External evaluation of schools
1. Purpose of external evaluation and responsible bodies
The responsibility for external evaluation is shared between the National Agency for School Evaluation (read here) (NASE) (an institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Science), and the school proprietor. The proprietor is usually either the municipality or central government (except in private schools).
The proprietor initiates and plans the external evaluation of their schools, provides them with assistance before and after evaluation, and monitors their performance following evaluation. NASE carries out the selection, training and certification of external evaluators; organises and coordinates evaluations; sets the timetable; puts together the evaluation teams, monitors school progress and the support given; and provides data on school performance.
The external evaluation of a school is conducted by teams of external evaluators. The stated goal of external evaluation is to promote school improvement by encouraging a culture of (self-) development and to raise achievement levels.
External evaluators must possess a higher education degree, be qualified as a pedagogue, have three or more years’ experience in teaching and/or management experience in the education system, and be digitally literate. In addition, external evaluators must have knowledge of education legislation, be able to analyse information, and have other generic skills such as the ability to work well in teams.
The right to carry-out evaluations is only granted to evaluators after they have successfully completed a special training course and been awarded the external evaluator qualification. There are three levels of qualification: evaluator, mentoring evaluator and leading evaluator. The qualification must be renewed every three years. Candidates taking this qualification for the first time must complete 80 hours’ theoretical training and 45 hours’ practical training, i.e. they must participate as a trainee in the external evaluation of one school. Evaluators renewing their qualification must have participated in at least six evaluations and have undertaken at least 90 hours’ training.
External evaluators are independent experts selected by NASE. They are employed under a service contract governed by the Law on Public Procurement.
3. Evaluation framework
External evaluations are conducted using the Indicators of Comprehensive School Evaluation (read here), part of The Procedure for the External Evaluation of Performance Quality in General Education Schools. The framework, valid for all schools, is made up of 67 performance indicators grouped in 22 topics covering five areas: school culture, teaching and learning, student achievement, support for students, and school management. The list of indicators incorporates descriptors. School performance is judged using a five-level scale: Level 4 (very good), Level 3 (good), Level 2 (fair), Level 1 (poor), and Level N (very poor). The description of these evaluation levels is available at the website mentioned above.
Schools are evaluated every seven years. If results show that school performance is poor and progress is insignificant, evaluations are carried out more frequently. More frequent evaluations can be initiated by the school itself or its proprietor. As a preliminary step, NASE collects school performance data, such as information about student achievements and school resources (human and material), which is passed to evaluators. In addition, the school being evaluated must provide evaluators with the following information: a weekly lesson plan and activity schedule; information about internal evaluations; the school’s strategic plan; its education plan; activity programmes; and reports on student progress. Evaluators must take into account the political, socio-economic, cultural, technological and pedagogical context of the school. These elements are taken into account when the team of evaluators is discussing the final report on the quality of the school and its performance.
Before the evaluation, a leading evaluator meets with representatives of the school community, such as the school head, staff, students, and parents. Other stakeholders, such as representatives of the school proprietor and teachers’ union may also participate. These one-day meetings or interviews are intended to find out how the school evaluates itself, how it is evaluated by others, and how the external evaluation should be organised (up to 2014, surveys for parents, students and teachers were also conducted). The information collected is used to formulate hypotheses on the strengths and weaknesses of the school.
Following these preliminary steps, the team of evaluators conducts a three- to five-day visit, which can be prolonged if school activities do not correspond to its education plan or the approved schedules. The main focus is on observation of lessons and analysis of school processes (i.e. 75 % of the collected information). Evaluators use a structured form to focus the observations. Each teacher’s activities (lessons or other activities) are observed. A draft report is then made available to the head of the school, who presents it to the community of teachers for comments; these are taken into account in the drafting of the final report. The follow-up to the external evaluation is made by the proprietor of the school and NASE, especially when the results show poor performance. External evaluators are not involved in this process.
5. Outcomes of external evaluation
The external evaluation report indicates the strengths and weaknesses of the school and provides a set of recommendations for improving performance. Once the evaluation report is finalised, the school head, together with teaching staff, must draw-up an improvement plan and inform the school proprietor. In order to encourage the use of the information contained in external evaluation reports to improve school performance, schools can be provided with financial support. The proprietor decides what support to allocate to schools, for example, hiring pedagogical staff providing assistance to students. However, any additional support is dependent on the proprietor’s available resources. Training sessions are organised by the school itself depending on its needs, although the proprietor can also provide training as part of its additional support. If a school receives a poor evaluation grading and does not make any progress, an evaluation of the school leadership may be initiated. No other disciplinary measures are built into the evaluation system.
6. Reporting of external evaluation findings
NASE sends the evaluation report to the school proprietor and to the school itself.
The school head must give a presentation of the findings to other staff, parents and students. The main evaluation findings (strengths and weaknesses) for all schools are made available on NASE website and included in the Education Management Information System (EMIS). A school can make the complete report available to the public if it wishes to do so. Upon request, NASE can provide additional information about the performance of any school or group of schools (e.g., those founded by a single proprietor).
NASE presents an annual report on the external evaluation of schools to the Minister of Education and Science. This report is publicly available. In addition, NASE collects information about best practices in schools, and distributes this information in cooperation with the heads and teachers of these schools.
No formal system has been established to provide information about the performance of a specific school in comparison with a particular group of schools. However, such analyses can be made using data from the EMIS and other sources. These publicly available information sources provide information on a specific school’s:
- strengths and weaknesses (based on external evaluation);
- the degree of improvement after internal evaluation (if the school provides this information);
- student achievement (results of Matura examinations taken on completion of upper secondary education).
Summaries of the results of external and internal evaluation in a county, or in particular groups of schools (e. g. by location or school type) can also be provided. External evaluation reports contain information on academic achievements (for example, in comparison with the expected achievement levels set out in the general curriculum framework) as well as student progress and other student achievements in school.
Internal evaluation of schools
1. Status and purpose
The Law on Education indicates that, alongside other measures used to improve the quality of education, internal school evaluations must be carried out. The school council chooses which areas to evaluate as well as the approaches and methods to follow. It is recommended that internal evaluations are conducted according to the model produced by NASE and approved by the Minister of Education and Science: Guidelines for the Self-Evaluation of Performance Quality in General Education Schools. Although this is at present the most widely used model across the country, schools may use alternative methods to evaluate the quality of their performance.
According to the recommended model, internal evaluation has several purposes, such as helping school heads to monitor the provision of education, supporting schools in becoming self-improving organisations, and finding examples of good practice. The objectives of internal evaluation are to:
- plan for school improvement;
- strengthen a sense of identity and responsibility for school improvement among members of the school community;
- provide the school community with reliable and comprehensive information about the school’s performance;
- improve teaching skills;
- encourage individuals to reflect on their own role;
- spread models of good practice.
Internal evaluation is a planned process, but there are no specific recommendations or requirements on how long it should last or how often it is carried out; schools are free to decide this for themselves. The outcomes of internal evaluation are a key aspect of external evaluation.
2. Parties involved
It is recommended that the entire school community participates in internal evaluation, including the school head and other staff as well as students and parents. The recommended model has the following stages:
- general evaluation;
- in-depth analysis and evaluation of selected aspects;
- reporting on the evaluation procedures used and notification of the conclusions; and
- using the findings to plan further improvements in performance.
Responsibilities and tasks assigned are decided within the school. The school head, together with the school community, plans the internal evaluation. During the in-depth analysis of selected areas, it is recommended that, if necessary, data should be collected from a variety of sources, such as students, parents, teachers, individuals living in the area, and the media.
3. Evaluation tools and support
The framework used for external evaluation may also be used for internal evaluation. It is recommended that all indicators are used for the general evaluation stage, while only the relevant indicators that might reveal the causes of particular problems are used for the in-depth stage. Schools may use external consultants trained by NASE, who may be specialists from municipal education departments, school leaders or teachers, to advise on issues such as the organisation of internal evaluation, data processing, and the use of results for forward planning. Advice on the use of the recommended internal evaluation model is also provided by NASE employees.
The recommended model also suggests that members of the school community are trained in its use. Training sessions are supported by school resources as well as those of external providers. NASE provides the online platform ‘IQES online Lietuva’ to support the improvement of both internal evaluations and lessons. The platform gives access to professionally-designed internal evaluation instruments which can be customised, as well as advice on methodology and more general information. A publication containing instruments for the evaluation of any type of school performance, in any area, and any school context is also available. NASE has also prepared additional support materials on issues relating to planning and improving school performance, such as publications, videos of lessons (series called Success Stories), and videos which illustrate how good school management can have a positive impact on the improvement process. These publications and videos are delivered to every school and are also publicly available.
4. Use made of internal evaluation results
The Law on Education indicates that the school council shall analyse internal evaluation results and take decisions regarding the improvement of school activities.
The Guidelines for the Self-Evaluation of Performance Quality in General Education Schools emphasise that internal evaluation is only effective if the results are used to inform management decisions, improve education provision and help teachers further develop their skills. The document recommends that the school community is informed about processes and results, presented with data and reports, and that the outcomes of the evaluation are used to guide the improvement of school performance. The external evaluation focuses on how the school uses internal and external evaluation findings for strategic planning and improvement of the school’s performance.
Although the data collected during internal evaluation is confidential, the school can choose to share this information with third parties. NASE encourages schools to share such information as it can help school proprietors and national education institutions to identify trends, allocate funding, and spread examples of good practice. In addition, publicly available information allows schools to compare their performance with schools operating in similar contexts (e.g., the same municipality or type of location – urban or rural) as well as being useful for public relations. The majority of schools make this information available.
Other approaches to quality assurance
Teacher evaluation is carried out by a committee comprising the school head or deputy head together with representatives of the school council (school’s own management body), teaching staff, and the school proprietor. The committee is approved by the school proprietor. Evaluation is voluntary, although it becomes mandatory if a teacher’s competence is in question. Teacher evaluation procedures can also be determined by mutual agreement within the school.
School heads are evaluated by a committee made up of the school proprietor’s representatives and other school heads. School leaders are evaluated every five years and in some cases even more frequently. School heads are expected to have the necessary skills to manage an educational institution.
The division of the municipality responsible for education is audited by the municipality’s own internal audit service. Both its general performance and its financial management are evaluated. Conclusions relating to all areas of activity and recommendations for improvement are made once the evaluation is complete.
The Ministry of Education and Science and its authorised institutions are responsible for organising and implementing national level monitoring of education. The manager of the EMIS oversees national monitoring, while the administration of the municipality organises the process at local level. Monitoring uses data about: students and their achievements, education staff, education funding, school supply services and other information.
The National Examination Centre (NEC) publishes (and provides schools with) the results of individual schools in national Matura examinations taken upon completion of upper secondary education. These can be compared to municipal or national averages. Schools also administer basic educational achievement tests organised nationally, but their school-level results are not made public. The NEC has created standardised tests which schools can use to evaluate the achievements of their students and to compare them to the national average. These results are taken into account in the external evaluation. The use of this information in internal evaluation depends on which area is being evaluated and the methods used.
Education supervision helps to ensure the quality of the implementation of education policy. State supervision is carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science.
During the accreditation of secondary education providers, the quality of programme delivery is assessed.
With changes in the country’s legislative framework, a supervision system is being developed, and education supervision is an integral part of this process. The Government is considering the possibility of consolidating the institutions exercising supervision and optimising their functions. The reorganisation of the supervision of the education system is moving away from the mere duty of checking compliance with legislation, to a more in-depth analysis of the state of education and giving support to education providers.
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015. Assuring Quality in Education: Policies and Approaches to School Evaluation in Europe. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/178EN.pdf