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How Following Sports Can Improve Teacher Evaluation

Hunter Gehlbach, an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, says that, to truly improve teacher-evaluation systems, schools should take a lesson from professional sports teams.

In evaluating player performance, he explains, NBA, NFL, and MLB coaches and personnel managers today go well beyond high-profile "traditional statistics" like total points scored or batting averages and take into account a host of contextual metrics that measure more subtle contributions to team success. (To take one example: In basketball, teams use a "plus-minus" metric to look at the scoring differential when a particular player is in the game.)

In the same manner, Gehlbach argues, schools and education policymakers need to get past the national "infatuation" with measuring teacher performance largely by means of an isolated set of standardized test scores:

Instead, we need a constellation of measures to accurately reflect teachers' multi-faceted roles of teaching, affecting student learning, bolstering student motivation, supporting colleagues and providing service to the school. To assess this broad array, an evaluation system might leverage classroom observations, tests and school records, as well as surveys of students, other teachers, and administrators. ... By measuring more comprehensively, by recognizing teachers as part of a team, and by measuring more frequently, we can better distill which teachers are most effective. Like good sports metrics, this approach would have the added benefit of pinpointing where improvement is needed.

Incidentally, it's not something Gehlbach mentions, but if you're interested in this topic, the book Moneyball provides a fascinating look at the use of innovative statistical analysis in player selection and development in baseball. There's also a movie, of course. Consider it professional development. ... Conceptually, it definitely has cross-industry applications.

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