Melinda Gates Exhibits the Royal We on NBC
by Susan Ohanian
Appearing on the NBC Today Show right after "Days of Our Lives Gets Revamped" and before
"Photos of a Young Marilyn Monroe Go to Auction," Melinda Gates confidently explained research that "nobody" had done on teacher effectiveness. Notice her use of "We" here:
WE set out to do this enormous piece of research. . . .
WE videoed. . .
WE said. . . .
WE learned. . . .
This sounds rather like the Queen Victoria royal use of "We."
Brian Williams asks:
You and your husband have always said this all comes
back to a single relationship a student and a teacher. What have you
learned about what makes a great teacher?
Melinda Gates responds:
Everybody says 'you can't just look at test scores at
the end of the year, because there are so many factors, there's poverty
and other things that go into this.' But nobody had done the research to
say 'how do we know that a teacher's making a difference in a student's
life?' So we set out to do this enormous piece of research. Three
thousand teachers signed up in six different districts. We videoed the
teachers, and we said 'at the end of the day, what is predictive of
great teaching? What besides that test score?' And it turned out a
teacher who's good one year is good usually in the second year. It
turned out you could look at the test scores and see in terms of value
added, how had they moved kids up in the system. But then you could also
look at student perceptions. It turned out that student perceptions of a
teacher were also predictive of how they would do at the end of the
year and whether they learned all that material.
Brian Williams: How do you keep that from becoming a popularity contest?
We learned you have to have multiple measures of what
make a great teacher. Right now teachers are observed by their
principals at regular intervals. We need to have peer observations. But
we need to know that the tool that we're using -- there are ten
different tools for peer observations. But which ones actually predict
whether the students learned the material at the end of the year? So we
need to test the peer observations, and the principal observations, and
we need to look at the scores at the end of the year, and we need to
look at the student data. When you ask the students did you have an
effective teacher, you ask specific questions, 'did the teacher help you
when you didn't understand the homework, or what you missed on your
homework? Did they go help you learn that? Did the teacher get a sense
of when he or she didn't explain the information well, and help get your
class on track? Did your teacher manage the classroom well? It turns
out there are about six questions you can ask the students - not 'did
you like the teacher,' but what they did in the classroom that actually
measures and correlates to whether the test scores got better at the end
of the year.
Anthony Cody made some good points on his blog.
Do you notice what is bothering me? Mrs. Gates
begins by acknowledging that good teaching cannot be reduced to a test
score -- or at least that this is often said. She then asserts that the
half billion dollars they have spent on research in this area have
uncovered a number of things that can be measured that allow us to
predict which teachers will have the highest test scores. A great
teacher is defined over and over again as one who made sure students
"learned the material at the end of the year."
If you look closely at how she describes peer observations, the
method at work is even clearer. Teachers tend to support peer
observation, because it can be a valuable basis for collaboration, which
yields many benefits to us beyond possible test score gains. But what
does Melinda Gates say about it? It can be worthwhile, BUT: only the
models of peer observation that have been proven to raise test scores
should be used. And presumably we can count on the Gates Foundation to
provide us with that information.
Test scores, test scores, test scores.
Notice to Melinda Gates: Giving more tests does not equate with "multiple measures," a catch phrase you've obviously picked up from some so-called progressives.
Throwing tons of money at the issue doesn't improve the lot of students. Everybody would be a lot better off if the Gates Foundation donated its billions to creating living wage jobs. Then the test scores they care so much about would rise.
Susan Ohanian comment on Melinda Gates
NBC Today Show