Critical Analysis of Supervision for Learning: A Performance-Based Approach To Teacher Development and School Improvement by James M. Aseltine, Judith O. Faryniarz and Anthony J. Rigazio-DiGilio

The relevance of the book by Aseltine et al cannot be overstated. With respect to the state of education in the United States, the book takes a comprehensive survey of the education system. By doing so, it identifies the inherent weaknesses of the system, while also suggesting robust corrective measures. At the heart of the training philosophy promoted by the book, is recognition of the role of teachers in molding students, but also in the reputation of the school as a whole. In the process of reading the book I had noted down my impressions, reactions, criticisms and an overall evaluation of the work. These have synthesized into my thesis statement. Giving due acknowledgement for the positive facets of the book, including its numerous insights and action plans for teacher and school improvement, I will however argue that as a result of its limited focus the book fails to recognize and address larger systemic factors that have undermined the education system.

One of the highlights of the book is how it documents the evolution of teacher evaluation over the course of the last century. Early teacher appraisal was an informal, ad hoc and a subjective process, but it has now been replaced by the more precise clinical supervision. The result is a more quantitative and comprehensive survey of teacher performance over several key parameters. One of the good things about these clinical supervision models is that they do not interfere much with the teaching process. In other words, after involving the teacher in goal-setting and determining of assessment methods, the supervisor’s role becomes that of an objective observer. The effectiveness of clinical supervision is borne by their capacity to “reveal deficiencies in teachers’ skill sets, promoting mastery of basic elements of teaching and classroom management”. (Aseltine et al, 2006) However, one has to weigh this proclaimed success in the backdrop of the current state of education in the United States, which leaves much to be desire. Far from being an institution that we can be proud of, educators are grappling with the problem of falling of scholastic standards. It is believed that programs, such as No Child Left Behind, may have actually undermined the quality and parity in education. (Aseltine et al, 2006) There is consensus among educationists that math and literacy proficiency among American students is lower compared to their European counterparts from the same age group. Such learning deficiencies have profound implications for the country’s future. In the context of economic globalization, many American jobs are already being offered to skilled workers from India and China. If the standard of education continues to dilute then American graduates and post-graduates will find it more difficult to compete with workers from the rest of the world. Aseltine et al fail to answer why such decline has occurred at a time when learning supervision methods have been fortified. Moreover, how can they claim that schools have improved in the backdrop of dismal realities alluded to here.

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