Some of the very best work on reforming public education is by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Their most recent report, “Gathering Feedback for Teaching,” provides a wealth of practical implications for improving teacher evaluations. Here’s excerpts from the executive summary ‘MET’ Made Simple: Building Research-Based Teacher Evaluations:
The New MET Report: Four Key Lessons
Lesson #1: Teachers generally appear to be managing their classrooms well, but are struggling with fundamental instructional skills.
Lesson #2: Classroom observations can give teachers valuable feedback, but are of limited value for predicting future performance.
Lesson #3: “Value-added” analysis is more powerful than any other single measure in predicting a teacher’s long-term contributions to student success.
MET researchers found that value-added analysis, which typically uses test results to gauge how much an individual teacher contributes to his or her students’ learning growth, is more accurate than any other single measure in predicting success over the course of a teacher’s career—more than classroom observations or student surveys.7
This finding is bound to be controversial in some corners. Value-added methodology generates great debate because it relies on standardized tests and because it yields only an estimate of teacher performance, not an exact measure.
However, the MET findings make a very strong case that although value-added scores are not perfect (no measure is), they tell us a great deal about how teachers will likely perform in the future. In addition, the findings debunk two common myths.
First, researchers found that high value-added scores are not associated with a “drill-and-kill” approach to instruction. Teachers with high value-added scores helped their students master higher-level thinking skills in addition to helping them score well on traditional standardized tests.8 And in surveys, students of high value-added teachers reported enjoying school more and trying harder on their classwork.9 In other words, good teaching is good teaching. Teachers are not generally earning high value-added scores by teaching to the test.
Lesson #4: Evaluations that combine several strong performance measures will produce the most accurate results.