Sunday, December 05, 2010

At last, someone is doing something about teacher evaluations

At last, someone is doing something about the failed teacher evaluation system in our schools. Not surprisingly, it's Bill Gates.

Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher
New York Times
December 3, 2010

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 aim is to capture what happens in the classroom of a fifth-grade teacher, Damien Kingsberry, and to evaluate him.

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. 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...

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...

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