Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the results of their three-year-long study on teacher effectiveness, Measures of Effective Teaching Project. Gates contends, and I whole-heartily agree, that quality teachers in every classroom matter more to the success of our students than anything else happening in the education system. So, it stands to reason that if quality teaching is the most important indicator of success, the most important lever to improving the education system is identifying and replicating quality teaching.
According to the projects’ website, “Two-thirds of American teachers feel that current evaluations don’t accurately capture the full picture of what they do in the classroom. They want information that they can trust from measures that are fair and reliable.” This makes sense to me; if you’re going to rely on feedback to improve your craft, you want to trust that the feedback is dependable and reasonable. So, Gates studied more than 3,000 teachers, and their students, from all over the country to ascertain how to identify and measure quality teaching. Here’s what they came up with: in order to properly identify quality teaching, you should create an evaluation system that combines classroom observations, student surveys, and student achievement gains.
I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed by the findings; with researchers from Harvard, Michigan, Stanford and UVA, I was hoping for something earth-shattering, these findings seem logical and couldn’t come at a better time as states begin to implement the lofty goals contained in Race to the Top applications. As this EdWeek Politics K-12 blog points out Hawaii, Georgia, and Maryland are all in danger of losing part, or in Hawaii’s case all, of their RttT grant money because of struggles with implementing principal and teacher evaluations.
Maybe the solutions I think are underwhelming can be leveraged into simple, and most importantly agreeable, answers that will allow states to put a quality teacher in every classroom.