Monday, February 04, 2013

Bill Gates Invests in Teacher Evaluations

Another mega-issue in the struggle to reform our schools is teacher evaluation, which is a flash point in part because the unions don’t want ANY type of evaluation (ruins union solidarity, you know…plus it might result in some teachers losing their jobs – like the ones who are barely literate, scream at children, etc.). But in fairness, it’s also difficult to do right and nobody wants a lousy system that leads teachers to cheat or try to game the system, or in which good teachers receive unfair bad evaluations that might cost them their jobs. So kudos to Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation for investing heavily in this area. Here’s an article he wrote:

In the past few years, the quest to understand great teaching has been at the center of the public discussion about how to improve education in America. But for the country's 3 million teachers and 50 million schoolchildren, great teaching isn't an abstract policy issue. For teachers, understanding great teaching means the opportunity to receive feedback on the skills and techniques that can help them excel in their careers. For students, it means a better chance of graduating from high school ready for success in life.

But what do we mean when we talk about great teaching? In my experience, the vast majority of teachers get zero feedback on how to improve.

That's because for decades, our schools have lacked the kinds of measurement tools that can drive meaningful change. Teachers have worked in isolation and been asked to improve with little or no feedback, while schools have struggled to create systems to provide feedback that's consistent, fair and reliable.

That's why the Gates Foundation supported the Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET, project. The project was an extraordinary, three-year collaboration between dozens of researchers and nearly 3,000 teacher volunteers from seven U.S. public school districts who opened their classrooms so we could study how to improve the way we measure and give feedback about great teaching.

Earlier this month, the MET project released its final findings. The report confirmed that it is possible to develop reliable measures that identify great teaching.

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