External evaluation of education and teacher work: The Brazilian case

José Carlos Rothen and Andréia da Cunha Malheiros Santana
This article aims to discuss whether external evaluations are instruments to ensure increased quality of public school education. It is part of a research that investigated how evaluation results and the resulting indices were used in two schools in the state of São Paulo (Brazil). The methodology adopted was the case study, using different methodological tools such as interviews (intended for school coordinators and supervisors), questionnaires (intended for teachers and school directors) and observation of pedagogical meeting schedules. The collected data were analyzed and contextualized from studies by authors such as Afonso (2009), Dale and Robertson (2006), Le Grand (1991) and Neave (1988), among others, who investigated the commodification of education and external evaluations. In conclusion, we noticed that the mere existence of an external evaluation, accompanied by an index, is not sufficient to ensure improved quality of education, as this is done with the participation of parents, a good initial teacher training and investment in their continued training and higher social investments in the communities. External evaluations, contrary to what they promise, have on many occasions enabled increased regulation, ranking and competition, but have decreased the autonomy of schools thereby, reinforcing school inequality.
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The evaluation itself is not good or bad; its role and the way in which its results are treated are determined by public policies. In this sense, it is possible to state that in the current Brazilian context these policies are being used to increase control over the work done in schools, to deepen inequalities, and to decrease (and direct) investment in the area of education. Furthermore, these policies construct and legitimize the ideology of meritocracy.
Pressure for better results, rankings, competition, and punishment (or reward) are not able to improve the quality of the education offered, because this is a result of the association of several factors, such as parental participation, an initial and continuing quality teacher training, a school structure able to awaken children’s interests, continuity of teaching work, and policies that stimulate the participation of schools in decision-making processes.
Policies that stimulate competition and ranking are not irreversible, hence the need to consider alternatives. In this sense, Nevo (1998a, 1998b, 2006) presents some paths, such as self-evaluation, that should be continually developed in schools to provide data to be analyzed in conjunction with external evaluation, in addition to the dialog between internal and external evaluations.
Institutional evaluations (or any other type of evaluation) cannot be reduced to a few technical procedures, however sophisticated and guided by an obsession with measurement they may be, and no matter how imperatively they are being presented. Thus, the correlation between information arising from external evaluations and from self-evaluations is important, as they complement each other.
In an attempt not to state the obvious, schools should be analyzed as a whole and not simply measured and evaluated by external indices which have little say about their reality. For that reason, we believe in self-evaluation and greater investment in schools that need it the most, which does not mean stopping investment in those that are achieving good results. Through a renewed investment in schools with lower indices, external evaluations would be fulfilling their role of identifying problems, and the state would be able to attempt to solve them.
Investment in infrastructure, acquisition of teaching resources, teacher training, development of school-accredited projects, policies to retain teachers, and cooperation between school and community are essential. Only then will external evaluations be an instrument to promote the quality of education.
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ROTHEN, José Carlos; SANTANA, Andréia da Cunha Malheiros. External evaluation of education and teacher work: The Brazilian case. Policy Futures in Education (Online), v. 13, p. 870-896, 2015.