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Issues in Education in Mexico

D. Molefe, O. Pansiri and S. Weeks - Mmegi
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August 20, 2012

Beginning in 1992, Mexico has embarked on a major nation-wide program to identify good teachers and to improve their quality. This program of comprehensive educational reform is called the National Agreement for the Modernization of Basic Education (ANMEB).

It is an agreement because it had as a key feature Carrera Magisterial (CM) that was worked out between the national or central Ministry of Education (Mexican Secretariat of Education) and the Mexico's national teachers' union (SNTE).

The key goals of CM are to re-evaluate and develop teachers and establish routes to support professionalization while implementing new teacher incentives. At the core of the program was the concept of "horizontal promotion".

Horizontal promotion in Mexico is what was intended to happen in Botswana through performance management systems and so-called Parallel Progression (PP). In PP teachers who were identified as high performers, instead of being promoted out of the classroom, could earn increments, promotions and rise through notches and bands, being rewarded for staying at the chalk face. Unfortunately it has not happened. The Mexican terminology is clearer.

The other key objective of CM in Mexico was to keep teachers of quality in places where good teachers quickly leave because of their being rural, remote or economically and socially underdeveloped communities. In Botswana teacher incentives were meant to be provided to achieve these objectives through scarce skills and remote area allowances. Again, Botswana has been moving away from these teacher incentives.

The other goal in Mexico was to retrain good teachers who could work with students who require "greater attention". Teachers are evaluated and earn points up to 100. When teachers score at least 70 points they are promoted horizontally to the next salary level. Points in the past were assessed based on the test scores of their students, peer evaluations, the teacher's performance on in-service training, with basic points for prior experience and qualifications and their own test scores.

The teachers' union recently negotiated to change this approach for those teachers who voluntarily participate in the program to "50 points for student test scores, 20 points for professional development, five points for 'teacher evaluation', five points for experience, and 20 points for extra-school activities".

Thomas F. Luschei, a professor of education at Claremont Graduate University, in "In search of good teachers: patterns of teacher quality in two states", reporting in the Comparative Education Review (February 2012), looked at Aquascalientes and Sonora states in Mexico, comparing findings on the impact of CM in a developed central state to northern state with great diversity.

He was interested in finding out if "teacher attributes rewarded by CM significantly related to student achievement in primary schools". In this six-year longitudinal study Luschei also investigated other variables, such as the fairness in the distribution of qualified teachers across states (including the impact of effective decentralisation from the centre in Mexico City to the States), but we have space to only consider the first one now. The level of teacher participation in CM differed between the two states. Between 1999 and 2004 it was between 70 and 76 percent in the more advantaged and smaller state, Aquascalientes; while in Sonora, the less developed state it ranged for those six years between 84 and 90 percent of the teachers. Teachers who join the program can earn 30 percent more than teachers with the same levels of seniority who are not participating in the program.

Luschei notes that there is no consensus on what constitutes a good teacher, and that "few studies have found a positive link between teachers' educational attainment and student outcomes". In Mexico there is emerging evidence that "less advantaged children experience less qualified teachers".

It can be concluded based on the author's extensive investigations that performance-based incentives can have results. The study covered 12,501 teachers and 1,606 schools.

It terms of answering the first question trends could be identified, but the CM data was aggregated, and did not allow for analysis by individual students; instead classroom averages were used. Rural schools and schools in poor urban areas had significantly lower test scores. Poverty and student attainment were positively correlated.

Certain teacher scores (teacher test score, federal training score, and state training score) tended to be related to students' test scores. "Educational attainment and experience appear to have little relationship with student test scores".

Based on his findings Luschei recommends that CM point system give less emphasis to teachers' education, experience and peer evaluations, and more emphasis to training evaluations.

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