Today, the Gates Foundation released its third and final component of the Measuring Effective Teachers project – the big education reform study led by Harvard economist Thomas Kane.
“Effective teaching can be measured,” the authors wrote in the latest installment. They’re sure of it because they used a randomized experiment to figure it out. Reliable teacher evaluations, the paper claims, include “balanced” proportions of teacher observation, students’ standardized test scores and student surveys. And for the first time, the randomized trial shows that teachers who perform well with one group of students, on average, perform at the same levels with different groups of kids.
Incentive programs like Race to the Top are forcing school districts to change their teacher evaluation systems to rely heavily on test scores, and the important components of observations and student feedback are often left out of the equation. This study shows that, simply put, a good teacher is a good teacher with any set of random kids. The problem will always remain how to measure the “good teacher” part.
In these days of Educational Reform, teachers are finding themselves more and more tossed by the various pressures arising from high stakes testing. There does need to be a reliable way of ensuring that students are receiving the best education possible. But I think that the contemporary method of putting all the results and all the blame on the teachers alone is not the way to ensure better education or even more rigor. Good teachers will rise to higher standards and requirements, but simply judging them on the often arbitrary results of standardized student test scores is not the way to ensure that kind of performance.