifying broad areas of responsibility and specific objectives (Joki 1982).
Thus teachers will "own" an evaluation program, rather than have one arbitrarily
Besides monitoring teacher performance, a specific objective of teacher
evaluation should be to set measurable job improvement targets (Sweeney and
Manatt 1982). Once targets are set, the principal and teacher work out a
specific plan of action within a given time frame, and then review the teacher's
progress in conference. Such clinical supervision promotes a school climate in
which continuous improvement becomes an essential part of every teacher's job.
In addition to setting and clarifying expectations, administrators can also
employ incentives to induce teachers to excel in their profession. These include
merit pay plans, career options (including career ladders), enhanced
professional responsibilities (for example, master teacher plans), nonmonetary
recognition such as annual awards, and improved working conditions.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Flippo, Rona F., and Carol R. Foster. "Teacher Competency Testing and Its
Impact on Educators." JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION 35 (March-April 1984):10-13.
Gudridge, Beatrice M. TEACHER COMPETENCY: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS. AASA
Critical Issues Report. Arlington, VA and Sacramento, CA: American Association
of School Administrators and Education News Service, 1980. ED 182 868.
Hyman, Ronald T. "Testing for Teacher Competence: The Logic, The Law, and The
Implications." JOURNAL OF TEACHER EDUCATION 35 (March-April 1984):14-18.
Joki, Russell A. "Make Teacher Competency Your Policy." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD
JOURNAL 169 (November 1982):32.
Pearson, Allen T. "The Competency Concept." EDUCATIONAL STUDIES 11 (Summer
Shanker, Albert, and James Gordon Ward. "Teacher Competency and Testing: A
Natural Affinity." EDUCATIONAL MEASUREMENT: ISSUES AND PRACTICE 1 (Summer
Sweeney, Jim, and Richared Manatt. TEACHER COMPETENCE: THE PAST, PRESENT, AND
FUTURE OF ITS ASSESSMENT. 1982. ED 223 716.
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