Should student test scores be used to evaluate teachers?

Teachers who lead students to achievement gains in one year or in one class tend to do so in other years and other classes, the report said.

The so-called value-added model is an “imperfect, but still informative” measure of teacher effectiveness, especially when it is combined with other measures, according to the preliminary results of a large-scale study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study’s early findings have ratcheted up the debate over whether student test scores should be used in evaluating teachers—and if so, how.

The report, entitled “Learning About Teaching: Initial Findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project,” reportedly gives the strongest evidence to date of the validity of the value-added model as a tool to measure teacher effectiveness.

The $45-million Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project  began in the fall of 2009 with the goal of building “fair and reliable systems for teacher observation and feedback.”…Read More

Teacher ratings get new look, pushed by a rich watcher

In most American schools, teachers are evaluated by principals or other administrators who drop in for occasional classroom visits and fill out forms to rate their performance. The result? More than 9 out of 10 teachers get top marks, according to a prominent study last year by the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group focusing on improving teacher quality. Now Bill Gates, who in recent years has turned his attention and considerable fortune to improving American education, is investing $335 million through his foundation to overhaul the personnel departments of several big school systems, reports the New York Times. A big chunk of that money is financing research by dozens of social scientists and thousands of teachers to develop a better system for evaluating classroom instruction. The effort will have enormous consequences for the movement to hold schools and educators more accountable for student achievement.

Twenty states are overhauling their teacher-evaluation systems, partly to fulfill plans set in motion by a $4 billion federal grant competition, and they are eagerly awaiting the research results. For teachers, the findings could mean more scrutiny. But they may also provide more specific guidance about what is expected of the teachers in the classroom if new experiments with other measures are adopted–including tests that gauge teachers’ mastery of their subjects, surveys that ask students about the learning environments in their classes and digital videos of teachers’ lessons, scored by experts.

“It’s huge,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education. “They’re trying to do something nobody’s done before, and do it very quickly.”…Read More

Video to be a key part of student teacher evaluation

Minnesota is expected to be the first state to implement a new video component of teacher evaluation systems.

Standing at the edge of a pond surrounded by her class of fourth-graders, student teacher Jasmine Zeppa filled a bucket with brown water and lectured her pupils on the science of observing and recording data. Many of the children seemed more interested in nearby geese, a passing jogger, and the crunchy leaves underfoot.

Zeppa’s own professor from St. Catherine University stood nearby and recorded video of it all.

“I think it went as well as it possibly could have, given her experience,” said the professor, Susan Gibbs Goetz. Her snap review: The 25-year-old Zeppa could have done a better job holding the students’ attention, but she did well building on past lessons.…Read More

Commentary: Data undermining

Districts need more guidance on using school and student data.
Districts need more guidance on using school and student data.

School data systems are getting more sophisticated–but are their users?

It’s a fair question to ask, in light of a recent Education Department (ED) report suggesting that school leaders are making progress in using data to improve student achievement–but they’re still looking for examples of how best to do this.

Using data to improve instruction is a key focal point of the Obama administration’s school-reform efforts. And the tools that educators have at their disposal are getting better: A perusal of exhibitors at this year’s Florida Education Technology Conference, for example, revealed at least two companies now offering systems that can give teachers the full history of their students’ test scores. That means teachers can begin a new school year knowing their students’ strengths and weaknesses immediately, without wasting valuable class time early in the year.…Read More

AFT: Education must change to move forward

Schools must aim for 21st century education, Weingarten said.
Schools must aim for 21st century education, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

Moving public education to a model that will better prepare students for today’s knowledge economy, and one that will strengthen teacher development and evaluation, is critical to the nation’s ability to compete on a global scale, said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten in a Jan. 12 speech at the National Press Club.

The AFT president outlined her vision for what teachers need to help their students succeed, and she discussed how to promote productive labor-management relationships, seeking out governors, mayors, school boards, and superintendents to join in this effort. Weingarten also unveiled a reform plan to ensure superior teaching and improve systems that have been ingrained in public education for more than a decade.

“In a global knowledge economy, filling in the bubbles on a standardized test isn’t going to prepare our children to succeed in life,” she said. “If we are going to thrive in the 21st century, our entire approach to education must change—from what goes on in the classroom, to how we care for children’s well-being, to how labor and management work together.”…Read More