Putting Education Reform To The Test

Bill Gates: Don’t Use Evaluations To Shame


Education philanthropist Bill Gates believes teacher evaluations should be private.

The leading advocate for modern, complex teacher evaluation formulas argues they should not be used for their most basic purpose — comparing one teacher’s score to another.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Microsoft founder Bill Gates argues individual teacher scores should not be a tool to publicly shame low-rated teachers. To do so is a reductive, simplistic use of the information and doesn’t foster a culture that encourages teachers to learn and improve.

Value-added ratings are one important piece of a complete personnel system. But student test scores alone aren’t a sensitive enough measure to gauge effective teaching, nor are they diagnostic enough to identify areas of improvement. Teaching is multifaceted, complex work. A reliable evaluation system must incorporate other measures of effectiveness, like students’ feedback about their teachers and classroom observations by highly trained peer evaluators and principals.

Putting sophisticated personnel systems in place is going to take a serious commitment. Those who believe we can do it on the cheap — by doing things like making individual teachers’ performance reports public — are underestimating the level of resources needed to spur real improvement.

Florida is at the forefront of these evaluations, and Hillsborough County won a $100 million grant from the Gates Foundation to design a model evaluation.

Florida lawmakers are working on a bill that would ensure parents have access to a teacher’s evaluation one year after it was completed. Another portion of that bill would ensure that no student could take the same subject with teachers rated “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” two years in a row.

What do you think of Gates’ piece? Should teachers have some protection on their evaluations? Don’t parents — and taxpayers — have a right to this data? What public good could it serve?

UPDATE: The New York TimesSchool Book blog is offering teachers a chance to respond to their evaluation when the site publishes the data. h/t to HuffPo’s Joy Resmovits.


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