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[Susan notes: Also read Why Iâm Afraid The Gates Foundation Might Be Minimizing Great Tools For Helping Teachers Improve Their Craft on this topic.

Gates isn't reinventing the wheel; he's providing it with a flat tire. As one writer accurately points out: Gates' method has these videos "evaluated by strangers using some arcane point system."]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Very Rich Observer" (front page, Dec. 4), about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationâs project to expand the use of video to rate teachers:

It is naïve to think that a "cottage industry," in which "retired principals, or even expert teachers" score thousands of hours of teacher videos, will improve teaching.

The real problem is the lack of collaboration between novice and expert teachers. For example, we don't expect coaches to work at a distance, rating their athletes. There is a relationship between coach and athlete, and trust that the feedback will improve the athleteâs performance.

Why would anyone think that scoring a teacher's performance in isolation would be sufficient for improvement?

Susan C. Styer

Aurora, Ill., Dec. 4, 2010

The writer is the curriculum and assessment leader for science at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

To the Editor:

In 1972, at the University of Buffalo, I was fortunate to be part of a select group of young women who spent their entire senior year teaching kindergarten through sixth grade. We then analyzed videos of our lessons with a Ph.D. candidate. It was a profound and enlightening experience that proved invaluable in shaping my career.

Now, 38 years later, Bill Gates has reinvented the wheel.

Jane Lombardi

Hempstead, N.Y., Dec. 4, 2010


To the Editor:

Have the big brains or big money investing millions of dollars to develop new measurements of classroom results thought about investing the same amounts to reduce class size? We already know that lower class size results in more effective teaching and improved learning. Rating teachers who have oversized classes is fruitless.

Miriam Goldstein

Belle Harbor, Queens, Dec. 4, 2010

To the Editor:

New methods of rating teachers and the finding that most teachers are scoring better than was expected are not news to many in the education field. The recording of lessons by new teachers, with critiques by experienced subject matter teachers from other districts, was standard practice in Connecticut when I was teaching in the 1990s.

This process was primarily intended to help young instructors improve their techniques, but also to offer school districts information before granting tenure.

That this method is now being fostered by Bill Gates's foundation satisfies the longstanding demand of professionals -- new and experienced -- to have access to peer review, in order to improve their teaching in a way that is supportive rather than threatening.

Pauline Dyson

Williamsville, N.Y., Dec. 5, 2010

The writer is a retired teacher.

To the Editor:

Teaching is an important job, but so is being a surgeon or a lawyer or a chief executive on Wall Street. Can you imagine those professionals having their every move monitored by video cameras and evaluated by strangers using some arcane point system? It would seem shockingly invasive and demeaning.

I wonder if Bill Gates would ever consider treating them with such disrespect.

Despite the presumed good intentions, Mr. Gates's program reveals the kind of prejudice about teachers that pervades almost every conversation on the topic. We have come to diminish the stature of teachers while simultaneously believing that they have the most important jobs in the world.

Teachers deserve to be evaluated by people who understand and can observe firsthand the complex, subtle messiness of classroom interactions. Good teachers have the interpersonal magic that excites and elevates the human spirit of their students in a way that cannot be reduced to points.

Dehumanizing teaching, as this program will most certainly do, is not the way to improve education.

Larry Geni

Evanston, Ill., Dec. 4, 2010

The writer was a high school physics teacher.

To the Editor:

I was disappointed that your article about teacher evaluations gave little attention to how classroom videos will be scored and who will score them.

Thomas J. Kane, the Harvard economist leading the video project, envisions videos being taken in millions of classrooms. Does he really think there will be enough "retired principals, or even expert teachers" out there who are willing to score them?

Catherine A. McClellan, a director for the Educational Testing Service working on the Gates project, said she plans to train hundreds of educators to score video lessons.

Yet E.T.S. and other test-scoring companies have been known to label the low-paid, poorly trained temporary workers whom they hire to score standardized tests as "professionals."

I spent the last three years scoring tests, and I have seen the process at work. I think a healthy dose of suspicion is necessary, to say the least.

Dan DiMaggio

Minneapolis, Dec. 5, 2010

The writer is the author of "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer," an article in the December 2010 issue of Monthly Review.

multiple authors

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