Education in Latin America

Who is Silvia Schmelkes? Why is She Important for Mexico?

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Developing a nationwide system for teacher evaluation is one of the big items on the agenda of the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE). Up to now, teacher evaluation in Mexico has occurred only sporadically.

Mexico is ready for a quantum leap in educational quality. The INEE is proceeding slowly to avoid missteps in what may likely be a political minefield, recognizing that they have in hand a unique opportunity to design a comprehensive system for teacher evaluation that has the potential to multiply educational quality in every corner of the republic. Up to now teachers exercise their profession according to their best understanding and personal criteria. Soon they will be observed, evaluated, and challenged to improve their performance. They will receive professional development and feedback and coaching by master teachers.

If anyone is right for the job of leading this process of establishing norms and procedures for the evaluation of Mexican teachers, it’s Silvia Schmelkes, Director of the INEE, agency established in 2002 as part of the SEP; autonomous since the 2013 Educational Reform. In her extensive professional career, she has done educational research and authored articles and papers on different educational topics, including the definitive “The Evaluation of Teacher Performance: The State of the Matter”, published in Formulating New Educational Policies in Latin America and the Carribbean: the Current Debate. OREALC/UNESCO, 2013.

We reproduce here some of her thoughts on teacher evaluation:

  • In Mexico, standards for teachers have not been defined…. There is no clear definition of the stages or steps in a teaching career…. There is no observed relationship between evaluation and professional development…. Evaluation has been understood as control rather than feedback for improvement of performance. (p. 162)
  • Teachers who work in conditions of poverty, or with students who speak a different language, or whose parents are illiterate cannot be considered on equal terms with those who work in schools situated in economically privileged areas. (p. 155)
  • …it is important to indicate that the work of a teacher takes place within the context of a school which may favor or reinforce the improvement of teaching practice, or may be indifferent or even hostile to this purpose. Teacher evaluation must take into account the evaluation of the context of the school within which the teaching occurs. (p. 155)
  • Evaluation permits the characterization of teaching performance, identification of strengths and areas for improvement, determination of the professional quality, preparation and performance of the educator, as well as extrapolation of a profile of needs for professional development and support. (p. 155)
  • It is only in the practice of teaching that planning is put to the test, when the teacher demonstrates the capacity to deal with unexpected developments, when his/her concern for the learning of all students becomes visible or not, and when the true calling of a teacher is manifest. (p. 156).

Our best wishes to Silvia Schmelkes and her team at INEE this New Year. We expect high-quality decisions and persistent follow up in implementing an equitable and comprehensive system of teacher evaluation providing well-deserved appreciation, stimulation for professional growth, and correction of errors with love and a true desire for improvement for every educator in Mexico.

Author: ejspin

He sido Director General de Colegios Internacionales en Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay y Venezuela y he participado en reforma educativa en todos estos paises. Middle School Principal en Estados Unidos. Doctorado en Liderazgo Educativo. Actualmente vivo en México.

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