Who comes first: Employees, customers or shareholders? HR Bartender Sharlyn Lauby says this is the question that drives every company culture. While some organisations fall back on the happiness equation wherein happy employees means happy customers, and happy customers means happy shareholders. However, in education, the answer must be the customer: students and their parents.



This may seem obvious, but the rise of high-stakes standardized testing has led to an environment where test-prep is the focus. This shift in focus, combined with dwindling resources has created an environment where school status (and funding) and teacher accountability are prioritized over student providing students with a quality education.



Dr Kevin Stannard, director of innovation and learning at Girl’s Day School Trust asserted in an article for Tes magazine, that over-testing has effectively disfigured education and pushed pedagogy into the background as test-prep takes precedence.



“The impact on curriculum is well-attested. Time allocated to subjects covered in high-stakes tests expands and squeezes out other curriculum subjects, impoverishing the educational experience.”



And it’s become clear that standardized tests are neither reflective of student achievement, nor are they an effective tool for teacher accountability. Instead in stifles innovation and creativity, and undermines the passion of educators, and pushes student needs by the wayside. So parents and teachers alike are rejecting the test-based accountability system that has taken hold over the last decade.



Indeed, there are other ways to hold teachers accountable, while putting students first and fostering a culture of continuous learning including classroom observations, coaching and development, as well as student surveys and feedback.



Classroom observation: Just as looking at a student’s body of work provides a clearer picture of what they’ve learned, in-class observation provides a more transparent view into teacher performance. Through observation we can see how teachers interact with students and manage their classrooms, and creates a greater sense of professional accountability.



Coaching and development: Observations can be a great launching point for coaching and providing developmental feedback. However, in an industry where opportunities for advancement seem few and far between, the Brookings Institution suggests providing career and progression path coaching for teachers who prove themselves highly effective.



Student surveys and feedback: There is evidence that students are good at identifying effective teachers, so soliciting student feedback is a way to assess teacher performance based from the perspective of those who are with teachers every day. For principals and administrators, feedback from teachers, staff and even parents can be an effective way to create accountability and transparency.