Recently several employers have decided that accreditation needs to be a bit harder. The question is why. Here are some reasons I have come across in my eight years working in accreditation:
- Employers delaying pay progression and using accreditation as an excuse
- Our school is better than the school down the road, therefore our accreditation process is harder
- An accreditation consultant has been engaged who needs to justify their expense
- Schools not trusting their teachers to make selections of their own evidence, and
- Schools not understanding the process and making it harder as a result.
Let’s make this clear: accreditation is based on achievement of the Proficient teacher level of the Standards. I’ve said it before – a Standard is a standard, not a value of negotiable worth. What is acceptable for accreditation in one school, should be the same as what is expected in another school.
We are talking about the accreditation of beginning teachers, not 'world’s best teacher'. Teachers will always grow and change practice; maintenance of accreditation at Proficient is for demonstrating that. The initial accreditation at Proficient is just a nod to the teacher that they’re fine, that we all know they’ve just started, but that the teaching profession accepts them as an able practitioner. A teacher should be able to achieve Proficient within 160-180 days of practice (p4 BOSTES’s Policy for Accreditation at Proficient Teacher).
TAA’s accreditation policies should be consistent with BOSTES’s requirements/policies. They shouldn’t be adding extra layers and rules.
Within three months of starting at a school, a teacher must be oriented as to the employer’s accreditation policy, procedures, and expectations. This includes all casual teachers.
The teacher then teaches. They collect evidence as they go. About six months in, the teacher should weed through their evidence and begin matching the evidence to Standards. There are seven Standards, and 37 descriptors within those. The teacher needs to evidence at least one descriptor per Standard. The IEU usually recommends at least two, just for breadth. In the end, most teachers evidence between two to four descriptors per Standard, simply because one piece of evidence will address multiple descriptors at once. If a teacher is using the Standards correctly, they will see the correlation between descriptors. (http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/current-teachers/how-to-get-proficient-teacher-accreditation/collect-samples-of-your-work/)
An observation will occur. It can be one, there might be two or three. Any more than that is excessive unless there is genuine, Standards based concern about teaching practice (after all, the teacher is still learning). An observation can be 10-15 minutes (the best ones are short and to the point) and should only focus on one or two descriptors. Any more descriptors in a single lesson is unrealistic. The teacher should get to choose or agree to the descriptors being observed. The supervisor might ask to see a descriptor as well – but not without some time for the teacher to prepare an appropriate lesson. You can ask any teacher to observe you, ideally PT accredited or above. The observation(s) is part of the teacher’s evidence.
Ideally, a conversation between the supervisor and teacher should happen at this point. They have a professional discussion about the Standards and practice, and look at the evidence the teacher wants to present. During that dialogue, the supervisor should be able to clearly articulate if a piece of evidence is weak, and suggest alternatives from their knowledge of that teacher’s practice. If a descriptor is misaligned, the supervisor should suggest alternative or additional descriptors. Yes – the supervisor should know the Standards better than the beginning teacher.
Then, once there is agreement over the range of evidence and descriptors to be met, the teacher goes away to write the annotations. Annotations are not essays. (http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/current-teachers/how-to-get-proficient-teacher-accreditation/annotation-samples/)
The teacher then submits the evidence and annotations to the supervisor, who writes the report on the teacher’s practice and then forwards the report, evidence and annotations to the TAA. The report should be completed by someone who has had genuine and ongoing interaction with the teacher.
The TAA makes the accreditation decision and registers it online at BOSTES and that is the date of accreditation at Proficient.
What's not required?
Evidence for every single descriptor, or subclause. To be frank, this indicates that the school or supervisor doesn’t actually know the teacher, that they’ve not engaged in professional discussions with the teacher, and that to cover this, they require the beginning teacher to work harder and produce more evidence.
Two or three years’ worth of practice before applying for Proficient. A teacher can achieve this in 160-180 days if supported well and teaching capably. Just because an agreement holds a teacher on a pay bracket for a couple of years, doesn’t mean we should deny them accreditation when they’re capable of it.
Evidence from only one school. Everyone know that beginning teachers move schools a lot – evidence from another NSW school(s) can be used by the current school to accredit. Don’t be elitist and demand all evidence comes from one school, one of the brilliant things about NSW is that the standard of teaching is the same throughout our state.
Eight to 12 observations. This is unrealistic in a busy school.
The other day I walked into a teacher’s classroom to wait for a meeting. The teacher wasn’t there yet, so I looked around. By just being in the room, I could see evidence of non verbal communication techniques, of inclusionary and responsive activities to diverse backgrounds, of a differentiated workstation for a student with mobility issues, of explicit lesson goals and term goals, of a negotiated discipline strategy, of ICT and other resources in use, of an orderly environment with workable routines, of problem solving, critical and creative thinking by the students, and of a parent’s involvement in a classroom activity. It took me less than two minutes to see these and immediately understand that the teacher had met at least 10 descriptors.
When the teacher arrived, following a five minute casual conversation, I could confirm her understanding and reasoning for the strategies she was employing, and intended effect on the students. To confirm this, I could have asked to see students’ work and results. It wasn’t hard to begin to truly understand her practice. If I had been her supervisor, I could have returned for a chat regularly and seen her demonstrating more descriptors.
Teachers have reported:
- spending hours per week on accreditation administration
- little to no individual support
- complex and inconsistent advice (sometimes from the same source)
- different requirements for size, format, types and detail of evidence and annotation within the same school, and
- a complete disengagement and disenchantment with the very process meant to uplift the profession.
So my question to supervisors and employers who are making accreditation hard, is what on earth are you doing to the future of our profession?
Accreditation is meant to be a process that supports beginning teachers, not overwhelm them. Ease up on the requirements and allow beginning teachers to TEACH, not produce documents. Support them into the profession, don’t bludgeon them with paperwork. Talk to your beginning teachers and revel in their enthusiasm for education.
If you are a supervisor or a teacher undergoing accreditation, the IEU offers even-headed and practical advice about how to achieve accreditation. If you feel something isn’t right, or could be just done in an easier way, contact us for strategies that might save everyone on staff a whole lot of time and effort. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org