Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Education: Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by Bill Gates

Now Bill Gates, who in recent years has turned his attention and considerable fortune to improving American education, is investing $335 million through his foundation to overhaul the personnel departments of several big school systems. A big chunk of that money is financing research by dozens of social scientists and thousands of teachers to develop a better system for evaluating classroom instruction.

The effort will have enormous consequences for the movement to hold schools and educators more accountable for student achievement.

The Gates research is by no means the first effort of its kind. Economists have already developed a statistical method called value-added modeling that calculates how much teachers help their students learn, based on changes in test scores from year to year. The method allows districts to rank teachers from best to worst.

Value-added modeling is used in hundreds of districts. But teachers complain that boiling down all they do into a single statistic offers an incomplete picture; they want more measures of their performance taken into account.

The Gates research uses value added as a starting point, but aims to develop other measures that can not only rate teachers but also help educators understand why one is more successful than another.

For the story, see Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher by Sam Dillon, December 3, 2010 at The New York Times.

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