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Bill Gates: A fairer way to evaluate teachers

Ohanian Comment: And now Bill calls on his teacher friends for ideas. Oh my. The softer, gentler, teacher-friendly Bill Gates appears. Certainly, he's hardly in a position to be mocking others' education plans--such as the easy-to-mock Ohio legislature with their physical education evaluation instrument. His foundation is the one to fund galvanic bracelets. And worse. Much worse. Now Gates is singing multiple measures. This is one of those catch-all terms that, like creative thinking means nothing. I don't trust either term as far as I can spit. As soon as someone starts mouthing, look for what he's selling.

Lots of people have opinions about this Gates piece: 809 at last count. I didn't read many. Here are just a couple.

Reader Comment: The Fulton County debacle, where administrators and teachers were fixing tests to improve their performance so they could collect bonuses, is the logical endgame of these rating systems.

A teacher can have two classes at the same school with dramatically different dynamics due to the make-up of students. Trying to normalize testing across a state is profoundly impossible.

Reader Comment: Can Bill Gates write a string quartet?

Bill Cala Comment:

After all of Gates' money that has literally created The Common Core and its associated testing that is being used to evaluate teachers he dare write this editorial in the Washington Post that basically reverses says, "never mind!" Unfortunately, the bell has been rung and the federal government has bought into his nonsense and extorted 46 states into the common core and all of the testing that goes with it (including teacher evaluation via test scores). Just as he failed with his millions for small schools, he backed out with no accountability. That's the biggest problem with the vulture philanthropists. They drop a bomb into the education of children then they walk away after harming millions of children, families, communities and teachers and move on to their next pet project. Make no mistake about it, the backlash to testing in the country is growing exponentially and Gates knows it. He is looking to save face. Don't be fooled. He is no friend to children, teachers, or communities.

Stephen Krashen letter to the Washington Post

Gates' suggestions assume that there is something seriously wrong with teacher quality and teacher evaluation in the United States.

I question both assumptions. We are always interested in improving teaching, but there is no evidence of a teacher quality crisis: When poverty is controlled, American students' scores on international tests are near the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular because there are so many children living in poverty in the US, 23.1%, the second highest among economically advanced countries.

There is no evidence that our methods of teacher evaluation are lacking and no evidence that Gates' suggestions will help. Before rushing off to implement new multiple methods let's first ] determine how effective our current methods are, and how they can be improved.

What we do know is using only test-score gains (value added measures), is a disaster, producing highly unstable results. It shouldn't even be part of teacher evaluation.

The Common Core standards and the massive testing planned to enforce the standards are being imposed on American students despite the lack of evidence that they will work. Let's not do the same thing with teacher evaluation. We must take a more careful, rationale, and conservative approach.

By Bill Gates

Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Tom Brady may be the best quarterback in football, but he is also infamously, hilariously slow. YouTube videos of his 40-yard dash have gotten many thousands of hits from sports fans looking for a good laugh.

If the New England Patriots had chosen a quarterback based only on foot speed, they would have missed out on three Super Bowl victories. But National Football League teams ask prospects to run, jump and lift weights. They interview them for hours. They watch game film. In short, they use multiple measures to determine the best players.

In much the same way that sports teams identify and nurture talent, there is a window of opportunity in public education to create systems that encourage and develop fantastic teachers, leading to better results for students.

Efforts are being made to define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk theyâll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects, including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.

In one Midwestern state, for example, a 166-page Physical Education Evaluation Instrument holds teachers accountable for ensuring that students meet state-defined targets for physical education, such as consistently demonstrating "correct skipping technique with a smooth and effortless rhythm" and "strike consistently a ball with a paddle to a target area with accuracy and good technique." Iâm not making this up!

This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests -- in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers. I'm all for accountability, but I understand teachers' concerns and frustrations.

Even in subjects where the assessments have been validated, such as literacy and math, test scores donât show a teacher areas in which they need to improve.

If we aren't careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted.

The fact is, teachers want to be accountable to their students. What the country needs are thoughtfully developed teacher evaluation systems that include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues and student test results.

Of particular concern is the possibility that test results alone will be used to determine a large part of how much teachers get paid. I have talked to many teachers over the past several years, and not one has told me they would be more motivated, or become a better teacher, by competing with other teachers in their school. To the contrary, teachers want an environment based on collaboration, in which they can rely on one another to share lesson plans, get advice and understand what's working well in other classrooms. Surveys by MetLife and other research of teachers back this up.

Teachers also tell me that while compensation is important, so are factors such as high-quality professional development opportunities, a strong school leader, engaged families and the chance to work with like-minded colleagues.

While there is justification for rewarding teachers based in part on how their students perform, compensation systems should use multiple measures, including classroom observation. In top-performing education systems in other parts of the world, such as Singapore and Shanghai, accomplished teachers earn more by taking on additional responsibilities such as coaching and mentoring other teachers and helping to capture and spread effective teaching techniques. Such systems are a way to attract, retain and reward the best teachers; make great use of their skills; and honor the collaborative nature of work in schools.

States, districts and the U.S. Education Department would do well to encourage the right balance. States such as Connecticut, Delaware and Kentucky are showing leadership in creating feedback and evaluation systems that reflect the patience and involvement of teachers and administrators. This is what's required to build the kind of infrastructure that stands the test of time.

Exciting progress is being made in education across the country. The challenge now is to make sure we balance the urgency for change with the need to ensure fair ways to develop, evaluate and compensate teachers for the work they do.

Let's be thoughtful about our approach so that one day we can say this was the moment we joined together to drive the long-term improvement our schools need.

Washington Post





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