Assessing Teachers’ Performance

Here’s a fascinating insight in to how Bill and Melinda Gates believe the profession of teaching should be ‘professionalised’ in America. Whilst there are inevitably differences between countries there are also many comparisons that we can draw between their views and the current Indian scenario (at least in the ‘top end’ private schools).

Wall Street Journal Article

As I’ve previously reported here on the blog, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been pumping millions of dollars in to research looking at methods by which teachers’ professional performance can be assessed and judged. Now, most American states have performance management/ measurement systems that link remuneration and even job security to performance. The debate has not just been about whether this is appropriate, but even assuming it makes sense then what aspects of performance should be assessed, and how? Understandably there are many doubts raised about systems that are wholly or even partially reliant upon student performance in competitive examinations (even when assessed on a ‘value-added’ basis). Firstly, there are some subjects taught in school that can’t be assessed and then there are all the issues of encouraging teachers to just teach to the tests (or even in some much publicized cases inciting them to cheat!).

One of my first thoughts reading the piece was to question whether there really has to be an ‘automated’ performance appraisal process for employees in any kind of organization to feel they are in a ‘high support/ high expectation environment? Also, does it have to be attached to money? To me, this might be raising serious issues about the quality of leadership in schools – hinted at also in the phrase “….more involvement from parents, more engagement from school leaders and higher quality materials to use in the classroom.”

I have mentioned the MET project before; teachers’ lessons are video recorded and then analyzed. Incidentally, if it’s not already in the pipeline, within a year or so I could envisage these videos being sent to India for their analysis as a form of knowledge outsourcing! My question to teachers is to wonder how Indian teachers would feel about having videos of their lessons analyzed in this way?

There actually seem, to me, to be two potentially conflicting goals here. On the one hand the WSJ article indicates that they want to use the video evidence to build a greater understanding of ‘what works’, what teacher practices lead to or can be considered as predictors for student success. However, at the same time, even before they have the first objective achieved they want to use the videos for assessment of individual teachers.

I do agree with the Gateses that paying more to teachers on the basis of length of service and qualifications doesn’t make a lot of sense and has a poor correlation with performance. I can also completely understand their positive feelings about the interaction with the teacher who was keen to study the videos of her own lessons for what she could learn from them. However, that kind of opportunity can be just as effective and just as motivating if a teacher has her lessons observed by a peer who shares feedback afterwards (perhaps even on pre-agreed specific aspects of her teaching practice on which she’s chosen to focus). If it is linked to money and/ or performance assessment, in my experience that changes the paradigm significantly regarding openness to feedback and improvement inputs.

The objectives seem confused – assess where teachers are, as a snapshot in time in order to determine remuneration etc. or a skills enhancement initiative which is ongoing and non-threatening? Are both objectives compatible within the same exercise?

The following article prepared by academics from a number of the US top universities gives quite detailed insights in to an existing evaluation system – that used in Cincinnati that relies heavily on the more traditional physical classroom observation;

Education Next Article on Evaluating Teachers’ Effectiveness

Incidentally, the Widget Effect report referred to in the first paragraph of the article is well worth tracking down online and downloading.

Amazing Technology

Mashable Article & Short Video

It’s a shame really that as a school Director I don’t think I can quite justify my need for this amazing new desk. So sad!!

The Impact of Great Parenting

Here’s a really interesting Sunday editorial piece from today’s New York Times, written by Thomas L Friedman (writer of “The World is Flat”” that shares some insights from a recently published piece of research connected to the PISA tests;

New York Times Sunday Opinion Article

Until now these tests weren’t taken in India so it was impossible to know how Indian students’ performances would stack up against their peers from other countries. However, I understand that two states are now being tentatively included, so look forward to seeing how the children’s performance works out.

The article acknowledges that good teachers, well trained and led are important for children’s performance, but also raises the question of the impact of parenting. The research looked at the parenting methods and matched the research data to the performance of children to draw conclusions about which parental activities best contribute towards children’s academic achievements. I have to confess I was pleased to see that sending children to tuitions didn’t contribute to performance (what a shame!). It was heartening to see that all the positive influences were, in some way or other, connected with engaged, meaningful communication with the children.

I hope that research like this will encourage more parents to appreciate the importance and value of uncompromised time and communication with their child.

1:1 laptop Programmes

What happens when a whole US school district introduces a 1:1 laptop programme? What are the key issues to be confronted and what tools are used to make it effective?

This article gives some interesting insights in to such a programme a year after it was implemented in North Carolina:

THE Journal Article

Why Teachers Need to Get on the Tech Bus

Here’s a well-written short piece exhorting teachers to get comfortable with technology and embrace it in education, if they are to be effective in equipping young people with the skills and competencies they require to succeed and flourish in the twenty first century:

Mashable Article on Teachers and Technology

Experiments in Sustainability

Thanks to a significant donation, some US students will get the opportunity of a lifetime to live in and be a part of a fascinating study in to sustainable living:

Fast Company Article

The students are going to compete in groups over a year to see who can live most energy efficiently, under the guidance of leading experts in the field.

The Latest From Khan Academy

Here are two articles from Mindshift that bring us all up to date on the latest work and developments from The Khan Academy:

Mindshift Report on Khan Academy 1

Mindshift Report on Khan Academy 2

The first has some interesting details about a summer school in which Khan Academy has been involved over the last two years. It also explores the possibilities of a physical Khan Academy emerging after they complete their online curriculum.

The second explores the way Khan Academy is now starting to ‘crowd source’ to expand its offering, including inviting others to submit video lessons and material, as well as expanding the curriculum outside Sal Khan’s core strength of STEM subjects.

Watch this space …………..

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