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Teacher Evaluations & MET Project Findings

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Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released, "Gathering Feedback for Teaching: Combining High-Quality Observations with Student Survey and Achievement Gains," which summarizes the most recent findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project. MET, funded by Gates Foundation, is a partnership of more than 3,000 public school teachers and independent research partners working to investigate "better ways to identify and develop effective teaching" to help improve educator evaluation, feedback, and professional development.

This research group includes Teachscape, the National Board for Professional Teaching, Westat, the American Institutes for Research, RAND, the National Math and Science Initiative, Educational Testing Services, the New Teacher Center, and many other organizations, as well as several universities, including Harvard, Rutgers, Stanford, Michigan, Dartmouth, Chicago, Virginia, Washington, Texas, and more. (As you can see, many important research and policy groups from across the country are involved in the project.)

MET released their initial analysis in December 2010. The second round of findings announced today looks at classroom practice through several nationally recognized teaching observation instruments. The report provides six guiding suggestions for policymakers and practitioners to ensure high-quality classroom evaluations:

1. Choose an observation instrument and set clear goals.
2. Require observers to demonstrate accuracy before they rate teacher practice.
3. When high-stakes decisions are being made, multiple observations are necessary.
4. Track system-level reliability by double scoring some teachers with impartial observers.
5. Combine observations with student achievement gains and student feedback.
6. Regularly verify that teachers with stronger observations scores also have stronger achievement gains on average.

Steve Cantrell, who oversees the MET project for the Gates Foundation, recently wrote a blog discussing this latest wave of findings and why and how teacher evaluations can improve K-12 education. I think one of the most important ideas discussed by Cantrell, and included in the MET report, is the use of multiple measures to identify effective teaching. Steve explains:

"MET examines how to combine multiple measures, including classroom observations, student surveys, and student-achievement gains to get a more holistic view of teaching. The value of a multiple measures system is not that there are more measures, but that the measures work together to describe the aspects of teaching most important to student performance in ways that any single measure could not. Improvement does not result from measurement, however, but from the actions of teachers and administrators who value continued improvement."

While the value of multiple measures is often discussed in the education community (especially by talent managers), it is important to remember that it's not necessarily the more measures the better, but the more RIGHT measures the better.

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