Roadblocks of education reform have long argued that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure the effectiveness of a teacher. As a result, teacher evaluations have avoided looking at performance and become a mere formality with “most educators getting top ratings based on little more than a principal’s checklist.”
But that argument is beginning to unravel. A new comprehensive study, conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concluded that there is a multi-pronged approach to accurately measure the effectiveness of a teacher. According to the report, it is possible to determine which teachers are better at helping students learn by: 1) looking at the student’s test scores, 2) using surveys answered by students, and 3) observing the classroom.
These conclusions came after a lengthy, substantive research project costing over $45 million. The Gates Foundation researchers videotaped and monitored 3,000 teachers in seven cities. They also asked students to rank those teachers’ effectiveness. In addition, the researchers looked at the student’s test scores throughout the year. With all of this data, they determined which teachers were effective in helping students learn. Then, for the following academic year, they assigned new students, chosen at random, to the same 3,000 teachers. The researchers found that the teachers who were effective the first time were also effective with a new group of students.
The conclusions from the Gates Foundation study are wide-ranging. Test scores should play a role in evaluating teachers – as well as student input and administrator observation. Furthermore, not all teachers are equal. There are some that are just better at their job than others and K-12 teacher policies, such as tenure and merit pay, should reflect this.