School evaluation or disciplinary subjection? A consideration of the ‘complementary’ evaluation of New Zealand’s Education Review Office
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Educational evaluation in New Zealand schools harmonises with the reformist agenda of public choice theory that applies dispassionate reviews of schools conducted by non–captive ex–teachers and school leaders, who work in the Education Review Office. They are ‘non–captive’ in the sense of being beholden to State Services, rather than the Ministry of Education. Variously accused of engaging in politics of blame or teacher bashing, ERO has attempted to present itself as supporting schools in a cycle of ‘complementary’ review, which synthesises external accountability with internal learning from review. This paper will examine the underpinning epistemology of the Education Review Office approach to review and reflect on its particular research method, arguing that it is motivated by a commitment to ‘evidence–led’ teaching, a problematic concept. Questions are raised regarding the ‘complementary’ nature of the review process to establish whether there is commitment to democratic participation by schools in the review process, as implied in the concept of complementariness. With reference to Foucauldian concepts, of disciplinary subjection, it will be argued that the so–called ‘complementary’ dimension of the Education Review Office process is characterised by the administration of technologies of self–discipline and self–punishment, and that ‘learning’ in this context is deeply punitive in nature.