Gates Puts the Focus on Teaching
Joe Nocera with an op ed in yesterday's NYT:
A few months ago, Bill Gates wrote an Op-Ed article in this newspaper objecting to New York City's plan to make public the performance rankings of its teachers. His central point was that this kind of public shaming was hardly going to bring about better teaching.
In the course of the article, Gates mentioned that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which spends around $450 million a year on education programs, had begun working with school districts to help design evaluation systems that would, in his words, "improve the overall quality of teaching."
That caught my attention. Wanting to learn more, I went to Seattle two weeks ago to talk to Bill Gates about evaluating teachers.
…Teaching has never really had the kind of sensible evaluation system that business takes for granted. Seniority used to be all that mattered. Now, test scores have become dominant. Neither system has had as its goal getting teachers to improve what they do in the classroom. That is what Gates is trying to change.
"We're technocrats," Gates said toward the end of the interview. By that he means that for all its might and wealth, the Gates Foundation can only hope to try things — through experiments like in Hillsborough — that school districts across the country will want to adopt broadly. It is early yet, and the possibility certainly exists that the Hillsborough pilot project will founder, just as the small-school initiative did.
But the signs, so far, are promising. And it sure makes a lot more sense than shaming teachers on the Internet.
May 21, 2012