How do you measure effective teaching? That is the question surrounding the MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) study done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This study, the second in the series, was launched in 2009 in order to define and create a reliable way to measure teacher effectiveness. Last month, the latest report from this study was released and, not surprisingly, drew both praise and criticism, depending upon which blog you read.
Data was collected from six major urban school districts. About 3,000 teachers volunteered for this study and, in return, received a $1,500 stipend. In this study, teachers were evaluated using five different observation tools. Not only were the observation tools used to observe the teachers, the tools themselves were evaluated. The bottom line was the study endorsed using multiple observation tools in combination with teachers’ value-added scores and student feedback. Yes, you heard me correctly, they asked students in fourth through eighth grades if they thought their teacher did a good job and included their responses in the evaluations. Not only did they see this as an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness, they found that this was more accurate than other measures. My guess is the responses would vary greatly depending upon the grade the student received on the last spelling test, if the student’s classroom job was to feed the hamster or clean erasers, or if there were tater tots on the lunch menu that day. Did I mention this study cost $45 million?
It does make sense that using multiple evaluation tools to measure teacher performance is more reliable than using the value added model, which measures student achievement (call ‘em what you want, they’re still standardized test scores) as the sole indicator of teacher effectiveness. Any teacher will tell you that scores vary greatly from classroom to classroom depending on the mix of students. As much as principals try to create balanced classrooms, there will always be a teacher who gets more high achievers compared to other classes. This is true from year to year as well. When I was a classroom teacher, there were years when the kids were well behaved, picked up the material easily, produced quality work, and life was a dream. Other years were, well, more on the nightmare side of the spectrum. Guess which years produced higher test scores?
Currently, teacher pay is determined by a combination of level of education and years of teaching experience. That’s it. Given the simplicity, it would seem that teachers would have no motivation to bring their A-game. However, this line of thinking assumes that teachers are motivated by monetary rewards. Believe me when I tell you, no teacher is in it for the money. Now, if they can take all this research and figure out how to support and train teachers to improve student achievement more effectively, that would be something.