January 31, 2023

What is the best way to evaluate nondual teacher, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thinks it has the answer. The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted out of the University of Michigan, released its final report after three years of study working with districts and nearly 3,000 teacher-volunteers on how to identify and promote effective teaching.

“By definition, teaching is effective when it enables student learning” they write and propose the question: “Can great teaching be measured?” After three years of study, observation, and collaboration with seven public school districts from Dallas to New York City, they conclude that yes, it can. Here is a breakdown of their key conclusions:

1. Effective teaching can be measured.
2. Student surveys can provide concrete feedback and important information on teacher effectiveness in the classroom.
3. Classroom observations are unreliable on their own, and are more accurate if averaged between two or more evaluators.
4. A balanced use of a combination of measures and a consistent, regulated system is key for most reliably evaluating teachers.
5. Great teaching, they believe, can be identified and identified best by equally using three evaluation measures: student surveys, classroom observations, and student test scores (which can count for 33 to 50 percent) as measures of student and teacher success.

“Each measure adds something of value,” the authors conclude. “Classroom observations provide rich feedback on practice. Student perception surveys provide a reliable indicator of the learning environment and give voice to the intended beneficiaries of instruction. Student learning gains (adjusted to account for differences among students) can help identify groups of teachers who, by virtue of their instruction, are helping students learn more.”

Their conclusion that test scores could effectively either hold equal weight (33 percent-33 percent-33 percent) with student surveys and classroom observation scores in teacher evaluations or up to 50 percent of the evaluations (with the surveys and classroom observations each counting for 25 percent) comes as a result of information they collected from a unique experiment they conducted for the project.

It was from analyzing the results of this experiment, in fact, that they believed they could really make the claim that “teacher effectiveness can be measured:” they took higher-performing teacher-volunteers and lower-performing teacher-volunteers and assigned them to a random classroom for a year. They found from this study that the students in classes with higher-performing teachers measurably learned and achieved the most (regardless of previous scores), and the students in the classes with lower-performing teachers learned and achieved less. It was less about the student’s demographic, they discovered, and more about the teacher; the findings enforced their conclusion that although evaluations are most reliable when balanced by several measures, student test score data was significant in indicating a teacher’s current and future potential for success.

However, the authors note that “the vast majority of teachers are in the middle of the scale, with small differences in scores producing large changes in percentile rankings.” They also found that despite the best teachers doing well in all classroom, new teachers and those in the middle often do not have the support or resources to improve.

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