How To Assess Teachers

Students who like their teachers learn more, according to a new report cited in the New York Times.

This study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is seeking to distinguish the good teachers from the bad.

Students who described their teachers as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their students learn from their mistakes learned more than their fellow classmates, as measured by their outperforming them on standardized test scores, according to the report.

This report is part of a larger, two-year project that the Gates Foundation is funding to enhance education. This two-year project includes scores from social scientists and around 3,000 teachers in Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Denver, Hillsborough County, Fla. – which includes Tampa – Memphis, New York, and Pittsburgh.

The larger Gates Foundation project is a $335 million effort to overhaul and improve the teachers and personnel in the aforementioned districts.

This effort began last year as statisticians ranked all teachers using a value-added method, which calculates how much a teacher has helped his/her students learn by changes in achievement tests from year-to-year.

Researchers are now comparing teachers’ value-added scores with questionnaires that students filled out, giving their opinions of their teachers.

The results are not surprising, and researchers found strong correlations between teachers’ value-added ratings and students’ evaluations. Teachers whose students agreed with statements like, “In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,” and, “My teacher has several good ways to explain each topic that we cover in this class” rated much higher on the value-added program than teachers who did not receive positive evaluations.

Surprisingly enough, this study marks one of the first times researchers have actually asked students what they think about their teachers. Why? Maybe it was too obvious to ask the students themselves if their teachers were good or bad.

Previously, most public school teacher evaluations were performed by the principal as he/she would sit in on a teacher’s class lecture for the day.

The Gates Foundation – well equipped with common sense – is now being considered a thought leader on overhauling education. Over 20 states’ education administrators and policymakers are seeking input and information from the Gates Foundation on how to measure teacher effectiveness.

This report is more concerned with how to measure teacher effectiveness, and it offered very few suggestions on how to improve it. However, a director of education at the Gates Foundation, Vicki Phillips, told the New York Times that teachers who constantly berate students to prepare for the standardized tests have lower value-added measures than teachers who slowly and methodically work their way through literary or mathematical concepts.

“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Phillips told The New York Times. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”

Currently various organizations, ranging from the Obama administration to the Gates Foundation to other smaller, grassroots organizations are all attempting to be the organization that “saved America’s education system.” With this arms race, students can greatly benefit with better education systems.